What is the difference between a homeless and a traveler?

A woman and a boy sleeping on a the aligned chairs of an airport

Here I tell you my thoughts about this topic and also my experiences.
I have been going around as a nomad for years and even television and newspaper wrote about me regarded as a homeless.

 

While traveling, aren’t we homeless?

We may have an ‘home’ somewhere, but it’s also possible that we are traveling for long and we have given it away or have no access to it anymore.
Even an homeless may have an home or a family somewhere in the world, but it does not make the situation better, they may have been victim or family abuse or similar problems.

The society accepts us, travelers, probably because we are seen as people with money to spend, we (often)have a temporary accommodation, we don’t seem sad and we will ‘leave soon’; or so is supposed to be.

Even if you are in such a unstable situation as not being in your country, when you are a traveler you are not feeling down because you are enjoying the trip.
During my trips I have often crossed my road with homeless persons, sometimes I have heard their story and tried to help, but I have never done enough I guess.
Being with limited financial capabilities and without a roof on you head of course is one of the worst situations that can happen.
The feeling of being without a place is hard to understand if you don’t experience it.

That’s why I spent awhile without contacting any host (or hostel) and relied on nature or goodwill of randomly met people.


–I got some interviews from national Finnish media, which are maybe the most honest medias of the world, still they where not really accurate and I seemed as a desperate in the pictures. So try to imagine what kind of disruption, or destruction, of reality media from other countries would show you.–

From one’s point of view this kind of lifestyle can be called “Absolute Freedom”,  from another perspective it could be a nightmare for many others.
Is hard, sad and humiliating to be in such a situation where you have no money to pay a rent, where you are in the street, in the cold (sometimes freezing and rainy), looking for shelter and food.
People and institution, especially in western-northern countries, are keen to help you, but not always, not in the way one needs.
Mostly the help you get is a superficial or materialistic aid: a shelter for few days–oftentimes you need even  to pay for it–a bit of food, some compassionate words.

I think that who is in the street needs, of course, first of all a shelter and food, but, immediately after he needs more than this.
Because the reason why he/she–or “han”, in the non-sexist Finnish language–is in the street can be often a psychological one, I guess that someone is there cause he does not feel  “cared for”, and probably didn’t connect strongly enough with others or something special.

The more in need, the less help

Would’t you think that when someone is in the street, without a place where to go, other people would help him?
Would it not be rational, logic and fair to see resources, good will and care for who needs it?
Surprisingly enough, many people DON’T help. Often it happens that the more the person needs help, the less he gets it.
We love to help people like us, people that has something in common with us. So, who would admit to himself to have something in common with an homeless or a ‘poor’ person?
Probably not plenty people would think that and this makes people refraining from getting any close to the ones most in need.


I was “homeless” myself and I felt down, even if I have mostly a strong character and I am a social person


Article on a popular national Finnish newspaper ‘Helsingin Sanomat’

I did an experiment on myself, I decided to not rent any place and not to rely on money for few months. Later I will write more about the daily life of this period, but now I want to concentrate few lines about the relation homeless/traveler.

The thing that made me having quite much concern about homeless people is that while experiencing myself to be a ‘homeless’, I was feeling down, depressed unsupported, and still I was really lucky because:
I do have a home somewhere in the world,
I do have a family that loves me,
I have friends,
I have social skills,
I know how to survive in extreme situations,
I do have some savings,
I choose to be ‘homeless’, I can ‘opt out’ from my situation in any time,
I have a computer and smartphone in order to get information’s and communicate,
I have all tools to live wherever I am: sleeping bag, sleeping pad,
I am EU Citizen, “sadly” privileged in terms of migration;

…and anyhow I was feeling often extremely weak without my own place where to go.

No home, feeling free?

I had the wish to feel free, I wanted to have no roots and no place to relay on, to be as free as a “bird”.
I was just roaming around, finding a place to sleep on the last moment…
Yes, it could have been funny, it was sometimes.
But in our society, with our level of domestication, we often need to have one place, even a small point, which we account as our space, our “home”.
Missing this place can distress, overwhelm and make us feel highly vulnerable; and so I felt.

Humans = social, or not?

Let’s not forget that Humans are Social Animals, the social component is quite strong, we need constant positive social contacts in order to not get depressed.

Causes of homelessness

In our society we have alcoholism, drugs abuse, gambling, military service, being incarcerated, unhealthy food and other addictions that ruins millions of lives, but after my experience, I would say that what really makes homeless happen are the following:

– Exclusion
Classit society, economical injustice. We all want to be superior to someone else, that’s why we use the homeless as a reason to be proud of ourselves: we are not homeless = we are succeeding better than others(homeless) = we are proud of ourself, even if we are much worse than a homeless as human being.

– Egoism
People address homeless as parasite that want to live for free, not understanding how nice those persons may be and how big troubles they have to get into society.

– Indifference
When we see a homeless, we think that the problem does not belong to us, we often don’t even notice them anymore, people steps on them carelessly, both metaphorically and literally.

– Bureaucracy
Numerous social welfare systems fail to address homelessness, they pretend the homeless would do paperwork– and often–would have documents of the same city where he is, which is the exact reason of the homelessness: People lacking social skills to do paperwork, people moving from one place to another; in other words, the system that we have which should take care of the homeless, is itself the reason of the homelessness. This happens even in countries with great social institutions (Finland, Denmark, Belgium).


Mental health and addictions

Often people in the street have Psychological or alcohol problems, but not always!
Those persons are not harmful, at least most of the times.
Just in few cases they may be hard to approach, in such situations,  well skilled persons–with knowledge of psychology–should get in touch with them. Not Police.

How to help a homeless

What I did myself is started several self-created small projects about helping persons in the streets, I have also joined existing communities, In the Dominica Republic I have met people from Assoartca, a street music school in the street, for everyone.
I have helped a bit with Food Sharing in Copenhagen, which is an organization to share food that would be wasted otherwise.
I made a Small Guide about living with little money and I try to share those information’s with people that needs it.

BE-Cyclo Bike Social Workshop Cafe

One of the next project I am realizing, which will effectively help.
Where people can repair a bicycle by them-self, but the place also provide activities and support to those without a shelter.


