Categories
General Serial

Rend/Render IV

TIFF Notes Summary Part IV

The seed of thought and action, the sapience at root of identity can be found deep in the obscure reaches of our selves. In every way, it’s where we begin.

Underlying the events of our lives are the actions prompted by our experience and history. A bit circular as logic goes, but bear with me. A minor paradox rests in the center of any question of agency. Spiritual agency, the overall power we have over our own fate, is the response to a hidden question, a nudge, an impulse. It’s counterintuitive. In a sense, we arrive at our destination before we begin our journey. We are subject to forces and influence all around us, near and far.

The transmission and replication of ideas — as with the discipline of Memetics — works as a framework worth applying to questions of point-source thought and action. The discipline has been abandoned as a useful tool for analyzing human evolution, but retains value as a metaphor.

Limiting myself to the broadest possible interpretation of Memetics, I’ll focus on influence as the force which moves the world. It is influence which lurks behind agency, purpose, and action. The struggle, in a very real sense, is to get free of the hold influence has on your inner world.

When directed with intent, influence is a living creature. Ranging wildly across time and experience, it’s surprising and predictable in turn. We catch a brief glimpse of its form and then it’s gone again. Made visible by wake or shadow, it’s a beast we recognize, a force we sense rippling through our lives.

Harnessing and exerting influence is a predominant function of the systems ruling culture today. These are behaviours newly evolved, adapted from the wider, more traditional realm of authority and control. Representing an all-encompassing accretion and collation of data, these new modes of executive action are empowering business and political authority in ways previously unimaginable. This state of play requires we make judgments about power and its nature.

Legitimate power is accountable to the future it creates. Illegitimate power is accountable to the moment, the trend, the cresting wave of scarcity and demand. Legitimate power has substance only when founded in values focused on sustainability and longevity. Illegitimate power holds few meaningful values.

When at their best, our lives are full of choice and opportunity. Yet this does not come free from cost. Current circumstance begs we ask to what we owe resistance. What will we agree to, cope with, struggle against, and fight to achieve? In answer, we make decisions about routes and paths, time and passions as we follow our curiosity and our dreams. In this way we make a world for ourselves, those we care for and those we love. Inviting strangers and friends to live alongside us, we choose and shape the boundaries of our own private nations. We share our traditions and our lives. The borderlands of these territories can be volatile, the boundaries temporary. It isn’t easy, holding borders against the unknown. Even the vigilant are overrun. It is, nevertheless, vital we are mindful of the ground we’ve sown, the ideas we’ve developed, the future we imagine, and the dreams we chase. Absent thoughtful consideration and reasoning, we are little but mechanistic mobile objects, reacting, responding, subject to vagaries. Opportunity lives in a space without certainty, a no-man’s-land. It is in this tenuous middle where we are most at risk.

Polarization, bickering cultures and sub-cultures, radicalization; these are but the most visible examples of some dangerous trends. A constant companion, our technology functions to ensure we are tracked and assessed, quantified and analyzed. People have been reduced to units of economic resource for the use of forces unseen. Our biases and passions are whipped to frenzy. We’ve grown accustomed to the unthinking pursuit of a thread, an interest, a trail of breadcrumbs dropped for us by corporate interests or an algorithm. We’ve become pieces in a game played with sophistication and finesse as never before.

En masse and in the context of a social landscape, techniques of influence achieve startlingly powerful outcomes. At risk is the very basis of human values, the crucial product of hundreds and thousands of years. While values and beliefs are not inherently sacrosanct or unchanging, they are rooted in function, community, shared benefit and shared burden. These delicate forces are being compromised, though unevenly, all over the world. We are in the midst of an unravelling of human traditions and values, belief and spiritual agency. The weaving of those remnants into sackcloth is a terrifyingly real possible future for humankind.

