Ten Things you should know…to be homeless?

written by naehblog
July 20, 2009

I know news roundup is on Fridays, but I couldn’t let this one pass.

It’s a great game of chance, skimming the morning’s news for coverage on homelessness.

It ranges all over the place: features on cities dealing with housing challenges,(often in our own DC), comprehensive, well-crafted analyses about public housing policy , news from other countries starting ten year plans, and features about activists raising awareness on the issue.

Some of it is great, some if it is not so great, it really depends on the day.

But sometimes – just sometimes – it’s just out of left-field.


Last week, the Nation published a story called,Ten Things You need to Know to Live on the Streets.

Evidently, the article is the brainchild of Nation editorial board member Walter Moseley and a grassroots, social justice organization founded and led by homeless people called Picture the Homeless.

In truth, my initial reaction was confusion – followed by more confusion, distaste, and more confusion. To be counseling people on how best to live on the streets, it seemed to me, was to be missing the point entirely .

And then there are some points that come off just patently patronizing:

  • Be prepared to be blamed for your circumstances, no matter how much they may be beyond your control. Think of ways to disabuse the public of common misconceptions. Don’t internalize cruelty or condescension. Let go of your pride–but hold on to your dignity.
  • The First Amendment protects your right to solicit aid (panhandling), especially if your pitch or sign is a statement rather than a request. To succeed, be creative, funny, engaging (“I didn’t get a bailout!”). Find good, high-traffic spots where the police won’t bother you.

All productive political discourse must necessarily make room for a variety of perspectives – only through the inclusion of different ideas and approaches are we able to come to a fully informed, thoughtful conclusion on what can be done to solve the problem at hand: in our case, homelessness in America.

But this article seems to focus on just what we’re trying to avoid: management of the homelessness crisis and not a solutions to it. While it’s a clever and creative approach, it doesn’t shift the conversation to talking about data-drive, evidence-based, solutions to ending homelessness – but rather, presents ways to only perpetuate the problem.

But it’s interesting reading, nonetheless. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that opintion: it’s one of the most popular articles on www.thenation.com right now.

Check it out – and let me know what you think