Street surfers action, let’s help our friends “host-less”


 

I have organized several times meetings to sensibilize and actively help who is in the street.

It was an event on Couch Surfing, this was written in the meeting page:

“Don’t you think that the people on the street could have been maybe your friends or relatives?
Is not just because I want to be Philanthropic, but because I don’t enjoy myself if people around me don’t do it neither.
It’s cold outside, it’s even colder when people behave indifferent to your problems.

The practical plan of the socio-meetings is:
“We aim at taking someone home for one week (food and accommodation), make him a workaway (woofing or helpex profile) & BeWelcome profile.
Teach them basic urban survival techniques: BeWelcome, Dumpster diving, Hitchhiking, Bicycling (find, buy and use bicycles).

We can see to find a way for them to get to them new au pair host or a new cs host.

If anything happens with your new street csers guests just post it in the event page, other members will jump into the problem to help you (and him eventually).

Of course nobody is forced to do anything, but if we make a strong group we can help each other and win the cause…”
HELPING HOMELESS IS LIKE DATING
To help in the best way a homeless you should should behave as you are in a date. You should approach the person in an non invasive way and start a casual conversation.
It’s relieving for society to think that the homeless is in the street because he chooses to be outside, excluded.
The truth is that we are excluding them.
TREAT THEM AS A FRIEND
You should talk to a homeless just as you are talking to a normal person, like a friend.
Don’t talk in first instance about their problems, first try to get to know them with random talks and just afterwards you can ask a bit about their past.

HELP ONE AT THE TIME
Helping someone means a regular commitment, you should find one person that you wanna help and go regularly to visit, seeing what you can do for him and with the time find possible solution for his homelessness.
A short visit every two-three days is important, you should also first learn about the problems and find out the possible way of helping.
If the person is able to work you could find match on a volunteering website: WorkAway, HelpX, HoVoS.
Someone that needs medical care may need you to bring them to a hospital, eventually you may contact the city council to seek for solutions.
Don’t pretend to find a solution within one day.

While trying to help someone, I noticed that even my phone, which I reputed smart, has no idea about what it means to be a homeless. while I was editing my phone-book I was adding the number of a person from the street, that I met in the street, the phone showed me the number registered as “home number”, ironically it was stored this way, even if this person has no home.
Would a phone mind it?
Would you be smarter than a phone?

DOCUMENTS, PERMISSIONS AND BUREAUCRACY
Every government and institution has some kind of support for people in the street, but in the most of the cases it’s not matching their needs. Often you need not just to be citizen, but also to have the residence in a certain city to get even the smallest support.
We can’t accept those barriers.
This bureaucraZy is the exact reason of homelessness, many don’t go through the paper work or are not allowed to.
We need just to make one rule: Sleeping on a bed is a fundamental human right and regardless of the background of the person, all have the rights to have a bed at least, if not a house!

What is worse? To think without do or to do without thinking?
I am really curious to know your point of you, what is for you the difference between an homeless and a traveler?
Write it in the comment!

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Homelessness in Kiev, an hard Critique to Ukrainian Society

A woman with a kart full of bags

 

This is dedicated to many people in this world, plenty of us who think to be smart, good, and helpful for the society, but fail to be human.

How many times you have seen a homeless in the street?
How many times you really did something to help?
How many times you talked to this person?

Did you ever ask any of these questions to yourself?

Many, too many, are left in the streets carelessly. Too many are abandoned to their destiny. While you worry about buying a new car and call yourself poor because you can’t afford the last model.

Which is the bottom?

Reaching the bottom of the bottom.

Sometimes you feel unhappy because something negative happened to you. Well, feel released, feel lucky to have just one bad thing happening:

– Four-five persons assault me, fighting, to steal my phone.
– Finances go down steeply.
– The bag where I have everything, since years, my only bag, gets stolen in Finland, the safest country of the world.
– I start to lose sight on my right eye and I probably need an operation.
– Rain comes straight inside my house in through the roof. After repairing it, and three other contractor’s interventions, still rains inside.
– My father falls down and breaks his hip, risking his life.
– I get to know that my father didn’t pay taxes for years and now I may have to pay for him.
– Backhome, our minibus goes on fire by itself the day after we were about to sell it
– I make an accident with my bicycle and I destroy both mine and the bike of the guy who was driving in my direction.
– I discover to be an actor for a pro-War pro-Russian propaganda television.
– My friend commits suicide before I am able to talk to him.

This is what happened to me lately, still, I am lucky, because I always end up having a place where to sleep finding people who would help me. But not everyone has the same luck as me and you. Neither same social skills.

Want to know what it means to be unlucky?

The man in the video has been living in the streets for six years, once he shows his legs you can see his skin completely open.

In all those years neither the institutions, neither the people have helped him enough.
Why don’t we reflect more about the problem of homelessness and search for solutions? We could help each other and pretend from our politicians the basic, fundamental, right of shelter, food and healthcare for the weakest.

 

Life is heavy“- is his most used sentence.

I met Mikhail–which is not his real name–in a subway and felt directly that he is a really kind, sensitive, human being; he is an artist as well: painter, philosopher and dreamer.
He ended up in the street because he left his country, hostile to him, having major health issues: sight problems, huge legs ulcers, weakness.
He has no family to back up on.
When I asked him about his problems, and his too heavy bag to carry with his sick legs, I said: “your bag is too heavy”, he replied: “live is heavy”.
“You are a good human”, Mikhail was repeating often to me, I was simply replying: “I am a normal human, while the people that don’t care is unhuman”.

Is the homeless the cancer of the society? or is maybe the wealthy one the real problem?
The rich sucking up all resources for the benefit of himself and few others.

 

 

Mikahil needed medical help and also psychological support. His legs were almost not able to sustain him anymore. I walked him to the hospital to search for help, I hoped they would be kind to him, but I was wrong. After a long walk under the rain, many slaloms around holes in the sidewalks and cars driving straight to you, we arrived at the hospital.
Mikhail pointed to a Pharmacy and told me that we should first buy some medicines. I thought it was a way for him to avoid the Hospital and I told him: ” I am not that naive to believe that we are supposed to go to the hospital needing to provide ourselves medicines…”.
We had a long discussion in front of the pharmacist, the saleswoman started even to get annoyed and was screaming something in ukrainian hinting that Mikhail was right.
Once we got to the hospital room, I finally believed Mikhail, because the first thing that the doctor asked about was medicines, and money, in black.

