Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Thoughts: What Does "Home" Mean To You?

 Many years ago, when I decided that life would be more interesting if I surrounded myself with eccentrics (OK, my life has been filled with them, but this was more of a conscious decision,) I moved to Nelson to hang out with artists. I have always been into that romantic notion that less is more and that the starving artist has so much to offer in the terms of character building etc... Yes, well I have since decided that the starving part has to go, but in those years I learned an awful lot.

Container City made of re-purposed shipping containers that are abandoned because it costs more to ship them back overseas empty than to make new ones.
At one point I dated a guy who was... extraordinarily interesting. He was also borderline crazy, but in that way that many geniuses are. Where they have put all their mental eggs into the intellectual part of their being and not many into the social graces basket. He was my first lesson in living with almost nothing. I had previously been a social princess who preferred the company of those in the extravagant fashion industry. He preferred the company of people who had left the rat race for their own race and he spent most of his time starting shelters and food kitchens when in the bigger cities, so he felt resentful being stuck in a tiny town such as Nelson where his small son lived. We would often take hitch hiking trips out to the larger cities and I would see him become this (more) amazing person when surrounded by streetkids. We would stay up with them all night in the parks talking about things like politics, art, culture... Not the things that society associates generally with street people, but that was the lesson. Those of us still in the rat race miss out on a lot. Also not something I would recommend unless you are with a person that can outcrazy them on any count and that you know can protect you if necessary.

Water Tank from Infomab

It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me because you really cannot understand what it is like to be in those shoes till you have been that close. It is also my firm belief that one cannot gain an absolute appreciation of what they have till they have experienced having nothing. And honestly, sometimes I saw very clearly how these people, in a lot of ways, had so much more. However, the part where people live without basic needs in a country where there is more than enough to go around is deplorable. It really shouldn't be that way and there are people who are trying to find ways to change it.

This is one man's idea for a homeless shelter. It has a toilet, solar shower, water catching system, a kitchen, desk and sleeping area. The two doors when opened were designed to pin on art wares for sale.
Of course, as with most progressive thinking, it comes down to red tape. The government and it's agencies are not on board with actually eradicating homelessness and while the problem continues to grow exponentially around the world, it is the richest countries whose governments do the least. It is up to society to push for intervention as well as to put an end to the notion that the homeless are there because they want to be and that it is simply a waste of time to help them. Hopelessness is an easy feeling to come by when everything has been taken from you. It is not a feeling that is easy to rid yourself of and even less so when the world looks down at you. Anyone who has ever felt failure, a math test, a parenting issue, not getting a promotion at work, if you have had that feeling during a time when you tried your hardest then it should not be a stretch to understand where these people are coming from. And if you continue to try and you get nowhere, how long does it take before you feel hopeless?

The test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members.~Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)

Pallet House
 I think the big move to make affordable housing a reality is stemming from the fact that so many people are realizing that they are only one paycheck away from being homeless. It is happening all over the continent from the economic crisis and all over the world as a result of the earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. It is totally bizarre that after years of this we still haven't come up with a viable solution that has been acceptably implemented. Studies show that it is the impoverished that are the first to step up to help the people who lose everything. It makes sense because it is a reality for them. But it is unfortunate that there are still so many that don't understand how real the issue is.

A Vancouver project by Emily Carr students.
 I have been lucky enough to see both sides of the fence, and truthfully, I am undecided which side has greener grass. I would like to think that there is a happy medium where we can all live with a smaller footprint, help each other build stronger communities and find a way to integrate systems where we can think outside of our society's box and give everyone a way to live a healthier and more productive life. The projects in these photos from around the world are just a few examples of how it is more than possible if we just check our issues at the door and put in a bit of effort. I know it seems overwhelming in the broad scope of things to see the forest for the trees, but homelessness is an issue that does affect every one of us and society as a whole. If the only thing you do is change the way you perceive the situation, it is a step in the right direction.

If you know of a way to effectively help, or of a project that is working, feel free to leave it in the comments!

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