Sarah Connor, in hiding before the war

I thought about posting this piece about a proposed solution for the homeless in Grand Central Terminal to r/homeless, but I don't know that anyone there actually wants to see this. I don't actually agree with the idea, so I don't really want to promote it. I don't want anyone to think I am agreeing with it and promoting it.

I like the remarks made by the police chief and some other authority person towards the end. The police chief talked about "segregating people like that is heading down a bad road." The other person talked about it being an attractive nuisance that will draw more homeless to Grand Central Terminal.

I think they are correct. I find it disturbing that the plan is to locate a seating area for the homeless near the police station.

Like: Hold on. Time out. They're just extremely poor. There shouldn't be some special emphasis on making sure the cops have their eye extra close on them.

A thing that has been on my mind recently is that when I first hit downtown San Diego as a homeless person, I was taking my cues concerning "acceptable" behavior as a homeless person from other homeless people and this got push back at times from folks who weren't homeless. We gradually began making more of an effort to pass for not homeless because our lives worked better if it wasn't so obvious we were homeless.

And I think about that and wonder what's a good way to promote the idea that simply being without housing doesn't make you persona non grata, but engaging in behaviors sort of typical for those folks who are very obviously homeless is generally problematic and should be discouraged.

I'm talking about things like the loud yelling and carting all your crap around in a stolen grocery cart. The idea that "the rules don't apply to me because of my status" has an othering effect that marks homeless individuals as no longer part of polite society and it actively creates barriers to finding your way back.

I think lockers to store your stuff during the day would help. If there is an option for storing your stuff so you aren't so obviously homeless, that is a positive way to support this idea that trying to blend improves the quality of your life without it being a case of "the beatings shall continue until morale improves."

I think the program I would like to start and can get no traction on is a potential means to help promote the idea that continuing to "blend" with members of polite society is important. I would like to have meetings once a week for supporting people interested in trying to make money online. It wouldn't be a homeless program because you wouldn't have to be homeless, but it would be designed to be homeless friendly.

And if I'm in charge of the meeting, then I know a lot about homelessness and can be a resource person for people trying to problem solve. And also I would have a policing role concerning behavior and expectations and "we don't do x while in this meeting."

Having a place to be for an hour once a week to get plugged in, charge your devices, get free wifi and a free cup of coffee and talk with people about building a financial future and what your dreams are -- this would be humanizing. This would be a constructive connection to society that most homeless currently lack.

It would be a connection to a vision of a future self that is better than what you have today and it would be done in a nice way, not in a punishing way. But it would come with expectations that "you need to work on x, y, z" rather than the current rampant idea that "you are just a charity case and can't do anything other than stand there with your hand out hoping someone else fixes your life somehow."

Some homeless buy lottery tickets and beer regularly. Drinking themselves to death on their social security money or whatever while hoping to win the lottery is their entire plan.

My son cleaned out the encampment of some guy doing that. The encampment was littered with nothing but beer cans and lottery tickets.

My son gathered up all the 10 cent beer cans and took them to the recycling machine a few hundred feet away. The camp was on the edge of the parking lot of the shopping center that had the reverse vending machine recycling center.

My son did that a few times and then stopped because there stopped being beer cans all over the place. It became a waste of my son's time to go back.

The beer cans disappeared and food wrappers appeared in their stead. The guy was apparently returning his empties and buying burgers or the like instead of just living on beer.

A lot of homeless people see no means to resolve their problems. They have no hope. They feel utterly helpless and like there isn't really anything they can do.

A program with real hope of helping them establish an earned income that also provides them constructive connections to polite society restores something many homeless are currently bereft of and it does so in a way with a public signal.

Currently, when homeless individuals do work towards solving their problems and getting back into housing, it's a private struggle. You see these posts on r/homeless saying "finally did it!" where someone is announcing they are back in housing.

It's a private war. A secret war. It's not a battle the world helps them wage. We mostly aren't arming the homeless to fight the good fight with their problems. We treat them dismissively, like "charity cases" instead of like people. We reinforce the idea that they are losers and should abandon hope and not bother to try.

I watched the above clip about the proposed "solution" for GCT and thought to myself "I wouldn't want to sit with the other homeless. They tend to be sick and unbathed and I wouldn't want the exposure to germs." And I wondered how hard it would be to go to GCT and just get a bite to eat and sit elsewhere. I wondered if I would be profiled and forced to sit with the other homeless, even if I were a paying customer who was there to get food.

I hope they don't create this proposed solution. I think it's a terrible idea. We don't need to cordon off spaces for the obviously homeless to hang out so that more of them congregate there and so that more homeless get the memo "All those who enter herein, abandon hope" and also "This is how you should behave -- you should seek to look obviously homeless and revolting and make zero effort to pass for normal because it opens doors to the only spaces and programs you are allowed in. The others are firmly closed shut anyway. We will give you no path back to normalcy."

I don't want more homeless people to get that kind of messaging. I look back on when I first arrived in downtown San Diego and I wonder how we can give homeless people the memo "This is how you should behave to pass for normal and work on solving your problems. No, you shouldn't adopt the behaviors of the obviously, highly visibly homeless. Those are behaviors that make your situation worse and help keep you trapped."

There are already lots of hidden homeless passing for normal, couch surfing, etc. People tend to not realize it.

Instead, it's the highly visible, obviously homeless who wear rags and don't bathe and make no effort to blend that become the face of the homeless. And it's bad PR for the problem space and it's a bad message for those without housing who would like to try to get their lives back.

Day centers tend to be drop in spaces where you can safely exist for a few hours. There might be a living room type space with some magazines to read. They might have addiction referral programs and the like, but the idea tends to be "You can legally exist in this space without fear of harassment from the cops or people calling the cops on you simply because you exist and have no place to go."

That's it. You are allowed to exist, not to hope and dream and work towards a future. This is basically considered to be the height of civilized treatment of homeless individuals.

They tend to not be spaces for plugging in, logging on, talking to people about your hopes and dreams and personal limitations and barriers to making your life work in practical terms. The problems they want to work on are always "You drink too much. We would like to help you Behave and drink less and then your problems will get better."

It's mostly not "Well, shit, how do you earn a living while staying in hiding from your abusive nutcase obsessed psycho stalker ex husband who is a cop??" No one thinks homeless people have those kinds of problems.

They don't think "You drink to drown your sorrows because your life is so amazingly shitty." They think "Your life is shitty because you drink, you bad person you, this is all your fault."

The title of this piece comes from a remark I made on r/homeless about twelve days ago:
While homeless, I publicly labeled myself "homeless." I privately thought of myself more like "Sarah Connor, in hiding before the war."

Most homeless people seem to be dealing with a lot more personal drama than gets genuinely acknowledged. I think if you think of them as sort of guerrilla warriors fighting an unacknowledged personal battle with those problems and with the systemic issues we have, it maybe helps to see them with real respect and not just view them as losers.
That's what I want to work on and can't seem to get traction. Because no one else on the planet sees the problem space that way. They just see homeless people as lazy ass losers who aren't really trying, not individuals with epic problems fighting a private guerilla war while being given hell for having an attitude about it.