After a while in the street you get inevitably an odor. I could judge the distance between me and him by this smell. In the hospital I get a disturbance of this smell-distance-feeling, because all the clinic smells, exactly as someone who has been in the street for a while. Then I understood in what kind of place I was.

They helped a little, with a lot of hesitation and without much will. We were kicked out immediately after, as I was asking some more informations about Mikhail the medical staff started threatening us to call police if we would not leave.

-At the we ended up learning how to cure his ulcers by ourselves. Thanks to the help of two wonderful friend of mine, which are nurses: Margo and Pati, we managed to do some self medication.-

We adopt dogs, cats, all kind of animals, we adopt people by distance and we can’t adopt or help a homeless 100 meters away from us?

You,
You sleeping in a bed every night, you that have always had food and a place where to stay. You passing in front of a homeless thinking that it’s not your problem.

You are the problem,
You are the issue, by being indifferent to the one who needs the most, the smelly one in the street. Your indifference is the cancer of the world and I have no respect at all for you. You are worthless and disgusting.

The wealthier you are, the more disgusting you become.
The rich richer and the poor poorer.
This has to change.
Soon!

 

As Mikhail, many others in the street are searching for humanity. When they ask you for a coin, they are not pretending to be rich at your damage, they just ask you to consider them as living things. If you don’t want to give them a coin, give them the chance to exist, talk to them and ask how you can help them, even just that.

SOLUTIONS?
We should simply be human and talk to the one asking for help, even if they ask just for money, still we should see how we can help.
Why not invite them at home for lunch? for a shower? or even to sleep?
You can start by asking him what he needs and give him maybe a gift.

Arsenalna – Nadia



RESOURCES FOR THE HOMELESS IN KIEV
(ordered from Useful –> Useless)


From this list you can actually understand that there is no real shelter for homeless in Kiev. Many of those organization provide extremely limited services and often just to locals with the right papers.

  • UKRAINIAN CHARITY FUND
    (Social Partnership)
    Lobachevsky lane 8-a, 02090
    www.socpartnerstvo.org
    info@socpartnerstvo.org
    044 591 5443
    044 591 5444
    0679117911 (service with car) – Called: speak english, friendly.
    I Visited them:they are friendly, providing normally help to people with documents, but are flexible. They have no sleeping place to offer but they offer free food, showers, washing clothes, medical support, clothing and some paperwork service.
  • DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL POLICY
    Ave Komarova, 7, m. Kyiv, 03165
    https://kievcity.gov.ua/content/89_departament-sotsialnoji-polityky.html
    I visited them: they were friendly, got explained that they just provide help for homeless from Kiev, with documentation.
    STEFANIA
    0679117911 – Called: not speaking english. 
  • MUNICIPALITY SHELTER
    Суздальская, 4/6
    18.00- 20.00 cost 20 gri.
    1551 – Called: not speaking english
    I wanted to visit them, but: they are located at one hour from Kiev with public transport, you probably need documents and you have to pay.
    Mikhail told me:  there are bandits there, it’s dangerous 
  • CENTER FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE
    (Центр обліку бездомних громадян)
    Lane hyperbolic 8a  404-08-99
    https://sites.google.com/site/centroblikubezdomnihgromadan/
    They just help to make documents.
    It’s not Hyperbolic, but Hyper Bureaucratic, not welcoming, just for locals, and you have even to pay. 
  • CARITAS
    Ivana Mykytenka St, 7Б, Kyivs’ka oblast, 02000
    info@caritas-kiev.org.ua
    044 512 00 85 – Called: They don’t speak english.
    I visited them: Really warm and welcoming, but no services for homeless people, they help only families escaping from war.
  • EVANGELICAL MISSIONARY ASSOCIATION
    Valery Kupriy
    Zacrevscogo str. 7-182, 02217
    044 5461039 – Called: no answer on saturday and on tuesday
    Wanted to visit, but nobody knows where this place is.
    This place is still listed as resource for Homeless but it actually does not exist.


 

This may sound as a really harsh article about this topic, but I can’t keep those words from myeself, I really can’t when I see these people in the street and at the same time so many luxurious cars and posh people walking around like in a modeshow.


Thanks Margo’ and Pati to be nurse by distance helping Mikhail a lot.

Donald Trump should be living with 150$ a month, like many in south America

A man sleeping in the street with no shoes

 

Being like a Caribbean for a month: Dream or Nightmare?

For Mr. Donald Trump it may be a fairy tale, surrounded by women, luxurious yachts and servants.

What if I tell you: “I am living like someone from the Dominican Republic”?
Would you consider me a poor or a rich person?

The answer is in the question, which means that I am either poor or rich, there is not much between.
Extreme poverty is rampant in  the most of south-central America. Meaning that people have no home, not enough money for food, water or health.
Still, you see plenty of extremely expensive cars and posh people living in their luxurious villas  with the very poor just few hundred meters away.
This is what will become of US if Trump is elected.

Colonialism, Christianity, Capitalism and Corruption, the poisoning cocktail with the four “C”; this is the busine$$ plan of Donald Trump.

Walking around many south American countries, you can’t miss men, of all ages, playing domino with a table right in the middle of the street, big cucarachas on the sidewalk, kind street vendors that sell anything, poverty: the result of political corruption, coming out here and then with the shape of a human being.

There is no balance, here you have to pray god (the most people is strongly Christian) to not get sick, because if you do, you will need a lot of money to cure yourself in a private clinic.
Cars drive like there is no tomorrow, it’s not hard to get hit by a car, and if you are poor, you would be without a leg, in the street,  for the rest of your life. With no social support from the institutions.Begging money to buy food.

Food in the supermarket is more expensive than in Europe or the US, in some cases is the double.
A piece of bread may cost two dollars, but the most of the people earn 150 $ per month,  ten times less than in the USA, that’s equal of 1/20 buying power difference, in a place where institutions help the rich and nearly nothing is public or free: Hospitals, Universities, Social Care, they are made just for the rich.

I test on myself how it feels like to live with 150 dollars per month in the Dominican Republic, because this is the salary the lower class gets, including public officers.
It’s hard, complicated and frustrating, I don’t even count in the 150$ the accommodation, cause I already arranged it outside that budget.
It’s actually harder to live here with this average ´salary’ than in Europe or the US with no salary.


The Ass, the only thing Trump is not racist with.

The most ironic thing is, that in the Dominican Republic, I start to feel the need of money, food, and services. While for the public opinion ,this place is supposed to be cheap and affordable.

The most ironic thing is, that in the Dominican Republic, I start to feel the need of money, food, and services. While for the public opinion ,this place is supposed to be cheap and affordable.

I have done one week of “technical fasting”, which I also did to keep my expenses low but I need even to do a second “technical fasting”, because of my budget.
Even more ironically, during my fasting, while taking a course to improve my Spanish skills, I get to the ‘food and eating’ chapter of my study course, which is not helping my hunger.
This country has been the toughest one to live as a freegan. Even for me, born in a big south Italian family, where the fridge was often empty because of the bad financial’s administration of my father. But being in such a situation with a whole family is different than being alone, it could be both better or worse.

I often have the wish to give small amounts of money to the ones in need that I punctually meet in the street, sometimes I do it, but doing it means having less to eat myself, cause my budget allows me barely to have enough to buy my own food and water.
This is actually a good training to understand what sharing means, it means to give what you have, even if you then have less for yourself. The privation of what you don’t necessarily need.

When I go to the market, doing some bargain, sellers ask me where I am from, I answer saying I am partially Dominican partially North African (which is not completely a lie), at this point they look at me with open wide eyes and give me the lowest price.

POLITICIANS IN SANTO DOMINGO
Politics affiches are everywhere to see, I even saw an ambulance doing political propaganda with stickers of a certain party. They have great political speakers here; this is the best they can do: to speak.
How can those politicians allow higher classes to thrive while there are kids, young boys, in the street asking for FOOD? Not even money, they simply ask for food and they are skinny, the most of them clean shoes in order to get few cents, which are never enough to buy a meal.
While walking along the beach I see one of them asking some people a bit of food, those persons had plenty, but they were not really keen to give him much.
While walking along the beach I see one of them asking some people a bit of food, those persons had plenty, but they were not really keen to give him much.
In this country, you don’t have drinkable water in the tap, neither you have fountains to drink, to get drinkable water you have to pay for it.
At home–for those who have one–you don’t even have a centralized water system, but a truck has to come and refill the tanks of those who can afford to have water, non-drinkable of course.
Many people drink non-clean water just because they can’t pay to buy it.
I am saving even drops of water because otherwise, I am not able to get within my budget.
I have witnessed people refilling their bottles from the rich one´s garden, risking to get diseases just to drink any water. To survive.

Many good political speakers talk to people in squares to convince them to vote for their party. I have to admit, they are quite attractive, as speakers. But not as men: the people does not really love to get involved in politics, they are disinterested in the topic, because “politicians are all the same” they say.
I would say that politics it’s like getting building works at home : if you are are not participating in the process or not pay attention, the professionals may mess up things quite a bit.

DISEASES
There is a mosquitos-diseases emergency in Santo Domingo and all Caribbeans, I went to the supermarket to search for a repeller, the cheapest one, in sales, costs almost ten dollars. It may last for one month. I am not surprised Dengue Fever, malaria, chikungunya and zika viruses are out of control. How can a poor–or average–person afford to avoid or cure it if they don’t even have clean water?
I am even developing the skill to kill mosquitos by hands in order to protect myself from those diseases. Mosquitos here fly really fast and they are really silent.
I am walking every day, and night, for about four hours, everywhere in the city. It´s shocking to see luxury villas just few hundred meters away from the ´favelas’, areas where many sleep in the street and have no more than few bricks or a field as a toilet.
I see a man, woman and kids nearly naked in an abandoned piece of land that they use as ‘home’, the smallest kid could be three years old, she does her physiological needs a couple of meters next to the space where they sleep, all in open air, on dirty grass surrounded by garbage.
In the marginal districts of Santo Domingo, which are the biggest part of the city, the most people live between trash, feces, and dogs. The only exception is for the Historical Center and few other streets where the higher class lives their fairy life.
Garbage collection is done by big trucks, which drive around with a couple of persons taking the trash with bare hands and pieces of wood sometimes, throwing the trash to the top of the vehicle. Often they jump inside the pile of trash to reduce its volume.If the area is in a poor neighborhood, they don’t collect all the trash of the street. The most common trash to find in the streets is the soft,foamy, plastic food case that eateries (comedor) give. In many places the most people is not educated about not throwing trash in the street, recycling does not exist.
Electricity is not always working, in average you have a blackout every couple of days, or daily. In all the city–the capital–, paradoxically you can see street lights on all day round, even with a bright sun–just in the rich streets, of course, don’t get me wrong–.

Water is also not always available and even the higher class may not have hot water. This is actually the least problematic thing, cause the temperature rarely goes below 25 degrees celsius, the perfect temperature for insects to reproduce.

 

CHRISTIANITY AND CARS ARE AT EVERY STEP

Almost one car on five has a sticker about Maria, Jesus or God. The church has been forcibly imported and took a big place in society. This is the common factor for the people here, poor and rich, they all believe in Christianity and want to display it. You may find cars with no number plates, driving like crazy possibly killing anything in front of them, but showing a plate with a biblical aphorism.

Cars are everywhere, the air is well aromatized with exhaust gas flavor and you don’t have to worry about dying of cancer because you will probably end up hit by a car before cancer can progress.
That’s also a demographic control from the government I guess.
Big, luxurious churches are displaying the power of God, a big power, but not strong enough to fight poverty, or actually they do fight poverty, and they won the war against poverty, internal poverty, cause the churches have never been poor themselves, they rather keep poverty outside their doors, I am not sure this was what Jesus was teaching.

 

THE POSH UPPER CLASS INDIFFERENT AND FEELING SUPERIOR

The wealthy neighborhoods have well maintained clean streets, luxurious cars, expensive shops and people dressed in brand clothing. Many of those persons don’t seem to be noticing the problem of poverty, or at least, they don’t do much to balance their wealth.
How can you feel proud of yourself inside a sportive Porsche, while you see from the black windows of your supercar, five years old children begging or an older woman homeless peeing in her pants because she has not even where to do it?

