A few days ago I ran into someone I first met years ago in the shelter I worked at, who is currently homeless. He offered to sell me a Hope in Shadows calendar, and I told him that I didn’t have an apartment to put it in; that I had quit my job and was living in my van. “Right on” he said, “you joined the homeless team!”  We laughed, and I continued on my way.

I’ve said before that this project isn’t about homelessness, that I don’t qualify for that word. But there are two moments every day that I feel vulnerable to the stigma of being homeless: when I brush my teeth. If a car drives by me in that moment, or if a resident of the street where I slept the night before looks out the window, they see me doing something really unusual. It’s somehow an intimate act, and the only reason someone might be doing it in the middle of the road is that they don’t have their own bathroom. I can’t tell these strangers why I’ve chosen this lifestyle, or about how much fun I’m having with it, and the feeling that immediately comes up is shame, that they might think I’m here out of desperation.

Now why would that be shameful? I don’t judge people whose lives have taken a down-turn, I just wish them strength and luck in improving their situation. And regardless, what does the opinion of a passing stranger matter? It doesn’t… but I still feel that little twinge. And that twinge is just the faintest whiff of what it’s like to truly homeless.

But sometimes it works the other way too… for that moment with my old client I felt proud of my honorary membership on his team.

Advertisements