To think, there must be a wealth of stories and experiences alongside what’s written on these signs… It might be easier to treat the homeless like they are an unwanted addition to the scenery, but it is important to remember that we are all people: with our own hopes, dreams, triumphs, and personal tragedies. #humanisethehomeless
While I would normally advocate for structural change in alleviating the excesses of capitalism, instead of an over-reliance on social enterprises… This is pretty cool. 🙂
It’s pretty easy to feel immobilised and powerless with the wealth of social injustices afflicting modern society. I get plenty fired up about fair-trade industry, sustainability and recycling, international human rights, feminism, trade agreements that won’t impinge on self-autonomy, healthcare, LGBT* issues, and -after all that- now am ditching my shoes to spark up discussion about the homeless… So, I can understand why some people think it doesn’t look very sustainable. In fact I’ve had more than one person comment disdainfully, after a bevy of protests last year (in the stop deep sea oil drilling campaign), something along the lines of “you make living look exhausting, it’s not like it’s going to change anything anyway” (actual quote, I was so gutted).
I pilfered the phrase in the title from a video I watched tonight, and while I don’t know who it is attributed to, the poignant video has a beautiful message of hope that feels so relevant in this modern media scape of gloom and doom .
To be able to walk past a child freezing temperatures and not even bat an eyelash denotes the extent of our apathy towards people in abject poverty. If a man who has no home can extend somebody in need that much kindness, then a bystander with a smith and caughey’s shopping bag has no excuse.
I used to think that being soft would mean I wouldn’t be able to do anything: if I cared too deeply about an issue, then I would have to care about every issue (and who could even do that? it would never end!). But I have come to realise that when confronted with injustice, I don’t need to solve the problem in one day; instead, I simply need to approach the situation with some humanity. To be compassionate doesn’t mean being a marshmallow, and armed with a pen, some broadband and whole lot of passion I can change hearts and minds around the globe! True strength, at least in this instance, has come from being soft. And I’m not overwhelmed, I’m addicted. Once you start seeing something ugly with an unflinching gaze, it drives you to reach new heights you could have never previously conceived. And part of that is because, when it’s not about you, everything feels more desperate and imperative. I had a beautiful hot meal tonight, while many people didn’t. So, even if it is hands-on-deck cram-city during study leave for exams, I can put the effort into posting on this blog.
I’m on fire, but definitely not consumed. 🙂
Maybe it’s time to look at what embers are still burning in your lives?
Hope I still have some readers after the quantity of cheese/ fire analogies in this post. Be forgiving.
Big ups to this mum from Mt Eden! Sorry I didn’t catch your name, but thank you so much for your initiative and putting up with my cheesy need to snap a picture! It’s so heartening to have customers come into work and offer up their old shoes… This lovely lady asked whether I was also collecting kids’ shoes, and the answer was YES. Auckland city mission distributes to struggling families with impermanent housing situations, difficult circumstances and low incomes. Kids need warm feet just as adults do, if not more. Hope your week closes on a good note! As for me? Today I’m feeling very encouraged by the generosity of others. 🙂
Over the past forty years there has been a strong neo-liberal shift in policy that has resulted in less government intervention, and a “hands off” approach to the economy, and this has resulted in mass unemployment and an ever-growing gap between the rich and poor. While I know this is a rather simplified statement -and globalisation, changes in industry, the rise of technology, etc, all played a part in our current poverty funk- it is important to understand the way that current incentives to alleviate the excesses of capitalism have strong roots in neoliberal attitudes. Cliches about poverty being about personal choice, and a consequence of “cultural deficits”, laziness, and self-indulgence through substance addiction have led to general apathy about a population working against all odds.
The right to a home is a contended one, but the rights to shelter, health and safety are unequivocal. While the overall picture of homelessness is made more complicated when mental illness is thrown into the picture (my uncle due to severe paranoia from his mental illness didn’t want a home, and wasn’t comfortable in staying at a fixed location), there is a central thread tying all these ideas together – and that is the necessity of giving people back their dignity. To be living from handout to handout, and constantly having to depend on the benevolence of others must be hard. The actual act of taking food parcels is described as ‘humiliating’ by a mother from a study by Claudia Bell who interviewed regular clients of Auckland Charities, while another woman in her research detailed how over the weekends she would simply take sleeping pills to tide over the hunger pangs accompanying her empty fridge. Homelessness is largely a symptom of capitalism, and to have a system structured where people will inevitably lose out, where a population of unemployment is necessary for the cogs to continue turning doesn’t quite feel right to me. After all that, to make these children of an ill-conceived system grovel and beg in achieving basic subsistence is just adding insult to injury.