Maybe the black windows of your car are not just made to protect you from the sun, but also from the shame of being indifferent and a parasite?  Those black glasses are not enough to isolate you from the poor, even your high-class hotel, resort, shopping mall, business center, it will not isolate you keeping you out of responsibility.
If you can help someone next to you, but you don’t do it, you are guilty.
There are always ways to help, even just talking.

 

PEOPLE AND BUSINESS

The only place where they’ve tried to cheat me so far it’s a big posh supermarket, where they tried to charge me more at the counter.
While in the markets, where poorest people is, I always get better prices than the one for locals.

 

DARK, BLACK, MORE BLACK, BLACKER

Talking with Dominican people I discover that they like Europeans, especially Spanish, even if during the colony time Spanish people massacred all the local population.
The just love white people.
Maybe that’s why they like them, because there is no autoctone anymore who cares about the matter.
By looking at the face of the people you can easily see that the most are a mix of European and African, having dark skin.
No traces of the native people.
In spite of the fact that most of the population is brown/black, still, Dominicans make huge differences between the level of ‘skin darkness’.
It seems that the darker you are the more you are marginalized.
Locals point at the darkest persons as “African”, too dark to have mixed up with the European in the past and probably from Haiti.

While in a basketball game with kids, I am told by pubers that the darkest ones are African–born in Santo Domingo but originally from Haiti–and they are less smart than brown people.
I tell them that I am a bit North African, as every south-Italian is–because of Hannibal–they are quite surprised and don’t answer.

 

WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE

I was talking to Esperanza, a sweet old lady that lives in the streets since a while, I was telling her that she could do some volunteering in exchanging for a bed and food. A woman nearby, just passing, that heard about this ‘work’,  interrupted  my conversation and told me: “I want to do it, she does not need it because she lives in the street and she is used to this lifestyle, she would not wake up on time to work”.

Hearing that is  actually really sad, because even common people, from average income families, are thinking that once someone is in the street, has to end his life in the streets. While Esperanza was really interested in ending her homelessness.

The passing woman was arguing that Esperanza is adapted to street life and this is supposed to be until the end of her life, because in this ‘gentlewoman’ mind, the homeless lifestyle would give Esperanza freedom, more liberty than living in a house.

I am quite sure that woman never slept in the street, otherwise, she would not link freedom with social margination as result of a capitalistic, egoistic society.

It’s easy to be indifferent and say that the poor is in that condition because of himself, that they are lazy, criminals, drug addicted and maybe they even have more money than a middle-class person but they hide it. This kind of thinking is what I hate the most.

Each person in the street is different, each of them has a different problem, which is mostly psychological, physical and economical. But what they need for sure is help, respect, and consideration, each of them in a different way.
Whom to blame if a child of eight years is in the street with no food, no water, no place? We may say their family, they were not supposed to make a child if they didn’t have the resources to let him grow. But if the family didn’t have the education to know enough about it, if the family didn’t even have condoms or didn’t technically know how to prevent pregnancy. If maybe the family is not even there, who is accountable?
We can say the state and institutions of course, but who is accountable to watch and push state and institutions to do the right thing?
We are all responsible, starting from the richest, which is using the most resources.

We can do many things to fight poverty, the first is to choose honest politicians with a program to have the rich pay for who has no money. We don’t just have to give a vote, we have also to participate and keep an eye on the results, providing feedback.

We can help the people next door, if you see someone in need for some food, give them food.
If you see someone needing clothes, give them clothes.
The most of us have a bathroom, people in the street don’t, we can offer them to take a shower.
If someone is needing some social contact or psychological help, talk to that person.

Ah, another thing you can do to save the planet, if you don’t want a world of tramps, DON’T VOTE TRUMP.

AsoArtCa, Transforming Poverty into Music in Santo Domingo

AsoArtCa – “Asociación de Artistas en la Calle”

(Association Street Performers)

HOPE FROM PEOPLE WITH HEART AND KNOWLEDGE

In Santo Domingo, while on my daily discovery-meditative walks, from the eastern side of the town, across the river to the other side of the city, after few hours of wandering I hear skilled street musicians, I take the chance to record and talk to them.

It’s Camilo Fulcar,  playing in the street promoting AsoArtCa = Association Artistas de Calle (Association for street Artists); an emerging,  yet really promising, association; teaching on the street to people of the street.

Their activities are focused to help individuals getting out of the street, rescuing them from poverty through learning and belonging to an artistic group. Learning is open to anyone, but the targeted students are especially indigents and ‘limpiabotas’ (shoeshiners), which are boys—often kids—cleaning shoes of whomever would give them some coins. Saddly enough, many people in Santo Domingo live in the street, or in caves without access to food, wc or shower.

Camillo is well known around here, he is a little more than a boy as age, same as many limpiabotas, despite that he has a strong charisma, huge teaching, social  and musical skills, and even bigger heart. His strident acute voice enters in your skin as poverty was in the skin of his students. You can understand all this just with a short stare at Camilo’s eyes while he is playing.

 

WHY IS ASOARTCA GREAT YET SIMPLE?

The smartest concept behind AsoArtCa is that it takes place in the street, for the ones of the street. This simple, open, and zero-bureaucraZy setting makes it easy for people to join, participate, learn and be a community; it also helps to have external people knowing about the activities of the Association, with possibility to ‘live’ contributing and monitor how the contributions influenced the learning having complete transparency.

This is the kind of education missing in the Dominican Republic, open places where to learn, for free, without requirements or registrations needed.

