Saturday, November 10, 2012

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.

Conditions within the camps are described as prison-like: "Inside the giant billowy white tents, the massive klieg lights glare down from the ceiling all night long. The air is loud with the buzz of generators pumping out power. The post-storm housing — a refugee camp on the grounds of the Monmouth Park racetrack – is in lockdown, with security guards at every door, including the showers..."

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.


At November 12, 2012 at 5:35 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your story and watching your posts at wsb, keep up the fight for knowledge and survival, hope for the best and stay prepared for the worst. Thanks for the first hand views from life on the edge.

At November 12, 2012 at 8:49 AM , Blogger Wayfarer said...

Yo Anonymous, thanks for checking in. Trading accounts and reading the entrails of market charts could go poof quickly. Hard to believe, with Wall Street at least imagining itself the center of the universe. Many traders have been avid at their screens for a decade or more. If suddenly moot, then what?

Y2K fear-induction, with preppers left looking like fools when the cyber-world didn't end, did a good job. Alarmists of unsustainable practices could be media-associated with lunatic fringe.

At the end of the day, do we have friends and neighbors, gardens, quiet joys not dependent on electronics?

At November 12, 2012 at 5:53 PM , Anonymous crowfeather said...

We in this day and age are being forced, if you will, by The Universe, to make a decision between the old paradigm and the new. To choose the old is to die a slow and lingering death. To choose the new is to be born once again into the world as it was meant to be. A difficult transition, but the only option, if one has the heart to examine the outome of each choice. Wayfarer, I believe in my heart that you have come full circle in your personal journey, and now your experiences are about to be made available to many people, via your upcoming book (hooray!), to give us all the courage and the insight that will be needed on this next leg of the journey toward conscious evolution. With tremendous gratitude for your efforts, God Bless! ps - glasses broken, please forgive any typos.

At November 13, 2012 at 9:10 AM , Blogger Wayfarer said...

crowfeather, I've so appreciated your input and encouragement over time. It's a journey reprise for me to be drawing together the stories into book form.

I can "smell" as it were lilacs and balsam fir and Maine's wild sea...coming snow on the Navajo Reservation, campfires and rain lashing the dome tent.

Thank you for enjoying the stories and honoring the journey.

At November 13, 2012 at 9:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not Spam Here - Knew you moved (toxic mold, etc.), but thought you'd found stable roof or some such. Many of us holding on by our fingernails, flat out DOING WITHOUT ... amazing how much you can do without, ha!

Someone at church (or by word of mouth) have a camper or trailer to loan you? Not sure if I'm reading your post right????

Glad to hear you are working on a book ... many out here will want to read it!! A nice e-book to look forward to. Is it possible to put a "donate" button on your blog? Those with an extra dollar ... well the Lord will multiply that dollar you gave those people ... yup, he will.

At November 14, 2012 at 9:17 AM , Blogger Wayfarer said...

Oh hey Anon, am fine here, thank you. Am warm and under roof with the wealth of a cord of firewood, and weekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) grown/raised by kids at a Montessori school. They do 2.5 hours of farm work each school day, learning lifelong skills.

Thanks for thinking of a donate button, but all's well in my nook. I do continue writing about the homeless "phenom" and people I meet. It was somehow given to me to free-fall into homelessness, to feel it, be present, watch and listen.

I now suspect that this 2nd great depression of upheaval and dislocation will do its grinding down, and out of that demographic will emerge useful can-do and empowerment.

Yes, there may be intervening awfuls, especially if cities lose services and trucks cannot or will not transport needed goods.

I remain hopeful, however, and hope most of us can retain our humanity, if not our twentieth century assumptions.

At November 14, 2012 at 11:21 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Bloomberg, in classic tribal heartlessnesss, did his best to help by trying to procede with the marathon. At least they will eat "healthy", if they get food again. Big Gulp has been vanquished.

At November 14, 2012 at 11:24 AM , Blogger KenBrodeur said...

To my homeless friends, from where ever you can, get a book on foraging, wild edibles, how to find them and know them, move to less populated areas, learn to live like the first natives off this land. If Geronimo lived on pine needles and acorns while avoiding the US Army, you can too! This modern world is not what it's cracked up to be and eat healthy wild edibles will improve your health and soul. You can write a book about your saga and strengthen those who will follow.

At November 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM , Blogger Wayfarer said...

Am concerned that "eating healthy"--in the Camps (does that term ring a bell?) will consist of MRE's and glop.

Ken, excellent heads up about learning wild edibles. That said, I've worked as a field botanist with those very skill sets, and it's not easy to get adequate anything, esp. protein while foraging. It's also Northern Hemisphere winter. Foraging is an intensive activity of summer/autumn.

We learn by doing, and by finally facing the unthinkable--that bureaucracies may not fix the mess bureaucracies have made. And people may go cold and hungry as we sort this out.


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