Getting a Grip: Daily Challenges on the Streets
Before being the advanced species we are today, our genetic cousins faced many challenges we find difficult to imagine. One of these is grasping things without a thumb. The wonder of the thumb did a number of things. Not least of which was to free up our mouths to be available for speaking rather than helping our hands with the task of managing objects. Our mouths were then available which led to the development of language and opened up our world.
Like living without thumbs, living without a home is a struggle for survival every single day. Large amounts of cognitive resources are dedicated to doing things that the rest of us barely consider in our day to day lives – getting enough food and finding a safe place to sleep. Consequently, other things get far less attention, like searching for work.
Progressing one’s life is a luxury. The game on the streets is about subsistence and survival.
My brothers and I had the opportunity to spend some time on the streets. We were fortunate enough to see firsthand some of the daily challenges. It was a humbling experience that took us out of our bubbles. It showed us that we simply had no idea how other people truly live their lives.
Notably, finding a place to sleep is a surprisingly mentally intensive process that can take hours each night.
Decisions need to be made. Think of the general location you want to sleep. Is it somewhere that there are people walking around so if something goes wrong, you at least have a chance of getting help? The city seems like a reasonable choice, right? But, that could be scary.
Ok, the ‘burbs. But you can quite easily be properly in the middle of nowhere, a long way from a helping hand.
Ok, decision made, the city it is.
Now, to find a location… Not as easy as it sounds. Police are patrolling the streets. Depending on the city, they may or may not be amenable to someone sleeping in a doorway. Judging from what I have heard, probably not. Keep looking.
Ok, parks. Good in theory. Close enough to people but also not too close. Drunk people happily stroll through… until they see a homeless person, their intoxication bringing on delusions of grandeur. Grandeur that manifests into abuse… or worse. The effects of superiority are more often disastrous than good.
Great – a nice spot on some dirt behind between some shrubs and a wall, where visibility would be difficult. Is that a problem? Could someone sneak in without others noticing? And, could I be attacked? Would anyone know? This is a serious concern for a man. For a woman, it could be terrifying.
Close your eyes to sleep. Just try. When you fall asleep, what could happen?
End of night 1.
What will night 2 bring?…
This is not a quick process. It is hours long and happens each night. There are no days off. Couple this with then having to find food and some way of having a wash. The time left to look for ways to improve life, if tiredness hasn’t won, are limited. Even if there was time, how confident could you really feel?
A regular place to sleep and enough food each day frees up our time to do a lot of things that we could not otherwise do. This is something that we should not take for granted. These are things that we may not see as luxuries in our day to day lives but, just like trying to manage our food without thumbs, it is hard to get a grip on life without a regular bed.