Why Can’t the Homeless Just Act Normal?

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This is the first of a series of responses to questions given to us by neighbors of our facility in Gresham.

This is the same question that many ask of immigrants or of people of other races. In the end, we want all people to recognize our values and mores and to leave us alone to live them. What we forget is that when we live in a community with other people, to insist we live by our mores means that we insist that other kinds of people live according to our standards as well.

There isn’t a “normal”. There is how we live. And there is nothing wrong with wanting to live in the way we consider “normal”. Unless our “normal” conflicts with another “normal” and we demand that everyone in our community live according to our “normal”. Suppose a large group of immigrants from Africa moved into your neighborhood and demanded that everyone tear down the fences that separated everyone’s backyards. There’s nothing wrong with having fences, nor is there anything wrong with not having fences. The only problem is when one group insists that everyone else lives like they are used to.

Even so, homeless people live differently than housed people. Some of this is due to survival mechanisms. Some of this is just different expectations of what is “normal”. Some of this is because they are stressed and some are mentally ill.

If you work with the leadership of the facilities that assist the homeless, compromises between the two different kinds of “normal” can be reached, so everyone can live contentedly. But to demand that the homeless or mentally ill suddenly have middle class cultural standards is unreasonable, even as it would be unreasonable to ask African neighbors to “act white.”

  1. July 26, 2012

    Sylvia LaFrance

    Ever had a long day at the park… and you just want to get home, take a bath, get something to eat, and veg out in front of the TV….??? Well so do they, but there is no home to go home to… and then the night starts…


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