Homelessness

A fellow blogger, whose opinion I very much respect, inspired this blog post.

I recently had a chat with a work friend. She had encountered the fattest homeless person she had ever seen, like really disgustingly fat. He had asked her for money.

She asked in return, if he was hungry.

He answered yes; he was indeed hungry.

She offered him to buy him a kebab; there was a stand just around the corner.

He replied that he didn’t especially like kebab; he wanted money to go to the grocer.

She said she wouldn’t just give him money, and she was running late for an appointment; if he was hungry, he should come with her to the kebab stand. She certainly wasn’t going to go shopping with him.

He replied that he wasn’t hungry as much as thirsty.

She said she could buy him something to drink at the kebab stand.

He replied that they only had the small bottles there, and they were expensive. [like the kebab’s cheap…] At the grocer they had the big bottles.

She said they had large bottles of water at the kebab. [water, which
is the best choice for drinking]

he said he was sick of water. He wanted something else.

That’s when she left him standing. He spewed a few swears and curses, but another woman, who had observed the scene, told her that she would have done the same thing.

We then talked a little more about homelessness. At some point I said being homeless in Germany was a choice. And it certainly seems that way. The system in Germany takes care of the people in it. They pay for a reasonable apartment; depending on what city, this can be 400 € for a single person per month. They pay for whatever measure you take to find a job. They also make you go to jobs that you may not like, or that are far away, and they make you look for jobs actively. They pay your health insurance. And if you’re a good boy/girl, they will give you an allowance, definitely enough to cover your basic needs – food, drink, and hygiene. If you are in deep debt, they will manage your debt. They will organize your private bankruptcy and pay for your lawyer. If you are an addict, they will find you a support group. Actually, if your addiction is standing in the way of you getting a job, they will make you go to a support group.

I tried the system out. My brother is in the system. I couldn’t stand the system. I didn’t like the way people looked at me, especially the clerks who worked for the system. To them, I was a parasite with rights. That is how most people see the unemployed. And certainly there are some, or even many, who have no intention of getting into a long term employment. They just do the job they are appointed to, then quit after a few days, and tell the clerk that they tried, but it didn’t work out.

I couldn’t do that. I am an honest person. I may have been a part time criminal at some point, selling Mary Jane to college kids, but I didn’t cheat. I’m also not a good salesman. I can’t make people think that they want or need something completely useless, not to speak of compelling them to buy such a thing. If I didn’t have a family or friends who had supported me, I’d probably be homeless. I would choose homelessness. But that’s because of who I am. I don’t mean the person I am now, but my core personality, what I have referred to as my soul. If I could change that, I wouldn’t want to. So there’s the choice: Rewire yourself, give up who you are; or become homeless. What would your choice be?

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7 thoughts on “Homelessness

  1. A thought-provoking and powerful post!
    I admit I would have been less patient than your friend, when talking to the fat homeless and left after his first special dietary requirement.
    I think you are right in proposing that homlessness might be a choice – I have read that many people in Austria who are eligible for benefits (Sozialhilfe – what you get if you are not eligible for anything else, e.g. if you never worked and have not yet contributed to the so-called social insurance) do not apply for it. Because they feel ashamed. Probably the real reasons are more complex, as you described.
    I have never really pondered about the question you raise, but my ad hoc reply is: I would be too chicken-hearted to be homeless. But I am living in a rural area – I believe some farmers or winemakers in the neighborhood could offer me some menial job.

    1. I think that counts as friends, as I am sure you are well acquainted with the farmers and viniculturists. I wasn’t forced to make that choice, for which I am happy (very happy, indeed), and I have taken so-called jobs in my neighborhood to keep me afloat, after I gave up the Mary Jane business.

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