As big and diverse as the world is, most people spend the majority of their lives in a small community of people just like themselves. And though such living has its benefits, the harm it causes should not be denied.
In early humanity, rich and poor lived and worked side by side, everyone was dependent on each other for survival. Even when divisions between people developed there was still an understanding between people that does not exist today. Back then, there was an intimacy of community, people knew the needs and desires of their neighbors and a person didn’t have to ask, “how do I help my neighbor,” they just knew.
But now, with our excessively large population, people often don’t know those living right next door. Today we have large communities created based solely on lumping similarities of people together. When a new subdivision is built, all the homes have similar prices, which means people in that neighborhood have similar incomes and most likely similar levels of education. This dividing and separating people even extends to types of politics and religion. The wealthy rarely mingles with the middle class, the middle class rarely mingles with the poor, etc. Yes, there is a tendency within people to segregate themselves – birds of a feather flock together. But this concept has been institutionalized and is used by the powerful to control the masses. Gerrymandering isn’t just for winning elections.
Looking at the whole of our population we can see how each group and type of person is pigeonholed – by everything from place to economic status, with the exception of the homeless. No consideration is ever given to the homeless when city and social planners divvy up the world. It becomes clear why the homeless have become the most isolated segment of our population. By design, every segment of our population is provided its community except for the homeless.
The argument is often made that homelessness should not be allowed a community unto itself, for fear of encouraging and promoting homelessness as an acceptable lifestyle. The problem here is that all the other segments of society reject the homeless. The homeless, then, have no place to go, no group in which to belong. And without belonging anywhere the opportunity for overcoming and leaving homelessness becomes near impossible.
With no place designated within society for the homeless, there is no place for them to be but in all the between places, in the cracks of society. By default they gather in the few unwanted and undesignated spaces, figuratively and literally. And whenever some group within society desires an area of community, the homeless are pushed out and away from what has been their makeshift home and they go wandering in search of another crack to occupy.
If the people of society, who are not satisfied with the existence of homeless people, (either for selfish or altruistic reasons), desire to see homelessness come to an end, they will have to recognize these self imposed divisions, these walls of social infrastructure, and break through them, if not tear them down completely, and must allow themselves the opportunity to know and thus understand their homeless neighbors so to know what it is the homeless need.