wild gray bird on tree branch

I Will Not Be Shamed For Surviving

Some academic on twitter with a Phd, who reckons herself an expert on homelessness, and who apparently possesses a complete and total lack of decency described the lack of homeless services and provision as ‘the hunger games’ where ‘tributes’ (survivors) are reeled out to ‘sing the praises’ of services. As much as I fancy myself potentially good with a bow and arrow, and those costumes are pretty killer, I am not a killer. I will not be shamed for surviving and being grateful for it.

Reducing the consequences of inadequate provision for homeless people to a zero sum game, and blaming those who survived for participating in the game they are forced to play for survival, is inane and neatly cruel. I am no one’s tribute, nor is my son who spent most of his childhood in campgrounds, parking lots and shelters.

Academics rarely consider the real-life consequences of their words. To this educated idiot, she failed to consider that there might be a survivor reading; a survivor with real-life survivor guilt. The dead victims of this capitalist cruel society are not blessed decent hearted self sacrificing saints, who refused to step on others in order to survive. They are not ‘good victims’ to be held up as pure. They are dead. Billy, my oldest friend died very recently. He died out on the streets, still unhoused. He died because he was let down by the system. I did not ‘kill him’ by deserting him and leaving with the Boy to go into a shelter, although I accept that leaving did precipitate his mental deterioration. He died because he should have been detained within a compassionate mental health system that recognized that he was unable to care for himself, and was, in fact, a danger to both himself and others.

Instead this woman who knows nothing of reality paints me as complicit to the system that killed him. A darwinian winner. You see there is a side of me I repress, I admit that much. It is cold and callous, and protects myself and those I love. It does anything to protect those I love who are most vulnerable, and the homeless one I loved the most, my young son, needed me to make a choice that put him before the adult male, to whom I owed nothing.

I spent years keeping Billy sober-ish. I spent years keeping him alive. I spent my life supporting him, making him take his medication, go to hospital, keep his drinking as low as humanly possible – which for him was a constant trial and struggle. In the end, I could not do that and also protect the Boy. I told Billy that I had to go into a shelter with the kid. That he was welcome to go into a shelter close by for single men. I could not tolerate his drinking which made him vicious and dangerous. I was not going to be treated as lesser. As expendable. As below him, and existing only to keep him alive and kicking. Fuck that shit.

I told him where there was shelter provision. I suggested he sold his van. I told him what I hoped he would do. I told him that I hoped I would see him again, and then I left.

I left and I tolerated a shelter system which was basically a soft jail situation. I took my child a considerable distance, in a journey that was dangerous to us both, as we are both undocumented due to the domestic violence of yet another fucking MAN, I risked being pulled over by cops. I failed to be able to get on a train, a bus or other public transport because ICE raid these methods of transportation regularly. Instead a dear friend put us in a very expensive and psychopathically driven taxi. We held hands as we fled towards uncertainty.

Halfway through the journey, with the taxi driver, clearly speeding her tits off and regularly stopping for little top ups and bathroom trips; getting lost and driving erratically, I turned towards the Boy and asked him if he wanted to turn back. He held my hand and told me that we could do this. He begged me to continue.

Other people’s survival was never my responsibility. The zero sum game drift of homelessness provision does not make me complicit in my friends deterioration and eventual death.

I will not be shamed for my survival. I will not be shamed for getting off the carousel of camping outside for years. I spent over 5 years out there with a child. Five years. My health was destroyed, I was dying out there. My child was failing to thrive. His American great granddaddy, who was not a white skinned man, and is my son’s only American-born ancestor – would have looked at my son and begged me to do something. And I did. I ran with him.