Looking beyond the present day and into a future we may not view with optimism or hope, it is important we remember this world is one we are making. We create the world with our beliefs, our values, and our dreams. The challenge here, the trick, is to find a path to the future we desire in a way we truly define for ourselves. In the context of spiritual agency, we are in a fight to master that future, to write our own story, and live it, within the bounds of a world forever seeking to dominate our potential and turn it to purpose. We must, if we are to preserve our humanity, recognize the forces at play, query the influences riding our confidence, our fears, and our aspirations. As we move through time, those small questions and minor changes of mind can move us. In ways unnoticed, or drastically, as from one side of the world to the other, a persistent disregard for spiritual agency will drive us in ways unforeseen though not inconsequential.

Categories
General Serial

Rend/Render III

TIFF Notes Summary Part III

Closing on us from the future is a primary challenge to our species. An empowering, potential-actualizing destiny for the human race is threatened. The current landscape of human existence is undermined by the pursuit of short-term, extractionary goals. Our awareness is inundated by noise and confusion. Our technology addicts us. Systems are designed to separate, divide and frighten us. What hope we have to shepherd our species beyond the problems on the horizon depends on the survival of the human soul. Spiritual agency is a vehicle for that journey and the throughline of these posts.

Agency is the power to exert control over your life. Spiritual agency is a more encompassing conception of that idea. At once, it is the specific authority of personhood while also an acknowledgement that life requires a deep process of actualization. It’s the freedom to think and to act based on factors inherent to your person. Agency is the foundation of identity and a birthright. Spiritual agency is the root of life, and a responsibility.

Running counter to agency is suffering. Suffering compels action, forcing reaction. As with chaos and order, light and darkness, these forces are forever in tension, always shifting. Agency helps create, while suffering is a destroyer. In an individual life, how great that destruction is often grows from the breadth and depth of the suffering being lived. These forces are interlinked. They demonstrate the power of suffering to compel acts of spiritual agency which inevitably end in annihilation.

Freeing yourself from suffering is a deeply motivating impulse. Getting free from suffering shifts some people only towards chaos and misery, perhaps driving their alcoholism, domestic violence, or self-harm. For others, it’s a matter of creation, of hobbies, of meditation. Any outcome is built of possibilities. In a normal life, freeing yourself from suffering is a matter of routine. In a homeless life, freeing yourself from suffering is a task nearly impossible to accomplish without self-destruction. As with even the simplest moments of our lives, options colour actions and choices. In this way, agency demonstrates its crucial role in human society. Tearing free of suffering is, appropriately, a definitive act of personal spiritual agency.

Categories
General Serial

Rend/Render II

TIFF Notes Summary Part II

People who’ve never been homeless look for the silver lining. An article of faith, it’s existence is assumed. According to this line, homelessness holds a lesson for the individual. It’s not a well defined lesson, nor is it quantifiable. There’s a lot of talk of fortitude, stoic values, and wherewithal. Promoting this notion, typically, are polite men and women, middle-class and comfortable, people who’ve never gone hungry except by choice.

The don’t-lose-hope bromide of the housed is a broken conception of life. Originating in the axiom hardship mines beauty, it’s a flawed belief. Eventually, the thinking goes, a soul will emerge from a chrysalis of suffering and pain, transported, transformed, a thing of notable beauty. That is not how suffering affects most people. Austerity is pain. Excess does not build strength.

The public’s understanding of homelessness is a bundle of flaws. A disfigured preconception casts us all as a type, as a generic embodiment of sub-human life. What humanity we are granted is but a dim reflection of the public’s willingness to see us, and their need for affirmation. The homeless live in permanent dusk, a state of interruption, incomplete. This stasis, raw economic disadvantage, is the intersection of system failure and schadenfreude. We are adjudged less than equal to any and measured by an unequal standard.

Homelessness is an alien existence. It’s a terror. For the homeless, there is no hero’s journey model of redemption, and no reversal to propel us into resolution. Relegated to symbol and type, we are denied normal in all its forms. What option remains for us? How, when systems have failed so badly and communication is impossible, do you bridge these worlds?

