Letter to a houseless person

Chico is your home and its housed residents are your neighbors

The author is co-creator of Pedal Press, a youth-centered community art project, and a volunteer with Safe Space winter shelter.

Because you’re mostly lumped into a category called “the homeless” by people who live in houses/pay rent, this steals the dignity of being a specific and particular person.

And regarding the “homeless question”—code language for “What can we do to get rid of all those awful homeless people?”—that’s not the only way that people with houses feel.

You do have a home. It’s our community. It’s a house you lack. Many of us know and believe that.

Some of you are strung out on one thing or another. That’s a reasonable response to a life in which pleasure is both desperately needed and hard to come by on the natural. But also: You, houseless person, deserve joy in your life no less than anyone on this planet. Houselessness doesn’t mean that you deserve to feel awful.

What we need as human people: Food. Water. A safe place to sleep. A place to belong. Some way to contribute, to connect, to be of service.

Included nowhere are these things: Paying bills. Working for a boss. Having cable. Paying rent. Owning a car. Going to college. Belonging to a club. Having Grey Poupon.

Not having these things doesn’t mean your life is worth any less.

You, person, are living an intense experience. Try to be kind. Support each other in harm reduction—for addiction, and for all of the ways that we harm ourselves and each other.

Maybe you’re saying, “Eff your la-la BS, I need real help: housing, services, medical care.” I want those things desperately for you, and I work for them. But the one thing that I can do is say: I see you. You deserve to be here, you deserve your dignity. So that’s what I’m doing.

I know that when I was houseless it seemed like the whole housed world was against me. It would have made me feel better to know different.

May we all get where we’re trying to go.

—Your neighbor