 

 

INDIFFERENCE – Convincing ourself that the problem is somewhere else

Many people love, support and appreciate the efforts of this association, still, there is not enough help to the most fragile groups in this area of the caribbean.
Alienation,  classism, colonialistic mindset and egoism are the ingredients of the disgusting cocktail that is still served in too many places.
While talking with a local, a wealthy girl working in a office in Santo Domingo, I pointed out the problem of poverty to her, she was arguing that the problem does not belong to ‘her’: “I work hard to make the money I make” this was the only sentence she could say about the issue. Even more sensitive people, individuals active in social, give reasoning blaming sometimes the poor himselfs: “they make too many kids, the should avoid that…”. Some also argue that it’s not just a local problem but a world problem: “Poverty is not just here, also in USA and Europe it happens, look at the situation with Greece for example…”  was said by local youngsters involved in social activities.
My opinion is that here the situation is critical, there is no well-working program for homeless or people in danger. There are people living in state of extreme poverty since they were born, giving them the lifelong title of “poor”, recognized by anyone else.
The programs to reduce poverty are slow to develop and don’t meet the needs of the weakest. Even disabled people may get no practical help at all. For sure no pension if you are without a leg or an arm. If you are lucky you get a (donated)old-wheelchair.

SPENDING MONEY IS LIKE VOTING
I decided to spend the few pesos I have only in local markets and for street sellers. We have to be aware that every time we buy something, we are deciding where to bring wealth. Having this awareness is even more important than political voting. More people should avoid to buy in big multinationals, and instead, give money to local sellers in the country, because they need it the most.

 

NO MONEY TO HELP THE ONE IN NEED

“There is not enough money”, this is one common answer to the question about helping the ones in need.

Governments have not enough money, banks neither, churches state that they are in deficit, rich people say they can’t afford to help.

Still, I see a lot of wasted resource and mega luxury around me in this ‘colonialistic’ city; an huge amount of money spent to:
– Army, military, police, guards.
– Illumination wasted: during daytime lights are on, in almost all Santo Domingo
– Political propaganda: installations, affiches, video, audio and internet party advertising
– Governmental and presidential security, luxurious expenses such as top suv-cars and huge fancy buildings for institution
– Ministry of culture  (& friends), really fancy, not necessary events and facilities that use huge resources under the name of culture.

Not to say that there are many extremely-rich not taxed enough, you can say it from the number of supercars you see going around in Santo Domingo. Almost as an irreverence towards the poor with no money to eat. I didn’t even see so many SUVs and luxurious cars in Europe.

AsoArtCa is working at the moment just with the work of volunteers and donations. They are doing the most needed tasks of the country and they don’t get a cent from the institutions. The biggest richness they have is the genuine will to help and the commitment.

 

GETTING FOOD WITH NO MONEY – FREEGAN LIFE IN SANTO DOMINGO

After one week with just few hundred pesos (few euros), once those were finished, I challenge myself going to ask shops and restaurants for free food, any leftovers or stuff they don’t need

at bakeries, they said they didn’t have anything; a pizzeria’s waitress said they just give food for money; at two colmados (small food shop), they were looking at me with a mix of surprise and anger, shaking their heads to give me a negative answer; at a fancy restaurant, during closing time, a worker told me they had nothing left; I went to the back of an expensive supermarket and asked to a security agent if  I could dumpsters dive, he didn’t understand the expression but said no anyway; I went to two ice cream shops, one didn’t let me inside because they were closing, another gave me a small ice cream-spoon to try.

I went to more than six churches, asking if they have any food for poor people, or any knowledge of it, a priest told me: “we never thought about it, we are getting used to poverty” another told me that I have to go to the Archbishop near the Cathedral of Santo Domingo before afternoon. I went the luxury and huge Archbishopric palace, with large patios, many unused spaces, all freshly renovated: they are surprised to hear me talking about fighting poverty, I am told there is no help that they can give directly to the  poor, because ‘they don’t have enough resources’, they do organize donations of small amounts of food in the street weekly, but the clerical failed to tell me when and where; neither I have ever seen any of those.

While sitting on a bench, a small street kid, which was a beggar-shoeshiner until few months ago, now a street musician—thanks to AsoArtCa—offered me a slice of pizza, another of those AsoArtCa kids offered me a piece of bread.
That’s all I got for free.

It’s easy to say: “nobody starves of hunger” or “homeless are used to be like this”.
But, did you ever try to get something for free?
Did you ever try to sleep outside?
You can’t understand it until you don’t feel it on your own skin.

 

THE CHARM OF POVERTY

I am always surprised and worried about how much we romanticize many situations and environments that are not romantic, or even human, at all.
Why do we have to make them so appealing?

Let’s think about war, poverty, living in social isolation. There is an high glorification for warfare for example, many soldiers are seen as heroes worshiped as saviours—for sure in the USA—, but all what they do is getting a salary in order to kill other people.
The only reason I see, war movies are so often hitting the cinema, it’s because there is manipulation, political and economical power that pushes movie makers.

Many stories about poor, homeless, mafia and nomadic people are also highly romanticized, in this case the production’s aim could even positive, to sensibilize and let people know, but often there is an emphasis on the charm of a certain marginal lifestyle that does not match the reality. The most poor don’t decide to be poor, neither the homeless nor nomadic populations.
Before sailing on boats for long time, I was also victim of the ‘common thinking’ that made me picture boats as means of freedom, liberty and wildness. That’s why I spent long part of my life doing nautical studies and after working on boats.
I can say that life on big boats is not as you may imagine, if you like the sea and to travel, you don’t really get any those.
On large vessels, above the water of several hundred meters, you don’t smell the sea, you smell the pollution. Moreover, the ship is often taking navigation routes that are totally uninteresting for you and you may not even have time to go ashore.
Many Nautical environments (for sure in south Europe and Italy) are dominated by right wing people; to not say fascists.

I think that we should experience the world more and watch less TV, if we don’t put ourself in someone else’s shoes(shiners) we can’t really understand how the world goes.

One reason why I liked the famous book “Gomorra” is that that it was one of the few works showing the Mafia, and corruption, for what it is, without perfuming it: a cancer, disgusting, poisoning and destroying the society.
I don’t say people should go to war or on boats, I actually hope you would never do the first. But you could easily understand how a poor person lives. Try one day to go around without money, without a place to stay, after you can tell how charming it is.

Same goes for homelessness: I thought it was charming and wild, a rebellion to the system.
I am, and have been, kind of traveling-homeless, I spent months without a fix place and days sleeping in streets, train stations and parks. The feeling of having no place where to go–even just for one day–the uncomfort of not having water, a toilet and a shower, are so strong that you can’t understand if you never have experienced it yourself.

There is even a movement called “Comfort Zone Crusher”, which aim is to let us experience situation that we would not be into in daily life.

