If I had no family (I don't have any friends I meet up with and I have no real interest in finding any. I'm naturally an introvert with low grade depression) I'd just roll out. I'd get in my truck and head to the desert, I think. I'd take my tent, sleeping bag, Coleman stove, a cooler, my dog… and I'd just leave.
I look around and I see nothing but broken and failed systems.
I could write this list endlessly. But it's unnecessary. Anyone who has been looking around at all knows exactly what I'm talking about. It's just an ocean of failed systems. I mean can you name one system that isn't catastrophically broken at it's core? I can't think of any.
That's how the world looks to me. It's a playground for the demented and cruel people of the world to just have their way and no one comes to our rescue. No one does anything meaningful to try to make sure it doesn't happen again.
But here's the thing. I'm not alone. I have a mind-blowingly great wife and a kid who leaves me in awe every single day.
Those two people make me fight. They make me want to stay here and help.
Help homeless people, help ailing family members, run for city council, run marathons, get on a 75 day diet/workout intensive program. On and on. The love of my family makes me a productive citizen. That's all it is. Nothing more.
Those 2 people keep me connected with society. Without them I'd just drift away.
And that's what it's like being homeless for many people. You don't become homeless because of the injury at work, because of the mental illness, because of addiction. You become homeless because your people are gone. They have either died or they have left you.
I know 2 homeless people who are direct descendants from very successful local families. You all would know their businesses if I told them to you. They've been cut off from their families. These families easily have an extra $1000/month to keep these people in a house. But they don't. They've been burned too many times. So they just abandon them to the streets. They are left to wander like ghosts of people. Apparitions of what it means to be a human being.
They become wild and free. The safety nets have cut a hole out of the bottom and these people are just in free fall. Why try to claw your way back in when you know that the only thing you'll find back in the system is failure and disappointment? It's better to just take your chances on the streets. And, by the way, your street family is amazing. They look out for you. They love you when no one else ever would.
THIS is the kind of understanding we all need to begin to grasp if we are ever to have any hope of getting homeless people off our streets and out of our woods.
That understanding will look like triage centers. We meet them where they are right now. We set up safe parking locations. We set up structured camps. We get service professionals into these locations. We build trust with people who have every reason to believe they shouldn't trust anyone ever again. This is how every other catastrophe is dealt with.
Expect that if a person has been on the streets for a year it's going to take 3 years to get them back into society. A year of homelessness is 365 days of solid trauma, terror and betrayal from a system that does nothing other than look down on these people.
We are going to have to build trust with these people and give them a reason to leave this life if that's really what we want in society. We've always had homeless people because of these reasons. Now with a sharp increase in income inequality these reasons are spreading like a virus to more and more people every single day.