Tell me, what are the boundaries of your existence, as you perceive them? What is a normal life? What is it you hope for, dream of? Any place on earth you’ll find the answer is very much the same. Love, family, friends. Purpose, meaning, a future. This way, life is made livable, the spirit is nourished, the world broadens to the limits of imagining. These commonplace ideas are what bring people together.

Metaphor, symbol, and imagery all work together to access and link the real and imagined. Language, in this, is powerful yet insufficient. Nevertheless… For some, the diamond serves as a useful metaphor. It’s true, a diamond’s beauty and value is the result of the application of time, pressure, and expertise. Yet, left buried, uncut, and never brought to its potential, a diamond has no value.

Categories
General Serial

Rend/Render I

TIFF Notes Summary Part I

The films and media I suggested during TIFF22 present elements which piece together to describe a conceptual through line. They’re not tidy or concise. Relying on the audience’s foreknowledge of context is a habit difficult to break. As an expression of core ideas, the posts are not particularly well composed. Nevertheless, I put together the series for a reason.

Eleven posts. It’s not as organized a work as I typically expect from myself, but that’s as may be, seeing much of what I’ve posted is written in haste. The limitations I face are not mysterious. Homelessness takes from a person everything they have, just to survive. It needs a reserve of dignity and self-belief to struggle on, often grappling with no less a beast than annihilation. The easiest thing a homeless person can do is lean into oblivion.

Homelessness has a profound effect on a life. Arising as if from nowhere, questions of mental well being, physical and emotional health fly, jittering, across consciousness. Desperate poverty subsumes time and opportunity, crushing everything before it without mercy. Potential is subverted. Circumstance, lack, and absence direct events in an unnatural inversion of human living, a scouring of the spirit, irrepressible and overwhelming.

Aphorisms reassure us life is a journey towards wonder and beauty. We are implored to weather the difficulties and take heart when in our darkest moments. Homelessness is, eventually, a destination. Ruled by the whims of others, life as a homeless person settles into patterns of disconnection. Perception narrows. Dreams atrophy. Goals focus on survival. Potential dries up. An ongoing trauma unfolds. Life in a shadow-world of time without meaning or a future is a deadly struggle in overcoming apathy. In every moment, the factors we live under choose the frame and set the lighting.

Deep in the wilderness of homelessness, perspective and self-awareness come alive. A new reality, cold and vast makes way as uncertainty, fear, and grief set in. Fierce and intimate adversaries, the fight itself is an achievement. Fail to resist, sink momentarily into acquiescence, and you face final defeat. That way lies only emptiness, and an inevitable, grinding, death of the self.

Persevering in this wilderness is a challenge that strips away everything a person needs to get safely home. Life and human society are what make the world, but power and agency are what make life happen, and make it meaningful.

Categories
General

Practical Efforts

How You Can Help

Throughout my homelessness, practical help has been surprisingly hard to come by. What does that mean? It means well-intentioned people often don’t know quite how to make a positive difference for a homeless person.

There are some very simple ways you can help. Here’s a list. It’s by no means comprehensive. Below I’ll add a little detail and context.

Practical ways to help the homeless:

  • Cash, of course. (In fact, any time you give anything to a homeless person, also give cash if possible. It makes an enormous difference.)
  • Donate used tech, such as an iPhone or laptop. Access to the internet is important, even for the homeless.
  • Purchase phone time. Why not pay the next 6 months of a persons phone for them? For most, that amounts to less than $100. You can do this safely and securely.
  • Gift Cards. Clothing, grocery, liquor store, cinema, etc. Many essential items can be difficult to attain on the budget a homeless person is working with.
  • Lottery tickets. Why not buy a duplicate lotto ticket and give it to a homeless person? Imagine that win!
  • Speaking for myself, I don’t want a bottle of water from you. Water is free. Who’re you kidding?

It’s important to keep a few things in mind if you’re going to approach a homeless person.