 

SAD STATS

Worldwide, every 3.6 seconds someone dies of starvation, and it is often a child in his first years of life. One billion children are severely deprived of essential goods and services they require to survive while 62 world’s richest have the wealth of half globe population–while in the USA the main health problem is overweight–.
‘Reasoning’ that we “don’t have enough wealth” to help the poor is just absurd and false, discharging our responsibilities.
The world is going worse, more wealth is going in fewer hands.

We have to feel all accountable for it, if we are just wealthy enough to have food and necessary goods, we are in power to contrast this trend and improve the life of the poorer with our daily choices and lifestyle.

 

The one with a full belly does not believe in hunger.

LINKS

AsoArtCa – Facebook Page

AsoArtCa – Youtube Page

Families with young and sick child are house evicted, Santo Domingo

Protesting

There is chronic problem of homelessness and poverty in Santo Domingo and all Dominican Republic. The Institutions, Governments and Churches don’t have any working plan or support for homelessness, neither for disabled people.
In this story that I have witnessed today, there are few families potentially becoming homeless.

 

Wednesday, 9 march 2016

SANTO DOMINGO — Several families in the street protesting because they were evicted out of home situated in Calle Isabel la catolica 112,  from the magnate owner, Jose Hernando, which owns also a luxury hotel,” Hodelpa Caribe Colonial”, downtown the capital of the Dominican Republic (‘Zona Clolonial’).

Families with children, even one baby, which is sick, as they say; were sittings at the side-entrance of the Hotel,
stating to have been ‘kicked out’  the day before in a brutal way, claiming that it was not ethical —there are pictures on the net from yesterday, showing all the furniture in the street, burned up—.

I went in the hotel asking to talk with the owner to ask more informations, but he was not there.
I have emailed the hotel waiting for an answer.

Here the video

Homelessness in Europe

Homeless sleeping in a corner of the street

How to become homeless?  We just ignore it and turn our heads

We may all be homeless one day or two(years), you may be the next clochard…

Have you ever been locked outside your home?

Maybe you forgot your keys, they may have broken, someone locked you out or for any other reason you didn’t get inside your place…

Do you remember the feeling of staying locked outside?

I guess you were frustrated, restless and distressed.
Has it never happened that you had to sleep outside then?

If you did, you likely got upset, tired and stressed too.
Perhaps  you got cold at your feet, until they almost hurt and then the freezing feeling goes up, to your legs and upper body, almost immobilizing you. In many cold, or hot climates worse would happen.
Remember, bad weather may occur in any part of the globe.

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I suppose that one night sleeping out – or not sleeping at all – gave you such a strong negative experience about how weak you could be without a place to go, that you promised yourself to absolutely avoid that situation in the future.

Let’s not forget that, regardless you had all those bad feelings, you still had the certainty that you would have a place to go. You just didn’t have access to it in that moment.

Can you imagine not having a place at all?
That one night locked outside would be extended to one week?
One month?
One year?
Forever?

Without a reference point where you can rest and be at peace, where you have your things, and time to be yourself.
Add to this that you may be old, sick, in a foreign country, unable to speak the local language, without friends or family, without documents nor the possibility to go back home to your country (perhaps you don’t have one).

What if you just left a place, in your home country, where there was war, violence, racism, intolerance for a group you belong to, or such?

Imagine that you don’t have somewhere to take a shower, no change of clothes, nor food, or money; with probably depression or addictions?

In such a situation you also have to cope with authorities – police, guards, suspicious locals, etc – kicking you out constantly (sometimes literally), people looking at you disgusted, as though you were a bag of trash, something dirty that is in their way, just disturbing, that could better not exist at all.
Better, for all the passing people, not to see you at all.

Now, please, tell me if we all have a right to have a place to stay, or not.


We are all potential refugees

If you notice gipsy’s in the street, foreigners with dark skin or people that looks like really different than you, than you may think that they are homeless because they “deserve” it, because they did something wrong.
You are forgetting your past, in the most countries there has been a history of moving, emigrating, exodos or traveling.

If you look back in your own family tree you may probably find some distant (or close) relatives which were in a similar position to a homeless.

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Indifference, nothing can be worse

It’s really easy to just turn your head and behave like nothing happened, like you didn’t notice that homeless asking you at least the kindness not to step on his hat.
Some well willed people may think that is not everyone’s tasks to take care of homeless, that there are professionals for it and if still there is people in the street, they are maybe refusing to be in a shelter, or they may be rich people dressed up as poor for “who knows which reason”…
This way we discharge ourself from any responsibility and don’t feel guilty or involved.
We often forget that we are all the same, we may be in future, in a situation someone else (really different than us) is now, even if we don’t realize it.
Because of our artificial corrupted system of living, there are huge social and economical differences between us. And if you are cut out from the official circle, you have often little, or no rights at all.
Being indifferent, turning you head when someone is asking you to be human, is just equal to being un-human.


Homelessness in Europe

I have noticed contrasting reactions to homelessness in the various european countries; both from institutions and local people.

In Scandinavia, one of the richest area of the world, you find the most supportive people and the best social care.
All Scandinavian countries have also many social-environmental-economical practice, one of them is the cans & bottle back fee. If you collect cans from the street, you can bring them back and get some money, one big bag of cans can allow you to get circa five euro, which is not much, but better than nothing, for whom has nothing.

By contacting the social services of Copenhagen asking how the city helps to the problem I get a detailed answer: “…the local municipalities have the primary responsibility for social matters in Denmark. The Consolidation Act on Social Services specifies a municipal obligation to provide temporary accommodation for the homeless people…”.

A TV show in Helsinki is chasing for homeless people, they ask the unfortunate person if he wants to stay in an accommodation for 30Euro/month, also newspapers cover the matter, I am on it too.

Central Europe is a mix of different countries and cultures, nevertheless we could generalize a bit and say that the most central European countries have good social care systems. Welfare that works smooth, mostly, if you are a local, or a citizen of that country. Otherwise, you may be cut off (as it happens of course also in many other countries in the world, not just in Central Europe).
In Paris, for example, you can see an high number of people sleeping in the street, many of them are french (with psychological problems) or from Africa; some of them, when in extreme situations, get some help from organizations such Red Cross, but is still a drop in the sea.
The main issue in Central Europe is the attractiveness of that area in the eyes of immigrants. Many wants to migrate to the “center of Europe” to have a better life, this implies a big, and growing, amount of persons to take care of.
The most of the immigrants come from less wealthy countries of course, that substantially means, more people to take care of and more homeless.

