When hopeful college students first began occupying public parks, they were not the first urban campers. Homeless people were living in parks, empty buildings and cars long before the Citizens United ruling. Fighting attempts to help the homeless with the hateful excuse that they will go away if we ignore or punish them is a lie. The homeless are everywhere. Long after the occupiers *move on to other methods of protest or activism, the homeless will remain outside, unprotected and unwanted.
In our obscenely wealthy country, we allow human beings to live unprotected from the brutal extremes of nature. It is easy to dehumanize the homeless. They are primarily SPMI and the combination of illness and survival instinct create almost feral behaviors. They don’t follow social norms. They may or may not say thank you. It is extremely likely that they self medicate. They probably smell funky.
The homeless population is diverse and there is not a formula for helping them. Most are too healthy to be hospitalized, but too ill to survive without assistance. What we know for certain is that they are safer with a place to call home. When they are safer, the possibility of moving beyond the primal survival mode exists. The odds of happily ever after success stories with feel good endings are unlikely. The fact remains that we are talking about human beings who need help.
The complexity of the situation is being played out in the occupations everywhere. The occupations are well organized social systems that are a blend between a Boy Scout camporee and a For the One Dance. The SPMI population are more interested in getting food in their stomach than in recycling or **gifting time. Some occupations are dealing with the neediest members of their encampments better than others. The same is true of all communities.
It remains to be seen how the Occupy movement will be written about in future history books. I hope that the immediate result shifts from arrests to stronger efforts to house all people. Closing facilities for mental health treatment is only going to make the homeless issue worse.
*Yes, I want the occupiers safely indoors instead of outside as winter arrives. The move to occupy homes that are being foreclosed is far less legal than being in a park, but still safer.