By Mana Williams 15 Minutes
Some people live their lives homeless because it’s the lifestyle they understand. However, there is a space for recognizing that homelessness is a systemic issue. An unwillingness to accept that homeless people exist and that it isn’t some urban myth. This chat focuses on the expression of homelessness. We will go through a process of recognizing normativity and the stigmas associated with homelessness, in the hopes that it will evoke a sense of difference in somebodies life.
What is my opinion of homelessness?
Not everyone has been dealt a bad hand. Some people live a lifestyle that is uncommitted to the confines of a house. Some people choose to live homelessly. It’s my understanding also that there are people out there who were dealt a bad hand. Mixed with poor decisions as well as social discrimination for whatever their reasoning they are in this predicament.
The truth of homelessness.
Homelessness is a social gray area. It’s always so interesting watching a fresh out of high school student walking along Wellington’s Courtney Place coming across the twenty or so homeless people living there for the first time. The expressionless faces as if they never knew it was a problem epitomizes the reality that so many people are aware of homelessness but never really see it until we get out of our comfort zones. The thing is we all know that homelessness is real but we don’t want to stop and say hello and ask how their day is.
We barely even smile to the guy at the coffee shop or the trolley boy at the supermarket. So consumed by the romanticisms of a well-noted piano piece that we lose touch with reality for the first 18 years of life, then when it hits us that life is more than our own selfish aspirations of becoming the next big thing that we can barely afford to smile whilst looking at the barista. We need to transition our way of thinking about homeless to a way of positivity. If it were our brother or sister, how could we walk by without such as the kindness of a small gesture of appreciating their efforts?
An inability to change the way we feel about homeless people.
An unwillingness to grow within oneself is about as tragic as this story gets. So often I hear stories about politicians making smearing remarks about how homelessness doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem in New Zealand and that we should be focussing on more significant matters such as international exporting and immigration laws instead of housing or the protection of kiwi children in foster care.
We negate the beliefs of change through our leadership. When they feed us this shit about not needing to worry about matters that don’t concern us, like the Pike river mining incident and the effects that had on the families why their loved ones after all this time are still unable to be recovered. The notion that Christchurch and its people have recovered from the earthquakes when in reality there are still families living out of their cars and are still displaced by lodges to the government to have their houses reimbursed six years later. The executive wing in parliament are concerned with their next election and promote growth elsewhere without going back, picking up the pieces of a shattered society and learning through their mistakes. Therefore they are making the same mistakes.
I remember last week walking down Wellington’s Streets after meeting up with my mum for dinner. She gave me $4.50 in 50 cent pieces and told me to go and give them to people who live on the streets. As I was walking along, I got this tremendous shock when a lady came up to me with her hands in front of her asking me for money. Full of passion and full of love all of my strength just collapsed and I walked away without so much as an acknowledgment to the lady. Having seen her around before I knew that she was a regular in the neighborhood. For the life of me, it wasn’t computing why it was so difficult to stop and spend time with this lady. I was scared and uncomfortable. Having made the decision to want to go and photograph some of the storyboards that these people had in front of them, I found it tremendously hard to encapsulate what these people’s stories were on a camera without exhibiting them in a way that might compromise their mana, which is their power and authority over their own life.
After being reduced to feeling shit about myself. I made the commitment to finish this blog and make damned sure that it gave these people some justice. That I would go away and think about why I was afraid, why I made certain assumptions and where the problem, from a people perspective, might have been. In the hopes that I could bring this message to you and tell you that it’s disgusting how we treat homeless people.
Why don’t we trust homeless people?
Why do I bother saying my opinion? Sit down and listen. When I passed this lady last weekend I was feeling uncomfortable. Not because she was covered in dirt from shoulder to toe or because she was asking for my money but because I didn’t trust her. Coming from a small town in the tiny winemaking region of Marlborough, it’s rare to find someone who wouldn’t wave and say hello, who wouldn’t wash you down with a hose and drop you off at home if you fell into a drain trying to bunny hop across it on your new bike. The issue is far greater than just because a person is homeless. It’s a people problem. Something I’ve picked up since those days. Through social media, on the news, in the newspaper, at school, in the supermarket. Our daily interactions shape our faith in people, shape our trust towards people we don’t really know.
Even somebody full of life and full of passion for loving others was pulled down by the defecating stench of distrust. I couldn’t stop to say hello because I felt so uncomfortable that it probably made her feel worthless. When she’s not! We get caught up in not wanting to give our money to those who need it more than we do because we think that maybe she might spend it on drugs or on alcohol but really who’s business is it to tell a person how they spend their money? Nobodies. It’s nobodies business to tell someone else how they spend their money. The underlying assumptions are what make us hesitate from providing these people with the comforts and resources they need.
If we boil it all down what do we get?
We’ve discussed that homelessness is either by choice or it is by circumstance. Analyzed governments portfolio as being a dysfunctioning source of wisdom. Looking into social normativity as being a vehicle of discrimination and that these people deserve so much better than what they get. Basically, it’s a very real problem and needs a very real change from an individual’s point of view. Something that is tangible and is hard for us to accomplish. because these issues aren’t fixable in a day they require strength and consistency. I need to be able to walk down Courtney Place, ask a random person sleeping on the pavement if they want to go and grab a coffee. I need to be able to go into a coffee shop with this person and ask the baristas how their day is going. I need to not take for granted the daily struggles of any person. If I could accomplish this faith and hold this kind of change then it would maybe one day change the perspective of one other person, even if that’s in Zimbabwe, how cool would that be?
Trust is a fickle business. But that’s a story for another day…
I hope you enjoyed this wee chat. It’s certainly a really powerful topic that deserves so much more than I’m giving it. But for today I hope this shares a bit of light from my own perspective. As always…
Thanks for checking in…