thank you all for coming. i’d like to take a moment to have you look up, at the roof over your heads. now look down, at the clothes covering your bodies.
forgive me for guessing when i say they are not threadbare. when i say that the sight of a warm and friendly room to gather in is not unfamiliar to you. forgive me for not meaning my previous apologies when passerby guess at what the homeless have done to ‘earn’ their punishment.
until you have been homeless, you cannot hope to understand. it is an unintentional, disastrous social experiment in the category of how little empathy anyone really has. forget a friendly room, try keeping your friends when all of them think you’re below them for sleeping on the street. never mind how many times they said they’d support you. there seems to be fine print in the bonds you’d formed; ‘will stand behind you, unless you become an embarrassment to be seen around’.
if this poem is making you uncomfortable, take a moment to consider how uncomfortable it is to be homeless and know that the public sees you as subhuman. the last i checked, being alive required only a pulse and the ability to breathe. when you have nowhere to go, you are suddenly invisible to anyone who claims to care about human rights. you may be alive, but many wish you weren’t. if they don’t have to see you, they don’t have to feel guilty at their lack of compassion. you do not have the luxury of being blind to bystanders prioritizing their comfort over your ability to survive, even if you are physically blind. they’ll give you sympathetic looks, talk to their friends to gain brownie points. but when it comes to actually helping you, even ten seconds of imagining themselves without a home is often too much.
a lot can happen in ten seconds. an altercation with a police officer who does not want to grant you a space to take shelter in can happen in ten seconds. ten seconds may go by, you may blink, and the few possessions you own have been whisked away by people who already have more than enough. they can take ten seconds to swipe a credit card and buy themselves a new blanket to sit in by the fire, but they cannot spare you even that much time.