Few Thoughts

Well the Homeless Experiment is finally done, I’m back home where I fully showered, shaved and got a haircut.

Here’s what I looked like right before I entered the house:


(Look how disgusting my shirt got)

Feels pretty good to get out of those old, stinky clothes! Some recent observations:

Viewed humans as more of a species than people:
Typically you view humans as much different than animals because of how we live, but when homeless it became more and more apparent that we are strikingly similar.

For example, when staying under the bridge all I could really do was watch several families of birds that nested under the bridge.

As I watched them I realized they’re not much different than I was at the moment. The birds would scrounge around for food for a little while, stop when they had their fill, then go back to their little nests they built out of whatever they could find.

During the time I was (pretending to be) homeless I would do…..well, basically the exact same thing as the birds and all the other animals. Instead of small branches as a nest, I used cardboard and a sleeping bag.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
This ties in with the above. I noticed when homeless my mind thought about completely different things as opposed to a normal member of society. I realized I wasn’t really thinking about anything. My mind was for the most part devoid of deep or interesting thoughts.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs popped up in my head and I realized how much further down the scale I had placed myself by living this homeless experience.

Normally I think of ways to improve myself, have fun, short/medium/long goals and ways to overall improve my life for myself and others that will depend on me in the future.

When I was homeless I thought about where my next meal was coming from, if I had enough water to last through the night and where I would sleep. The thought process rarely got beyond those simple questions.

This was a true testament to the validity Maslow’s theory. I didn’t particularly care about anything above that first rung because that first rung wasn’t completely fulfilled at all times.

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Day to Day Living and lack of long-term thinking:
This ties in with the Maslow observation….that since my priorities were set on the basic necessities of life, hardly any head was paid to long-term thoughts. I could see this in the people who are truly homeless…they had no goal or long-term plan for themselves.

I’m not saying everyone needs a step-by-step plan…but at least a vague map of where you want to end up is important (well, actually we all invariably end up at the same destination)!

This observation may play one of the many small factors that keeps some people in a perpetual state of homelessness.

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    Blog posted on: June 8, 2009

    9 comments on “Few Thoughts

    1. Brian

      You mention the lack of long term thoughts and as I review your day it would seem that the support system reinforces that. You have to line up and get a number _each day_ for the shelter. You have nowhere to store stuff (especially food items) so you need to go from meal-to-meal, day-to-day.

      Do you think if the shelters assigned beds by the month and provided a safe and/or a fridge with shared cooking facilities that would help?

      Would a focus on providing an individuals needs on a medium to long term scale help their thought process to think about improving their long term state?

      Reply
    2. Neville

      Excellent point Brian.

      The homeless shelter downtown doesn't offer that, but there are tons of transitional housing and halfway houses that offer exactly what you describe.

      The problem is many of these people are not motivated to get off the street. Say they are, but aren't willing to work hard enough to earn money and kick bad habits.

      "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

      Reply
    3. Chris L

      I hope you would go further and maybe talk about the people you met and what the homeless problem is caused by.

      Your items left me with the perspective that being homeless wasn't a disgusting wretched existence. And No. I would be miserable and have no desire to be homeless and think we should help when we can. But…Its hard to feel too sorry if there are netbooks and dvd players floating around. Am I just seeing what I want to see?

      Were they mostly drunks/addicts/crazies? Or were they truly 'down on their luck' people?

      Should we give money to homeless people or give it to charities/the city?

      Reply
    4. tjs317

      Neville,
      I'm impressed you tried this but next time maybe being homeless in Escanaba, MI (where unemployment reaches double digits). