Homeless as Leprosy; Camps
Rats and the homeless came flooding out of New York subways, in a gush of sea water and sewage.
Rats transmit disease; the homeless transmit fear. We may not yet fathom, homelessness as the leprosy of our era.
In the Middle Ages, lepers were required to wear hoods pulled low, with a warning bell which sent the healthy scurrying. Some of the healthy spat on lepers, stoned them. The afflicted were isolated.
Monastic houses cared for lepers in remote locations; the Robber Barons of that era did not. (Though some Crusaders came straggling back from the Holy Land with rotting fingertips and noses. Their families hid them or cast them out.)
In hurricane-shattered neighborhoods of NY and NJ, activist young people are feeding the homeless and checking on the ill and elderly. They learned to mobilize and network in "Occupy Wall Street" and held up a dark mirror to predator greed. Their skills now help the uprooted, the hungry and frightened.
The Mayor of New York, sureally, has been refusing donations of food for homeless shelters, citing uncertainty about nutrient content. And the homeless are being shunted elsewhere, out of sight, to snowy tent cities.
It is very difficult to face haggard and feral eyes of those who've lost everything, which in NY, now includes stock brokers--wind blows away all roofs.
Yesterday, I spoke with the desperation-du-jour, squatting on a corner by WartMort. Though WalMart has been methodically crushing small businesses everywhere, here locally, they allow the homeless to park car-cum-shelter under their street lights, and allow the desperate to hold up signs for help.
I stopped to talk with yesterday's couple and hear their story--they lived rough through the summer, but now are mercifully under roof. The rent took their entire disability check, however, and they've no money to buy food.
I listened, told them about my own days tenting, that things get easier, and left them a dollar, feeling gaunt of heart and ineffectual.
First snow is expected tonight at this elevation. The peaks hulk shrouded by storm cloud. Winds shift the storm for glimpses of mountain crest blowing snow.
I was at WartMort yesterday looking for a tarp to cover the stacked firewood, as the hardware store had sold out. The community is preparing for winter.
Some of us on earth, all over the earth, will live the winter un-sheltered. I've built a hearth fire against the chill and stare into it, remembering.
To suddenly be without roof--through storm, debt or mischance--is a hearsay tremor, until one's own life blows to bits. It is uncanny and viscerally difficult to describe.
When I became homeless over two years ago in wintry Maine, I temporarily went to bits myself. And not for a dysfunctional hour of overwhelm; it lasted several days.
Nor'easters were battering the Maine coast, but my loss of body heat was a matter of shock. I piled blankets and comforters on the old family four poster, burrowed and lay shivering, silent, tears rolling down. I had no idea how to begin.
Not being able to eat, the equivalent of a cleansing fast, brought clarity of the need to mobilize, already. I made a phone call describing my situation.
Two friends arrived, moving heaven and earth and my belongings to temporary shelter offered by the mother of one of the children I'd read aloud to in the library. I began the process of downsizing for the sleet journey south.
Other friends gave me looks of horror and compassion, but as though I now wore a hood with a little bell, could not seem to bear being near me. My descent, from blithe and bountiful to terrified, was too disturbing.
Homeless, I set out and met many lives uprooted. Call it a cutting edge demographic, of personal endings and beginnings. A preview of out-with-the-old, and in-with-the-new.
If indeed earth changes are accelerating, and predator-paradigm is mounting its last gargantuan feeding-frenzy, then who in fact are we?--those of us building a more life-friendly future.
We few, we happy few--alive at such a time of momentous change.