When I get sick of myself and my latest inner conflict I turn my attention briefly to contemplating homelessness. A google search of the word will turn up about 16 million results in .019 seconds. Is that one page for each homeless person in the United States, I wonder?
I don’t really know much about homelessness, except what I see around me, and I don’t see much. I do have one family member who moves in and out of homelessness, and I’ve been without a home myself at least once in my life. The difference is, I’ve always had choices, and some place to go, and I’ve been lucky.
I can’t visualize the number of people in the United States who don’t have homes, except one by one—there is no way to see the homeless in the aggregate. Unlike cities and towns that are visible from the air, (which is where I usually try to get a handle on human population), the homeless are largely invisible. I know they exist, but how many are there?
It turns out there aren’t anywhere near sixteen million homeless in the United States, but even one is too many in this rich country where 26% of the homes are occupied by only one person. I’m part of that club, only worse. I have two homes.
According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness the count was 656,129 individuals in 2009, the last year for which there is accurate data. If you could put all these homeless people together and look down from the air, you’d be looking at a city the size of Memphis Tennessee or El Paso Texas. This way of looking at things makes it easier for me to grasp.
The reason I think about homelessness isn’t because I’m about to be booted out of my living space for falling behind on my mortgage, or that I feel a deep conviction that there is anything I can do about the issue. I wouldn’t know where to begin addressing the roots of homelessness.
My problem is guilt.
Mine is a frivolous dilemma, and I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it. I own one perfectly good home in Maine, and rent another one for peanuts in the Caribbean, and yet I can’t decide where to live.
It’s a deep, gut wrenching conflict, and if I start trying to resolve it, I get wallowing around in self-pity and begin to wonder what gives me the right to indulge in such an asinine line of thinking. It’s not really something I should talk about with anyone.
I feel guilty because I don’t feel guilty enough.
As an act of penance, I write this blog entry; I check the snow totals for the last twenty-four hours in Maine and head out to the beach where I promise to stare at the sea until I have sorted things out.
Causes Jennifer Pierce Supports
I support the effort of organizations promoting public access and farmland preservation, open space preservation, organic farming and local marketing of...