Every so often you see people camping out to experience homelessness, but I also think that it would be a good experiment for people to try if they had to carry a big backpack with a bedroll strapped to it. It’s like a giant sign that says, I’m homeless, and it closes so many doors and causes so many to look away. People would be surprised how differently they will be treated wearing this…
There’s been a trend the last few years of people camping out to experience homelessness. The news is full of them in one form or another.
Camping out to experience homelessness is one thing. Doing it for charity/awareness and getting media coverage, or a watered down experiential experience is missing the point. Maybe if you’re dressed nicely people will think you are a lost tourist and offer you directions to the backpackers hostel, but if you’re dressed more ‘working class’ with an older, tattered pack, haven’t gotten a decent sleep in weeks and have been subsisting on a high carb, meager diet that takes more calories to maintain than it provides, then you might see the world through whole new eyes, and be sickened if you have any heart at all.
I’m less bothered by someone pretending to be homeless (like the backpack sensitivity training thing) if the only people being deceived are the people whose intolerance is being experienced. One would be honest with people who actually take time to talk to them and treat them like a human being. A lot of people I know who are homeless or have been homeless can appreciate when someone is making a genuine effort to gain some empathy and compassion. And they can spot people who are trying to grandstand and use their experience for a tactic in their own personal/corporate agenda.
In this city, the police use an archaic bylaw prohibiting ‘chattel’, which translates into they can take your backpack or bike or anything and ransom it back to you. They have a sophisticated fee structure for this, and activists have responded with a fund for people to pay the ransom.
The police have discretion to decide whether your bag has actually impeded pedestrians or whether you’ve been given three warnings, as the enforcement policy dictates. They don’t always apply the bylaw fairly, and most don’t know about this fund. If you don’t give your name and take receipt of the ticket, you can’t retrieve your belongings. The price goes up for every day it sits in the evidence room, adjusted to the weight of your bag.
The police know who knows their rights and who has people watching out for them, and they know who can be bullied.
Your belongings left at a tent site, or stashed somewhere, can and will be treated as trash and disposed of and you are s.o.l. to get them back.
No where in this town are their free lockers. It would help so many people to get jobs, keep their stuff, have some dignity day-to-day and save the police the hassle and storage space (unless they enjoy it, and/or need the money).
The mainstream media, which is sadly lacking of homeless people’s voices in their coverage of homelessness, has provided many entertaining articles of the variation of the theme of Homeless Encounter Experiences, but few offer any real depth to the issue.
A member of the provincial/colonial/occupier government with the opposition NDP is about to begin a 30 day experiment to see whether someone can live on the $620 per month provided by welfare. He’s already begin ‘fret’, as the article says.
Meanwhile, those of us who have known all alone that being on welfare or homeless is a torture that I can honestly say is an international human rights violation, wait with mixed expectations while the world plays a media game in their name.