The next book I'd like to write is on the idea of some homeless people becoming feral along the way.
The problem is that it is likely one of these "wild" humans has probably taken my Nikon D300 camera. (It is also possible that I misplaced it. But it is my most prized possession. I typically have always been pretty careful with it.)
So taking pictures for the next book is going to be a little more challenging if I don't get another camera.
I was talking to someone yesterday about how I'm surprised someone would have taken my camera because of how incredibly kind and protective the entire houseless community is of me. That person said it was possible the person didn't know it was my camera. Or they were just in the deep throws of addiction and would do anything for money.
I once gave a person $180 to go to the auto parts store to get a part for the minivan we had at the time. I had worked with this person for a long time and really trusted him. I never saw him, the money or the part ever again.
An amazing supporter of ours got $80 stolen out of her purse when she let a homeless person spend the night at her house on one of the super cold nights this winter. I don't think she saw him again either.
And then there's the trash.
In our weekly meeting last night we had a LONG conversation about throwing cigarette butts in one of the MANY cigarette butts buckets we have around the facility. One of which is a 5 gallon bucket that is really hard to miss.
One of our community members said she spent 3 HOURS picking up cigarette butts all around these buckets.
You will see a person take a wrapper off food and throw it on the ground as they are walking by a trash can.
Somehow the bathroom sink got pulled off the wall. The back ceramic cover of the toilet got broken, a piece of the ceramic is now clogged in the sewer pipe.
Quite honestly, these kinds of things are happening more now that the tent village is gone. Some of these people are going back to being more wild again.
You can see how the Haven of Rest becomes the Haven Of Rest.
- Take off all your clothes and stand together in this shower.
- Put on these over-sized, yet clean pajamas.
- Listen to stories of God like we used to do 1000s of years ago to other wild humans.
- Go to bed at 8:30am.
- Get out at 7am.
That's an approach to working with these people. It at least gets things done.
We have wild humans in the houses we run. They come in late at night, go to bed, get up in the morning and are gone all day. Not to be seen again until they come home late that night.
What are some of them doing out there?
- Selling stolen things
- Buying drugs
You might be getting angry hearing these stories. "Why aren't they just thankful for the things they are being given?"
But that's not the point of this article. This isn't about chastising these people or making them look bad.
It is also important to know that many houseless people are perfectly civilized people.
I believe this wildness is on a spectrum. Some people become more wild while others maintain a larger portion of their civility.
But make no mistake, living in an elevator, under a loading dock, under a bridge will change you. You will forever have a different view of the world than someone who has never been forced to live that way.
This happens to pigs too.
"Any pig that gets out can revert back in a matter of months to a state where it can exist in the wild," said Brown. "It will get hairy, grow tusks and get aggressive. They're so good at adapting, and with their scavenging nature, they can get by pretty much anywhere."
I believe this is important to talk about because this is a major aspect of working with the houseless community.
I also believe it is very possible to get these people to be brought back into society. To be re-domesticated.
I notice that most women, but not all, adapt back to society very quickly. In fact, I sometimes find that some women living in the woods actually never become wild. You would never be able to tell they are living a wild lifestyle just by looking at them.
Many men actually seem to fall into the wild human role quickly. Some of them seem to find their true selves in the woods. Even for me, it's pretty easy to appreciate the freedom and simplicity of living in the woods.
But living in the woods is hard. Especially when you get sick. I know several cancer patients doing cancer treatment while living under bridges.
Even well people get tired of the cold, getting their things repeatedly stolen, being at risk of violence.
But when they come indoors they are faced with new hurdles that are difficult for them to handle.
Paperwork. Required meetings to keep the apartment. Close-quarter relationships. Doing dishes. Cleaning.
Some of them just can't handle it and go back to the woods.
But there is one thing that none of them can resist: COMMUNITY.
The wildest of the wild want to be part of our community.
We had a man actually buy drugs from another person in our facility. He couldn't even be bothered to go outside. So he is banned from our facility until future notice.
He'll now stand on the sidewalk talking to people out there. We'll bring food to him on the sidewalk because he isn't allowed to step foot on our land.
He wants back in.
The drive to be part of a community is incredibly strong in humans. We are pack animals.
I believe this is how you re-domesticate these wild humans. They get to be part of the community if they act civilized.
- Don't steal.
- Don't do drugs, buy drugs, sell drugs or drink on the premises.
- Don't lash out at others.
- Clean up after yourself.
- Treat the facility with respect.
- Treat your community with respect.
Do those things and you get to be part of the community. Don't do those things and you are going to be pushed out of the community.
The woman who picked up cigarette butts for 3 hours had a brilliant idea. She suggested that the first person who is caught throwing a butt on the ground has to clean up ALL the butts on the ground.
That person won't be allowed back in the building until they do that job.
Herman, who is the longest running member of our democratically elected (and always wins in a landslide) tri-council will often be heard yelling: "If you want to eat this week you'll go outside and help pull food off the truck."
The risk of losing your community is highly motivating to work together in the community.
Unfortunately, and ironically, the larger community destroyed our micro-community. So now people seem to be reverting to behaviors where there is nothing to lose.
But we still have value. We still are a place people desire to be. So there continues to be a value to them in being part of the group.
I want this to be known: These wild humans are rarely violent to non-wild humans. Other than to me, I've never seen any supporter ever be hurt. And only a couple highly involved volunteers have gotten into a yelling match with them. In a strange way, that just means they consider you an equal. (Some of our stronger volunteers don't take shit either. They have their own wild side, if you will.)
They might occasionally fight among themselves. But I've never seen them physically lash out at volunteers or anyone in traditional society. You don't need to be afraid of them.
They steal from each other and local stores. They don't have the resources to go to your neighborhood. And they actually want to be accepted by you.
No one wants to be an outsider. Being an outsider with no resources is death. So please don't worry about your safety around them. While I don't recommend taking them into your home, except in really specific scenarios, I definitely DO recommend befriending them. They are incredibly interesting, kind people that need a friend more than anything else. That's how we begin the process of bringing them back into society.