Monday, March 13, 2006

Social Networks

by Skald

Involuntary homelessness is a complex problem. As some have noted, a central factor for many of these people is addiction. Its not that they lack a hobopoets insight or intelligence. The problem,... what keeps them in such a mean and horrid state... is their addiction to alcohol (or, sometimes, opiates/amphetamines,...). The drug addiction takes over and becomes the overriding force in their life. It might destroy their autonomy and send them into homelessness. Or, perhaps, they may turn to alcohol (or addictive drugs) to mentally escape the suffering caused by involuntary homelessness.

Whatever the reason, once someone is in the full grips of addiction, theres not much you can do for them. They have entered the mental wilderness alone and really, only they can get themselves out again.

As a social worker, I had jobs working with addicts. Ill be blunt... I found them to be horrible clients. Many folks "in treatment" do not, in fact, have any desire to break their addiction. Rather, many (most?) are under some kind of coercion: from family, bosses, or the law. After a few years of working with them, I realized I had nothing to offer them.. and no answers for them.

Leaving addicts aside... what is the other central cause of involuntary homelessness? In my opinion, its the lack of a social network. In other words, the lack of a tribe. Any one of us could find ourselves on the verge of homelessness. It only takes losing your job. Or suffering a car accident. Or a debilitating disease. Or another emergency situation that suddenly depletes finances.

Most of us, however, are not in danger of becoming involuntarily homeless.. because we have family and/or friends who would help us in such situations. I, for example, could always stay with my sister, or my mother, or my best friends. Theyd never let me be tossed onto the street. Likewise, Id never let them suffer that fate.

Some folks lack this support network. For whatever reason, they dont have a supportive family (or one at all). And they dont have reliable friends. So, when a financial disaster strikes.. they are alone. No where to turn. No one to help. Our modern capitalist society seems to be increasing the number of such isolated people.

Thus, I believe its an imperative for every hobopoet (or part-time hobopoet) to create their own tribe. Your tribe might include your biological family... or it might not. It will probably include a few close, dependable, loyal, like-minded friends... your adopted family.

Im blessed to have such a tribe. A tribe that not only supports me... but travels with me (and I with them). Our little nomadic group has lived in South Carolina, Georgia, Thailand... and now San Francisco together. One member helped me settle in this expensive city... and soon I will help another (by offering a free place to live till they get a reliable income, apartment, etc.).

I believe in self-reliance. Im stubbornly independent. But even I recognize the power... and the human (physical, emotional) NECESSITY.. of belonging to a tribe.

As the esteemed Hakim Bey says, "End your addiction to bitter loneliness".

1 comment:

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