  • Being present is not the same as being available. Be sure to respect our time.
  • Take a minute to get to know the person you’re talking to, without pity, condescension, or judgement.
  • Reach out to your network of real-life contacts and find out if anyone has an opportunity a homeless person can make use of. Trust is an important part of human relationships.
  • No photos. Seriously. We’re not animals in a zoo.

There are many small ways you can help the homeless. These are simply the easiest, most obvious examples.

Now, some context.

Many things might have happened these past 15 years, things that could have resulted in my becoming housed, returning to life. Without housing, building a life is not possible.

Looking to the past for might-have-beens is not much use. I do, though, cast my mind back over the way my requests for help were received, handled, and rejected. This is especially true of my immediate family.

Remember, the life you live is made up of many small certainties. They’re a kind of insurance, really. Your certainties provide security. Security offers hope and faith. Hope and faith are the framework from which anyone sets goals for themselves. Without faith that you have control in your life there can be no hope your goals will amount to anything.

Early on, we homeless are robbed of the power to set meaningful goals. Speaking for myself, it is a mammoth task fighting that hopelessness. I don’t often succeed.

Make the time to adopt and enact the efforts I’ve listed. People like me need your help. Homelessness really is a state of permanent deprivation — unless you decide to help.

— Chris

chris@homelessunlimited.com

Categories
Video

SQ|1

Squares Part One

Trigger Warning: Images of actual violence and death are included in this video.

(You can download the video rather than streaming it.)

This video took a lot of effort to complete. The primary themes are on perspective and its origins, influence, struggle, and dimensionality.

My intent in layering images one over the other against a background featuring its own layers was to highlight the ways our perceived reality is shaped over time by nuance and factors we quickly grow accustomed to. A lot is happening throughout this piece, and by changing what elements they focus on, the viewer can shift their understanding of what the imagery means.

One thing I would change about this video, if I could, would be to increase the prominence and frequency of imagery around the parasitic wasp sequences as metaphor for intrusive alien ideation.

The modern world demands a high level of vigilance from anyone hoping to track or trace the source of their beliefs and ideas; a parasitic wasp functions much like actors in the information ecosystem we all live amidst, quietly dominating an entity for its own ends.

I may write more about this at a later date, or I might not. Hope you like it.

Categories
Uncategorized

Off Ramp

Sooner or later, a person’s homelessness reaches a point of terminal decline. The undelivered resources, the absence of opportunity, the institutional violence of coercive apathy produce a kind of stasis, a kind of non-life. Beyond survival, no outcome has meaning, no choice has value. This is the purpose of homelessness policy in the modern city.

Homelessness…is the death of a meaningful future.

Policy for homelessness is founded on the protection of property rights. The goal is to limit the homeless posing a threat to property. We, as a population, are the epitome of the words, ‘nothing to lose.’ As such we pose a very real threat. With that in mind, policy has been designed not to provide resources or housing, but to deploy force through the application of psychology. We have been turned into objects, into chattel.

The result of these efforts is to condition us for a non-threatening, controllable passivity. The overall effect on a person’s life is to put an end to anything that resembles living. We are beaten into submission. We are formed and shaped through abuse and neglect, pain and suffering. Eventually, we are all walking wounded, barely formed figures of clay.

Let there be no mistake. These policies are the result of decisions made by civil servants. These are choices made by people. This instead of funding. This instead of housing. This instead of education. This instead of a future.

Homelessness is not hunger, it is not discomfort. It is the death of a meaningful future. Eventually, if suicide is not the path you take, every future is a slow nightmare, every future is the enemy. Cold is the enemy. Hunger is the enemy. Police are the enemy. Social workers are the enemy. Time is the enemy. Boredom. Heat. Sleeplessness. Confusion. Impulse. Life itself becomes your enemy. It does not have to be this way, but it is. And everyone believes you’ve chosen it.