I stepped on no one else to survive. Our survival was not at the expense of someone else. That is not my responsibility. I did not step on others to survive. Their deaths, Billy’s death, was not won as the price of my survival. I am no ‘tribute’. Nor will I stop singing the praises of the SIP hotel system which is now so cruelly being dismantled, because if us survivors that benefitted from it, whose lives depended on it, whose children relied upon it for safety, do not raise up our voices and cry ‘it worked!’ then the bastards in charge will use that as an excuse to not continue with it. They will say “see these people who used it have nothing good to say about it” and instead will be thankful to be allowed to let that which worked, die out.

Wheel me out, I say! Bring it on! This ‘tribute’ wants to say, ‘thank you’. I will not be one of the sanctified grateful dead, that had the decency to die out there. I will not sacrifice my child because it is more comfortable for some bitch that has never slept a day on the streets nor had to do what I had to do to survive. I will not shut up. I will not accept I am complicit in the failings of an unhumane system.

…Nor will I stop crying today.

Billy died out on the streets. He died. My oldest friend. Dead. Out there. I have survivors guilt, that does not belong to me. I am not owed it nor due it, and due to this clumsy and lazy comparison to the Hunger Games I am physically shaking. I am not the monster. Those who survived are not the monsters. The monster is a system that needs to change.

This woman owes all of us who survived an apology. I want the hotel system to continue to help more people, not people to die out there in a way that is socially acceptable to some idiot who does not know reality from her books and her idealistic, insulting, ludicrous devotion to blaming those of us that fought to survive, instead of understandably and sadly giving in to despair and depression.

It is very hard to save everybody. In the end Billy did not want to be saved – he wanted to drink, he wanted to party, he wanted to shoot meth and smoke crack. He wanted to. If he had wanted to stop there would have been people to help him, but he did not want their help. He didn’t want their help out of pride. He didn’t want their help because he didn’t trust them. He didn’t want their help because he preferred to get high. His deterioration and eventual death was partly the fault of society, and partly down to him: he did what he wanted to do. What he wanted to do was not compatible with survival. He could not comply because he was mentally unwell, diagnosed with manic depression and anti social personality disorder. He did not die because I survived. He did not die because I didn’t stay. I refuse to be shamed for surviving. I refuse to be shamed for taking what help I could find when I needed it most. I refuse.

For this highly educated woman to call me and others like me ‘tributes’ denies our struggle, our humanity, our decency, not to mention the superhuman effort that survivors and thrivers put into improving their situation. I put effort into getting sober and staying sober. I put effort into tolerating being in a shelter for ten months. I put effort into getting enough documentation to get into housing. I put effort into my survival. For that, I should not be mocked, shamed and compared to Hunger Game ‘tributes’, who have to kill others to survive the game of a sick society. It is a lazy comparison – our survival is not at the expense of any one else, and nor do survivors hurt anyone by surviving. It is immensely hurtful, and to be frank offensive in the extreme. I have no idea what this phd’s agenda is, but she absolutely should be let nowhere near homeless services if that is how she expresses her opinions towards those of us that have put so much energy and effort into thriving after being long term homeless and at a point of utter desperation.

6 Comments

  1. Time Traveler of Life

    Someone should care about all the people that are dying on the street, in alleys, and alone in the desert or anywhere else. Someone should care about the children that are beaten, starved, and killed. Someone should care about the women left alone with children to feed with inadequate support from anyone. Someone should care about the women that are used for brood mares with no hope of escape. But no one does. Right now those holier than thou are making laws that will further curtail their freedom to survive. We are becoming a nation of unfeeling robots!

  2. slpmartin

    “Academics rarely consider the real-life consequences of their words. ” There are indeed academics, like in all professions, that represent the most negative aspects of that profession, but I would argue that none of those professions can be fitted with a one size fits all judgement….and yes I was one of the academics….sometimes the voices of fools are loudest in the crowd.

  3. Blue Owl

    I relate this homeless to my mental disorders though they aren’t the same I understand the feeling of being cast out from society, being careful for everything you wish for because you’re afraid it won’t come true. Also the near deaths and danger comes with the territory too, people will take advantage of you if you aren’t well enough to fight them off… it’s a hard world but they say it gets better

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