July 12th 2018 - Update on my film project: As many of you know I'm working on a documentary on homelessness. Over the past 3 months I have embedded myself and have learned so much, but there is still much to learn. Unfortunately for many of us the face of homelessness are the sometimes angry or aggressive downtown panhandlers or seemingly idle substance abusive young man on sides of freeways begging for money. It shows up on the news as RV fire, or a a property crime. For most of us, this is the only face of homelessness we see.
I now believe that this is a tip of an iceberg. The part that is highly visible above water but relatively small. The real story is what is hidden beneath, the part that the news cameras and 15 second sound bites don't see. What I'm discovering is that the normal folks who became homeless due to economic emergency, job loss, or most often a health issue or emergency stay hidden out of view. The fast majority of our unhoused neighbors are not lazy freeloaders who sit around drinking in parks. They are USPS letter carriers, machinists, artists, tech workers, teachers, retail, restaurant or general labour workers. Most work, are actively seeking work and education or self betterment. Some are or became disabled or have chronic mental or minor behaviour issues that prevent them to perform at the 110% level that is now required in our ever crazy society to just get by. Access to treatment is limited, overloaded or simply not available due to the astronomic costs associated with such services. They desperately try to hold on to some normalcy and community at the sanctioned camps out of view or if they are lucky they couch surf with friends and family. Many of them try desperately to get into low cost housing that is just not available due to the insane real estate and economic growth and the shockingly limited resources our government operates with. Most wish they could be part of their community as they were before the floor fell out for them for this or that reason.
This is the human story i'm trying to tell.
One fact I have come to accept is that for some of us, this film will not make a damn difference in what we think of the homeless. There is a long held myth in our country that bad things don't happen to good people, that we are completely in control of our destiny. That if you "fell off the wagon " it's your own damn fault. To that Id like to say don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. For every one aggressive drunk or meth head who does not want to get help there are 100 people trying desperately to get out. Trying to desperately to seek mental and physical health care. This is more than just a failure or corruption of our local governments, this is a systematic failure at the heart of how this nation functions economically and socially. This issue has been long time coming and and will continue to get worse. For some of us this is too big of pill to swallow. It's much easier to blame the poor, the weak, the immigrants, the lazy people, the ones who don't have proper access to proper medical services, education, or affordable housing. For some of us it's easier to sweep them all off the cliff somewhere and let "god sort it out"
I will leave you with this statistic: 60% of Americans cannot cover a $1000 emergency. 50% cannot cover a $400 emergency. These are people all around us, our neighbors, coworkers, teachers, friends, they are us.