The problem of homelessness is one of support. It’s one of resources. It’s one of time. It’s been cured, the problem, according to the goals of homelessness policy as I have experienced it. Homelessness has been cured by grinding out the spark of life, the ambition, the will of the individual to ascend, to aspire, and to fight for their future. This system is an inhuman, vicious attack on people whose only real crime is poverty, whose status as a minority only makes them invisible to everyone else. The culmination of the efforts the city and it’s system of homelessness policy enforcement is not a humane, working set of policies. It is a prison camp. The bars are invisible, and the guards are the inmates themselves.

Categories
News

Trust Me, It’s Free

(…and if there’s a problem, you did agree to the Terms of Service!)

You’ll notice every wi-fi hotspot you use asks you to agree to terms of service. These always include the caveat that the network may allow others to see the traffic you’re sending across it. No one hesitates to accept.

My lifestyle has me using public wi-fi to access the internet, always. I’ve long had an interest in computers, networks, and how they function. Network access is something I’ve done troubleshooting on with regularity. Not so much recently. I mention it by way of establishing a little credibility. At any rate that brings me to the point of this post.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a reliable, well-established way to keep your web browsing secure from outside observers. Back in 2010 or so VPNs were becoming increasingly prevalent as free and subscription services. Wanting to preserve my personal information while using wide-open public networks, I began making use of these services. They were great, initially. It wasn’t long before they became unusable. This followed a pattern.

At first, arriving at my regular wi-fi hotspots, I’d log in, join my VPN service, and it’d work. Everything went smoothly. It’d function perfectly, for a day or so. Soon enough, they’d fail to connect, making the network unusable. Without the VPN, access worked perfectly. Free or paid VPN, it made no difference.

This pattern spread to every public wi-fi spot. From Starbuck’s to Wendy’s, McDonald’s to A&W, before long every ‘free’ wi-fi offered to the public was unusable as soon as a VPN was engaged.

Every company offering publicly available internet was blocking access to the basic tools available to mitigate the very threat they were warning their users of.

The implications are clear enough. While there has yet to be a scandal (fingers crossed!), the business model offering free services to the public in exchange for rights to profit from their data is widespread, commonplace. Companies offering public wi-fi are collecting all network traffic, for profit. Without getting into the far flung regions of this subject, I’d point out what that entails. Your email address. Your banking details. All of your passwords. Your secret, flirty messages to your online fantasy affair. It’s all being collected and sorted, stored and used as data to model your behaviour.

Frighteningly, everything you’re using in the cloud, including any truly private, legally protected information you might access while working from your local coffee shop is also potentially being stored. All information you send and receive across one of these networks is being collected, recorded, collated and sold. Your personality, interests, economic status, sexuality, and private life are becoming the intellectual property of strangers, organizations who will use that information to extract maximum value from you, for the duration of your life.

Modern-day standards have been implemented to protect internet users from the threat of unauthorized traffic monitoring. Providers are side-stepping those standards, illegally accessing, collecting and profiting from your activity while denying you the power of self-protection. In a nearly Kafkaesque turn, any counter argument can be slapped down with reference to the terms of the agreement you entered into. In a world which increasingly demands access to networks as precondition to everyday living, this is a dangerous foundation to build upon.

Many aspects of this are troubling, though it is when looking at projected social futures the current state of affairs seem most ominous. Imagine your value being estimated at birth, the statistically probable limits of your economic value being projected based on generations of data and models — tried, tested, and deployed for profit and harmony in our technological future. ‘Dystopian’ hasn’t enough room in it to carry all of the hell that world would be.


The impetus for my posting this was the recent experience I had at my local library branch. My computer was hacked.

As part of my tech routine I format and reinstall my OS multiple times a year. I recently did just this. More than 24 hours passed between the format and my next sign-on at the library. Completely fresh install.

I’m familiar with the moods of the TPL network, including how often it requires a new sign-on — multiple times per day, no matter what.

When I connected to the library hotspot, it hit the internet, right away. No sign-in page, no terms of service. This was unusual. Based on evidence, I believe my laptop was being compromised, hacked.