In the Baltic States people is most of the times supportive with each other.
In Estonia most people are aware of the problem and are trying to go towards Scandinavian’s systems to solve it.
While I was in Lithuania I have seen really deep acts of kindness, extremely goodhearted people and shelters working properly, willing to accommodate whom is in need.

Unfortunately, in Riga (Latvia) I was witnessing many homeless in the cold, without much care from the ones that were passing.

Belarus is not a Baltic country, but it shares a lot of traditions with his neighbors Lithuania and Latvia: in Minsk I didn’t see any homeless, I was surprised, I thought it was the most social supportive city of the world.
I did see people living in poverty condition, but nobody in the street.
After some talk with locals and research, I found out it seems that the government and Police don’t really like to assist homeless. If you are unemployed you have to pay a tax to the state or clean the streets for almost no money; ah, I forgot to mention that you also have to prove that the money you are paying the tax with are not coming from illegal sources.
ahhh , I forgot a second thing: I heard that sometimes homeless people is ‘moved’ to nature, brought by force from police to forests.

In Southern Europe there is a different way of addressing the problem and behaving towards homelessness. In many south European countries, such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Cyprus, governments are not always properly organized to fight homelessness.
Trying to visit the social security page of the city of Rome I landed on a blank page.
Often public order authorities are not tolerating anyone staying in the street, being sometimes also aggressive. Same way as many south European ordinary people act quite snobbish and don’t tolerate having contacts with an homeless.

Strangely enough, or maybe naturally enough, social customs are set up in a way where peer-to-peer social help is in some cases an obligation (for example during Christmas, but mostly for useless things: presents, cakes, etc…), pushing people to help each other, be solidair with one other, even if they don’t feel it, often because of religion and old traditions.
The bottom of Europe is often also where migrants from Africa, middle east or Balkans first arrive from, this challenges a lot the, already not smoothly working, first aid care system that has to take care of the migratory wave.
Many locals also complain about the big amount of migrating people.

Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark

VS

Marinaleda, Seville, Spain

While visiting Copenhagen I ended up in Christiania, the famous area of the city which does not belong to the “real world”, which is not following the government legislation directly.

If you are able to have some constructive conversations with locals, probably someone will talk to you about the story of that place.

Before visiting it, I thought it was heaven, a peaceful place where everybody was equal and there were no modern society problems, nor homeless.
Actually it looks like that Christiania started to build up with Social-Anarchist principles, but maybe in the last years it went more on a different direction…
“Christiania freetown” was not as welcoming as I expected and still there were homeless people nearby which I didn’t really see to get any practical help or feel relieved.

I have even experienced myself closed minded attitude and aggressiveness in that part of Copenhagen and noticed many dealing with soft drugs. I am sure that there are good intentions on the roots of Christiania, but at the moment it sounds to me more like “Drogalia”.

A totally different experience I had in Marinaleda, a small town near Seville, in Spain.
I didn’t know about Marinaleda’s type of administration until I was nearby.
As you arrive in this “utopia town”, you feel that the whole city is welcoming you, if you need, you can get a place to sleep for free; you can even easily get a job or get -and construct- an house practically for free.
Actually there is one of the few places in the world where I am sure that homelessness does not exist at all.


Homeless are lazy

During a CouchSurfing event in Scandinavia I was walking in the streets, in night time, with fellow travelers; while seeing people sleeping in the street we started talking about it.

I was really shocked to hear, especially from Couch-surfers, that helping homeless would push people into laziness and would be thus not the right thing to do…

This was said by “open-minded” persons, which share their place for free, with strangers.
That worry me the most.

My reply was: “In the current society we waste more than the half of what we produce, we have high percentage of houses empty because of bad administration/laws, economical speculation or selfishness. People is being paid to “work” but practically do nothing (many security forces, armies, public offices, etc..), and we can’t afford to give a basic shelter to someone sleeping in the street?!”


Words are stones, really

“You are what you eat”, you have heard that at least once, right? it’s a true fact, but you are also what you say.

A short time ago I assisted to a sad episode of daily, small, ordinary, inhumanity: something happening often and many times we don’t even consider it as important as it should be.

There was a person searching for bottles in the trash (probably to bring it to the supermarket), another individual living in that area shouted at him like he was a thief, saying: “go away…!” he immediately ran away scared, apologized with his head down and dropped the bottles back in the dumpster.

This happened in Denmark, one of the countries with the best social-welfare system and with the most “hippie” mentality. Even in Denmark  there are many homeless, which is also quite sad (thinking of the temperature that it gets in the winter).

Homeless people are extremely sensitive, even if does not look like, any word, action, or even intention is well understood by them and it may inhibit them deeply.


How to help a homeless

A homeless needs of course a place where to sleep and food. But most of all he needs to be accepted, cared for and to feel welcomed, even if he is not what the standard society supposes him to be.

First help yourself, then help others

As they say on airplanes: “in case of emergency first fit your own mask and then the one of your kid”;
if you want to productively help a homeless, first make sure you feel strong yourself and you are in inner peace.
Like that, you transmit positive energy.
Is much harder to help others when you are yourself not fulfilled. But this should be not an excuse to not help others at all.

Understand what’s the need of the person, if he need a place to sleep he could be forwarded to shelters or city social departments (a fast google search can give you good results).
But one thing we can all give, all the time, is human warmth.

Communities for volunteering, such as : WorkAway.info,  HelpEx.org, HelpStay.com and wwoof.net are exceptionally effective for persons looking for accommodation and food, if they can help a bit (without main physical or psychological problems).
Something we can all easily do, is to address ‘people without a roof’ to any of those organization or host directly.

The only small barrier is that those communities require an online profile and a yearly payment (around 20 euro/year).
Of course it would be a really good sign of humanity to make a profile for them or lend them your own profile for short.

I printed out some cards with information’s about those community and distributed among people who may get benefit from it.
Also shelter may be advised about the possibility to integrate people using those volunteering communities.