Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tent Cities

Living homeless in a tent last year, I learned up close and personal that I was more fortunate than many. Am not as sanguine as I might have been a couple years ago about things being basically jolly-fine. 

Tent cities cum shanty towns are proliferating; people are "living" in trucks on country lanes or under Wal Mart parking lot lights, or in packing crates under freeway overpasses. Passed over by the roar of commuter traffic.

In this mountain town, the community supports homeless shelters and Food Pantry, but many folks feel so shattered by their situations that they occupy twilight outskirts of society.

It will soon be Northern Hemisphere autumn/winter. Days are growing shorter, nights cooler, in the mountains at least.

I tented in snow and sleet. The tent leaked in driving rain. All "normal" functions are then conducted in whatever outdoor weather. It is difficult to eat well cooking on a camp stove or camp fire, without refrigeration. I was lithe and did not need to lose weight; I lost plenty. 

But I did have something to eat every day. Many folks in America, land of obesity, cannot count on that. Homeless families are scavenging in dumpsters behind grocery stores and restaurants for food.

This morning, mercifully comfy and under roof, I did laundry in the little hand-crank washer, dried it in the two-minute spin dryer, and hung clean sweet-smelling clothes on the line by starlight. 

And felt blessed. An elegant solution, low-tech, and I'm no longer washing clothes, dishes, or me out of a bucket. Thanks be to God. Is it easy to be homeless and keep clean? No, not at all. Yet we feel contempt for the unkempt.

A neighbor of mine is on disability, a government program. The government is bankrupt and lashing about in a draconian manner, social programs facing the axe. Though bailouts and bombers hulk sacrosanct, seemingly

My neighbor cannot afford vehicle or phone. Nor, I've just learned, adequate food--I had invited her to accompany me to a free concert end of last month. She didn't show.

I ran into her yesterday out walking her gentle one blue-eye, one brown-eyed dog. (There's a Pet Pantry for low income folks here, to be able to feed and keep their companions.) 

She apologized profusely for not coming to the concert---It was end of the month, and she hadn't eaten for a couple days, and felt too weak to venture out.

Now, I can and will do something about that, but it's grimmer out there--in foreclosure and unemployment land--than we yet acknowledge as a people.