After verifying I was indeed on the internet, I went about looking at the volume of traffic to and from my computer. That effort proved unnecessary. Next thing that happened was a segmentation fault in a privileged part of my OS. A segmentation fault is a form of program crash. Hackers will often use a specific sort of attack which results in a segmentation fault. The attack causes the system to execute code the attacker has crafted to gain privileges, breaking security so they can install software allowing them reliable access in future. In terms of seriousness, it’s many levels above monitoring traffic and collecting information.

What I am alleging here is that the administrators managing that network not only collect and sell user data, but, as with my example, have no qualms about installing software to illegally monitor patrons computer-based activity.

If you need help putting this kind of attack into context, I refer you to the Pegasus revelations. Pegasus is a formalized system of mobile phone hacking which has been connected to assassinations and kidnappings enacted around the world targeting journalists, activists, and uncooperative royals. Kidnapped, harassed, killed — phones compromised using commercially available Pegasus technology figure prominently in facilitating surveillance leading to violence and disappearances. Traces of Pegasus have been found on mobile phones all over the planet, indicating the widespread use of monitoring as a norm.

The power to illegally access private communications devices is not limited to those perceived as a threat to authoritarian governments. Identifiable data linked to an individual is key to profits for a broad range of businesses operating today. What purpose the Toronto Public Library would have for infiltrating and monitoring a patron’s laptop is something I couldn’t speculate on. Nor would I point to the close cooperation in harassment, gaslighting, and psychological abuse between GARDA Security (employed here in the library) and the City of Toronto as a possible basis for this specific incident.

Remember, the library is a public service institution. It’s a not-for-profit operation. It’s not a cog in the machine of a multi-national corporation. It’s an institution dedicated to public service. What part of that, I ask you, is represented by hacking the computers and personal data of the public? Next they’ll be finding security cameras hidden in public bathrooms. Uhhmmmm… they wouldn’t, would they?

Categories
Uncategorized

Creative Targets

Over the past few days I sought and found an Amazon delivery box to change into a container for my rice cooker. I lost it once, having to climb into a recycling dumpster to retrieve it. Today I went to work on it at Harrison Baths. Unsatisfactory is the only word to describe the result.

…it’s more than a just solution to an immediate problem. It’s an investment in a future which assumes continued homelessness.

The problem, of course is a combination of things. Work-surface (the end of a bench, at bench height), less tape than I would like (for weather proofing), and, as always, time.

Constructing these isn’t very difficult, but along with space and resources to work, it takes some forethought and planning. Time and conditions are relevant factors. Figuring out how to fold the material while maintaining dimensions correct both internal and external requires a little finesse. And luck, but that’s also affected by factors.

…I said, “I was homeless yesterday, I’m homeless today, and I’ll be homeless tomorrow.” That is the truth of homelessness. Eventually, the future is your adversary.

The main thing about making these — or buying a new set of Tupperware, or new durable shopping bags, or any of the other items I use daily in my homelessness, is that it’s more than a just solution to an immediate problem. It’s an investment in a future which assumes continued homelessness.

Years ago, a volunteer I’d chatted with at a meal program saw me in the street. He greeted me, asking how I was. The answer I gave him encapsulates the reality of an institutionalized mind, a homeless mind. I said, “I was homeless yesterday, I’m homeless today, and I’ll be homeless tomorrow.” That is the truth of homelessness. Eventually, the future is your adversary.

My time homeless has spanned the years a person would normally build a career, a life, a history of their experiences, memories, which I’d argue are the brickwork of identity. Time, when it becomes your adversary, forces escape. Oblivion, nostalgia, anger, violence — there are many ways to run from an intractable foe. My own escape has been to attack time on it’s own terms. Whether by delving into fictionalized versions of the lives of Roman Emperors, the lives of real, living legends, or galaxies of imagined, extrapolated futures, my escape has been a fight, and a search for meaning, guided by curiosity.

