Gypsy's, Tramps and Thieves

You gotta fight, for your right,
to vagabond!

Last night myself I found myself reading the Wikipedia article on homelessness. Did you know a tramp is just hobo who's not looking for work... but I digress. Reading an external perspective on homelessness got me a little worked up. There is no one that its easier to sympathize with than yourself, and when I read other's referring to my current condition as a 'problem' and proposing various 'solutions' I found myself getting upset.

Homelessness, at least homelessness of the variety that I am enjoying, is not a blight or disease, it is a return to nature. Sleeping outside is good for the soul. I've camped out along beautiful stretches of rocky beach near the Hearst Castle, under the redwoods in the Muir woods, and outside the main library in San Fransisco. Its never hard to wake up when you sleep outside. At night I get tired, there is no helping it, because the life lived outside is one dictated by solar rhythms that have controlled life since it left the ocean depths hundreds of millions of years ago.

By the end of my trip, I will have biked from Mexico to Canada and I am one step closer to understanding what it would mean to live without the convenience of technology. Homelessness is the condition of precedence, the way that life has persisted on our planet for billions of years until we came to become the masters of fire, language and property. And so, when I read and was reminded that the majority of Americans find this lifestyle to be a disease of modernity, I was mad.

Don't get me wrong, there are problems with us vagabonds. We, the homeless, are often unsanitary, invasive and sometimes destructive. But for each way that my homeless brethren are a nuisance they are under-privileged. We, the homeless, have few protections from crime or the law, are generally without legal ways to perform basic life needs like pissing, sleeping and bathing. We, the homeless, are looked down upon, treated as second class citizens by a public that all too often turns its head in shame and disgust.

The political condition of the homeless does little to protect them. The seat of power is surely not in the hands of these wandering souls. Fortunately, we have an advocate in the constitution as enforced by the courts. The 8th and 14th amendments together prevent state and local governments from inflicting undue bonds or cruel and unusual punishment. And, based on these rights the supreme court has ruled that it would be unconstitutional to criminalize the homeless condition directly.

So while the weight of legality presses hard on the lives of us vagabonds, tramps and hobos it cannot step on us directly and so long as that is true, there will remain a small crevice to set up a lean-to and sleep for the night.



Meggan said...

how funny that the google ads for this post are for wine ...

James Stieglitz said...

I think it would be a mistake to equate volintary homelessness with involiuntary homelessness.