O how nice it is too have a home to return to each day, to have a private place where you can close yourselves off from the rest of the world without the fear of being shooed away or being looked down on by passerby. Privacy is a right only to those with a room to go home to. How nice it is to be able to shower and do your restroom business in assured privacy... to know that the toilet and the sink are clean, that your bottom won’t be assaulted by the cold stainless steel of the bowl (as it would be at public restrooms at the parks around the San Diego waterfront), that no one will walk in to find you in that compromised position. To be able to wash your soiled clothes and have a place to hang them to dry... It is a luxury!
How nice it is to be able to sit on a cushioned chair and really relax, knowing that you can stay there for as long as you would like to. How nice it is to be able to lay stretch on a relatively soft bed in a fairly well insulated room at night knowing that you won’t make anyone uncomfortable by your presence (like you would cramped onto the benches at the park as joggers and walkers try not to disturb you while feeling, at the same time, rightfully annoyed by you and your obvious homelessness (and the smell that likely accompanies you everywhere... and will likely even be left behind on the benches once you’ve left).
How nice it is to lay down on that bed without bracing against being awakened in a few hours (if you are lucky) uncontrollably shaking from the cold (it’s warm enough at first, but try sitting immobile at the waterfront here at night for 10 minutes and you’ll find the temperature has dropped tremendously... every little breeze penetrates your bones).
There is no escaping... The benches that are shielded from the wind by trees or brushes are also liable to get sprinkled on in the wee hours of the morning by the timed park sprinklers... Even the public restrooms are drafty (and usually stinky). You end up spending much of the night walking around just to keep warm. How nice it is to have access to cold and clean drinking water whenever you want it, to be able to eat your food without the unease of being watched by others or of having your napkins and utensils blown away by the wind.
O, and the stereo or even a television that is yours to manipulate... You can watch or listen to what you like rather than what the café owner wants... Able to listen to news and keep up with current events (if you can still manage to care about it) without having to hunt for used newspaper or to find a library that has current papers for its patrons. I take all the above for granted all the time, but they are something the many homeless folks haven’t got access to.
Sometimes it really takes losing everything for one to realize the value of what one had. It is a struggle for them to just be comfortable... Not too hot and not too cold. Walking around downtown it is easy to be annoyed at reeking homeless folks sleeping on the sidewalks or on lawns... But what is minor annoyance to you is really endless hardship for them. I tried once and was on the verge of losing my mind by the 2nd evening. It is so uncomfortable!
Sleep is hard to come by during the cold nights (even in the summer months the night is cold enough to require warm clothes around the waterfront here). And during the day it is hard to find a place to crash without getting in the way of homed others... even in the park, the precious shades keep shifting with the sun. I don’t know how many homeless folks manage to stay sane for so long under their living conditions... After 2 experimental nights on the streets I was silently begging to be euthanized.
There has got to be a solution for the problem... Many of the migrants would like to work for changes and/or food, but the minimum wage and other employment laws are very effective at discouraging business owners from extending their hand. Sometimes the very laws that are designed to protect the smallest guys end up hurting them the most. I don't know the solution... though I sure don't want to ever end up on the streets in this country!