My curiosity finds in history human meaning. It is made of stories, our past. No matter where on earth we are from, or where we are, our lives are the result of a long process of change, and growth, and evolution. People are what make the world, and people are living and telling the stories which make our history.

Periodically, I remember that spices were prized, of staggering value. These are items we now take for granted. Pepper, salt, these are considered staples, and bland staples at that. Items like these were instrumental in conjuring the institutions our world was built upon, the institutions we take for granted as inevitable, natural, normal.

(Wish I could spend time polishing this.)

Categories
Archive

strut, cut, blood, lunch [ʊ]

(March, 2022 – Additional update on text. All donors are now welcome. Things are pretty grim.)

York U (etc.) UPDATE: I’ve looked at the resources listed at the York U website and found a couple of bright spots (though not many). I’ve not yet contacted the Financial Aid desk at York University by phone, though I believe it would be helpful. The naked facts are these — while I am homeless I will not be studying. A return to housing does not look like a realistic possibility. The fundraiser has moved very slowly, a critical problem when the amount to be raised is so large. This slow pace is due mostly to the time cost involved in pursuing donations. At the outset I knew I wouldn’t be performing for the internet in the way people find engaging (see my ‘Ronald Villiers’ Guide to Fundraising on Social Media,’ here.) My rationale, and I stand by it even now, is that homelessness is immoral and unjustifiable. It’s my position that people ought to assess my case for their donation and act according to their own beliefs.

There are only two groups of people I won’t accept donations from — high school students, and activists for human rights/social/climate justice. Everyone else is welcome to contribute. I’ll even take money from celebrities, on the condition they keep it private (I’d rather be homeless than someone’s mascot, thanks just the same).

Much of the money I’ve raised over the course of the fundraiser (500+ days at time of writing) has been spent. You could not be blamed for thinking it irresponsible of me, slowly chipping away at that money meant to be saved for housing. In response I’d ask you to put yourself in my shoes. To date, it’s meant the difference between having a rain poncho, or not; clean clothes four times a month instead of once a month; it’s meant an upgrade from ramen or tomato soup & rice every day to mini-ravioi; it’s meant the first pair of new shoes in years; it’s meant owning a phone with the same phone number for longer than a couple of months; it’s meant haircuts, health, grooming, and pain relief supplies without asking for personal credit; it’s meant a minor though meaningful reduction in daily stress. Crucially, it’s meant not going hungry every 26 or so days, and not having the shame of begging a shop owner for a meal. Of course, the pandemic took a hand in things. My expenses tripled.

That’s the most recent update. It’s December 8, 2021. It’s snowing outside. It’s getting colder and I haven’t found a winter’s jacket worth a damn. Also in need of a new pair of shoes. I don’t expect to find anything worth paying for. This is fairly typical in recent years with so many people needing to economize using thrift stores. Subsequent to higher demand, prices have gone up. Quality and volume of clothing donations has gone down as people hold onto items longer, or donate them to friends and family. It’s a cycle which puts a lot of pressure on the homeless, and others living in poverty.

Thrift stores fill a niche for consumers. They’re a useful (and perhaps inevitable) response to a need. Homelessness is not inevitable. It is not the cost of our economic system, or the price of greater prosperity. Homelessness is a result of the decision to deny people resources they need. Governments, bureaucrats, academics and policymakers decide what resources will be directed at homelessness. They have perpetuated a cruel and inhumane condition taking those decisions. We who live it are only visible as unworthy, filthy, and undeserving. Those stereotypes themselves are perpetuated by decisions made in committee rooms, by vote, by silence.

You may be one of the new generation, those who have a homeless family member. It’s not uncommon anymore. Yet they do nothing. The problem of homelessness will continue to worsen, affecting increasing numbers of people until it is impossible to ignore. Great harm will be done. Human lives will be destroyed. Real and wide-ranging problems will have become entrenched. Then they will pronounce, they will celebrate new initiatives, and cry out the mistakes of the old regime. By then it will be — as with so many other issues threatening people today — too fucking late.