At least let’s start the conversation.
Winter in the NE hub has traditionally brought the smart homeless fellows to South Florida. This winter is exceptionally harsh on homeless families. There are subtle leaders among the homeless. They have followers; they have earned the respect of less educated ones. I should say their street smart is outstanding. They are surviving human conditions that many men would not live past. Try to imagine enduring the streets of NYC this winter and last long enough to come to the sunshine state. They know about the Homeless Trust in South Florida. Chances are one hot meal a day is nearly guaranteed, if you know where to be at the right time. For the cot you need to be creative. First locate where the nice cardboard boxes are being discarded. The right size box, that which, once opened up, is easily hidden behind the bushes, for the day. Know most of the places where hot soup or more is given generously by agencies, churches and good Samaritans. Know their meal schedules. Sometimes it’s three times a day. Know how to navigate the area on foot. Know where the churches, the temples, the synagogues, the psychiatric centers are. The people there understand homelessness. More importantly, know the homeless culture. The scent is particular; it lets people know we have been at a place even after we have left. One is feared, rejected or ignored by many.
One is still smart regardless of psychological or mental issues, diagnosed or not. One not, easily though, has learned to exist against all odds. When facing the elements twenty four seven, one takes a shark loan from Mother Nature. The loan is, against his/her life expectancy. It’s an exchange against longevity. One nourishes the delusional idea that someone is making money on the back of homelessness. One wants all to believe that one has chosen this particular life style; one is an existentialist. One is beating the system. One is happy with less. God is on one’s side.
So the homeless man is enjoying sun bathing on south Florida beaches. He has temporarily left his Grand Central Station palace in NYC. The place Mayor Julliani expelled the helpless people from in the name of beautification. We had highlighted the city’s decaying face. Along with cleaning graffiti, the mayor made NYC homelessness invisible. Then the homeless men left the many underground subway stations in urban cities up north, to wander the sunny streets of Florida cities. One has come to warmly sleep under makeshift homes. That after night fall, the homeless man flat on his back on the sandy beaches is contemplating the heavens. One is imagining God talking to him personally and one is responding. One is grateful. Brother Sam was here last year. He did not make it this time around. He did not find his way south fast enough. He froze to death. One needs a drink to deal with that. Panhandling largely covers the cost of alcohol and then some.
Well our number makes us more visible this year. We have conquered Parks and streets of Miami Dade County. The dilemma is to do something probably without offering permanent comfort. Should the issue of homelessness be left to charity or should Federal and local government respond to the needs. We all know that homelessness has reached a scale demanding both private and public attention. Should the migration become a normal process, one to be accepted and learned to live with? Those who proclaim that tax payers’ money should not be used for that. Are they ready to have it in their neighborhoods? .
Let’s start the conversation. May those who know best how to deal with homelessness be loud and assertive.
Ed Nelson, LCSW