Sometimes it’s only when you buy something new that you realize how many other people have it. Suddenly, you notice lots of other people with the same shirt as you or the same phone as you.
Well, it can be the same with ideas.
Since I’ve started thinking about homeless people’s social networks (their friends, family and acquaintances) I am noticing more and more how questions about relationships are important in homeless people’s stories. Perhaps it’s that old problem that if you have a hammer you only see nails, or perhaps looking at the world in this way helps us see things we might otherwise miss.
I’m going to put down three stories here and let you decide what to make of it all.
He is addicted to hard drugs and living with friends who are also regular users. His place has lots of people coming and going, many of them also using.
One day he decides (not for the first time) that he wants to get clean. He leaves his place and checks into a homeless shelter. He’s so desperate to stop using drugs that he makes himself homeless to get away from the temptation.
He starts to get lonely and restless away from his friends.
Something happened when he was living in LA. It’s not quite clear what. It seems to have involved his home being invaded, his mother starting to use hard drugs and he thinks people from his church were implicated.
Somehow (he says someone at the Church helped) he gets enough money together to get to Washington DC. He arrives in Union Station. He doesn’t have any friends or family in the city.
A homeless person tells him about a day shelter that might be able to help.
Whenever he would visit a member of his family they would hide their pocketbooks because they didn’t want him to steal from them again. This would make him angry and he would get in fights with his siblings.
He’s clean now. He went over to visit his sister. Some members of the family left the room and left their pocketbooks behind. Surprised, he asked his sister why they hadn’t taken the pocketbooks with them.
“We know you don’t do that anymore” she replied. He cried.