This monthly feature was conceived by writer and Nation editorial board member Walter Mosley as a kind of do-it-yourself opinion and action device. Most often “Ten Things” will offer a brief list of recommendations for accomplishing a desired political or social end, sometimes bringing to light something generally unknown. The purpose of the feature is to go to the heart of issues in a stripped-down, active and informed way. After getting our visiting expert–or everyday citizen–to construct the list, we will interview that person and post a brief online version of “Ten Things,” with links to relevant websites, books or other information. Readers who wish to propose ideas for “Ten Things” should e-mail us at NationTenThings@gmail.com or use the e-form at the bottom of this page.
For millions of Americans, the housing crisis began well before last year’s front-page collapse. Bigotry and criminalization by an unjust system of policing and incarceration, combined with economic privation, have kept even the meager privilege of a subprime mortgage or slumlord lease out of reach for many. As the crisis unfolds, the number of homeless will grow.
Picture the Homeless, a social justice organization founded and led by homeless people in New York City, has joined The Nation to come up with a list of things you need to know to live on the street–and ways we can all build movements to challenge the stigma of homelessness and put forward an alternative vision of community.
Be prepared to be blamed for your circumstances, no matter how much they may be beyond your control. Think of ways to disabuse the public of common misconceptions. Don’t internalize cruelty or condescension. Let go of your pride–but hold on to your dignity.
There is no private space to which you may retreat. You are on display 24/7. Learn to travel light. Store valuables in a safe place, only carrying around what you really need: ID and documents for accessing services, a pen, etc. You can check e-mail and read at the library. You can get a post office box for a fee or use general delivery (free).
Learn the best bathroom options, where you won’t be rushed, turned away or harassed. Find restrooms where it’s clean enough to put your stuff down, the stalls are big enough to change in and there’s hot water so you can wash up. If you’re in New York City go to Restrooms in New York.
It’s difficult to have much control over when, where and what you eat, so learn soup kitchen schedules and menus. Carry with you nuts, peanut butter or other foods high in protein. Click here to find a list of soup kitchens by state.
Food and clothing are easier to find than a safe place to sleep–the first truth of homelessness is sleep deprivation. Always have a blanket. Whenever possible, sleep in groups with staggered schedules, so you can look out for one another, prioritizing children’s needs over those of adults.