What's in a name?

Naming the issue might be the start of a whole new problem.

If a homeless person had set up camp in the street in a leafy eastern suburb, I would expect them to have been moved along by now. After ten days, the man up round the corner is still ensconced on the side of the road. He is well groomed. His cat is well fed. The pot plants around the doorway to his station wagon are watered. It says something for the compassion of people in Elizabeth that no one has called the cops to have him moved on. I'd be surprised if the police have not seen him, too, as we are only a few blocks from the local area command.

Life is much different for the person camping behind one of our churches. There is a certain desperation in lighting a fire on the asphalt, and needing to burn used disposable nappies from the bins to keep warm at night.

As I rode up past Yacka a man hailed me from a supremely camouflaged camp only metres from the road. I would never have seen him otherwise. This homeless man judged he had seen a kindred spirit as I slowly pedalled up the hill towards him. Perhaps, like the cyclist here, he is ‘homeless’ by choice.

I do not mean to be romantic, but let us be clear. Each one of us mentioned in this short article has shortcomings, idiosyncrasies and dysfunctionalities. Some of us do not have a fixed address. That can be devastating, and often is. But it says nothing about the person.

It is hard to get people to recognise the reality of depression, or homelessness, or chronic fatigue. Name any under recognised illness or situation of injustice. But naming the situation is then fraught with dangers. So, I’m homeless... or maybe, I’m depressed. That says nothing about me. Don’t put me in a box. I am me, not a category.

Andrew. Crossposted from The Justice Newsletter


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