One person's journey surviving mental illness and recovering from substance abuse.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Where are you legally (or, more to the point, peaceably) allowed to physically occupy space. for how long and under what circumstances?
I was raised in a middle-class house in the suburbs and the thought had never crossed my mind until I tried NOT to nest in some certian space. My pschosis hit me hard in the summer of 2002 and I decided I didn't want to live in the built environment anymore. There's a long story about my quest to live in a tree in the middle of the amazon rainforest. This had a lot to do with fearing people, though, believing I could read their minds and that they were all out to get me. It seemed that only alone in nature would I be safe.
What I'm thinking about is the contrast between wanting and NOT wanting to be homeless, or even, not having the resources and connections needed to be where you want to be. At first, my illness was the harbinger of homelessness by choice. I gave up everything I had and tried to make it tresspassing in a state park. I lasted all of about three days in a swamp in south, central Florida before I decided that without more of a pristine environment, it would be hard to live off the land. Luckily, I only had problems with sand fleas, and not the gators. In any case, I decided I had to rethink it.
In my experience, many people who are chronically homeless are mentally ill or chronic addicts and don't want a place to live. But more often than not I think many just can't manage all the arrangements it takes to be "allowed" to claim any space, since all the land is "owned" (quardened off by force). Eventually, I didn't want to be homeless anymore, but I found it exceedingly difficult to find places I was allowed to stay. It all comes down to "bedding", because at some point, you need to let your guard down and sleep. I remember in a mental ward in Chicago a nurse pointed at my bed and said, "this is your home." With shelters, it's always a question of beds. With subsidized housing, it's all a question of space. And that's if you're really lucky.
Now, because of my experience of chronic homelessness, I know I'm hyper-sensitive to the issue of having a place to be, More than ever, I'm thinking that there are so many ways to be displaced. What do entire families do when they lose a home? How my heart aches for those who get ousted from the one place they want to be. What if you don't even have a car or money for a motel? I mean, at that point, you're probably glad to be legal anywhere. But, your security and quality of life have been severely compromised.
Until recently, when I thought of displacement, I thought first of the Native Americans. But now I see that it so many subtle nuances. This comes to mind now because what's happening in a lot of cities right is that the price of real estate is skyrocketing and rent is going up so much that people can't afford it anymore. You get displaced from not only your home, but also from your neighborhood and community. With the economy the way it is more and more people are facing the question, "where can I go?"
I'm musing about it today, but the topic of "having someplace to be" will surely surface again in this blog. If you are lucky enough to be in a home, especially one you love, you enjoy a type of privilege that I never knew existed until I couldn't see that I had any place to go. If you're reading this and you relate, what I will tell you is, "if I knew the way, I would take you home."