How would you feel if someone was constantly giving you things so you could simply survive?
It seems people on the other side of the coin don’t react so well to it. It is received as patronising, and is affronting to the pre-established hierarchy of class in people’s minds.
Just food for thought!
There are many contributing factors to homelessness that are overlooked in lieu of the classic “lazy mooch” stereotype applied to homelessness.
However, one of my favourite news websites totally nailed it with a recent post.
Eliel Cruz, from Mic, wrote up a fantastic piece on the issue of LGBT* identities in the homeless population. While the statistics and photo series discussed were relevant to New York, the same message holds true for sweet Kiwiland.
Just because I can’t really write this up any better, I’ll do Mic Justice and copy excerpts from the article below,
That’s how much of the homeless youth population identifies as LGBT, even though less than 5% of the American population identifies as LGBT. With a new photo book, See Me: Picturing New York’s Homeless Youth, photographer Alex Fradkin is putting a face to the issue in partnership with the Reciprocity Foundation, a center in New York City for homeless youth.
Fradkin plans to follow Reciprocity Foundation students for two years as they transition from homelessness to finding stability with a job and a home. The photos are coupled with moving essays that tell the story of each person.
Fradkin told Mic he was immediately inspired by the young people affiliated with the organization. “Each student has a goal and many are well on their way to achieving it,” he said. “In despite of a past of abandonment, [and] physical and sexual abuse, later exacerbated by an indifferent ‘system’ of very little state support, they are survivors — despite the odds that are stacked against them.”
“This is a story that I really wanted to tell — their story,” Fradkin said. “What and where they had come from, where they are now and where they are headed. I hope to keep working on this project for years.”
…Fradkin said he hopes viewers “stop, look and truly see our homeless youth in the streets and all around us. Very importantly to be moved and really feel something. Then be motivated by a deep moral desire to do something. We are our best selves when we feel empathy and love for those who need our support the most — everyone wins.”
Miley Cyrus has also put in her ten cents on the matter, founding a charity called Happy Hippy that specifically draws attention to LGBT* homelessness, and although she’s gotten some smack for simply attention-seeking or jumping on the celebrity philanthropy trend, I’m actually really impressed. While people were slamming her for being a media whore, she was working behind the scenes to do something wonderful for others. You go Miley.
LGBT* people are discriminated against in both independent attitudes and structurally through heteronormative and cis-normative government organisations, schools, workplaces, and everything in between. The LGBT* population are disenfranchised, they are not invited to the table of success in modern-day society, and often cannot rely on handouts from charities with religious or value-based bias’ that go against their gender or sexual identities.
The homeless are often condemned for not being a contributing part of society, but sometimes a space is simply not being made for them.
Now here’s some pictures of beautiful people, courtesy of Fradkin’s photo book and exhibition See Me: Picturing New York’s Homeless Youth,
Just chilling with some shoes and a dehumidifier on a stormy Friday night!
Unfortunately these bad boys got caught in the rain! But do not fear, they will be arriving crispy fresh in due time at Auckland City Mission.
A huge thanks to Little Giant for their generosity! It’s a great reminder that no matter how high you climb up the corporate ladder, it never hurts to extend compassion to people in different circumstances than yours.
If anyone else (based in Auckland, sorry can’t do anywhere else due to over-complicated logistics with transport and packaging) wants to send me their shoes please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with how you want to get the shoes to me!
We are looking for shoes that not only will be cozy and practical, but also for shoes that would be appropriate for job interviews, for workpaces, and suchlike. Poverty isn’t homogenous in it’s image: Auckland City Mission not only caters for the obviously poor, but also for the poor working class within society. Your shoes say a lot about you, and in a job interview the last message you want to be sending is “I’m dirt-broke and struggling”.
Cheers Little Giant, you da real MVP.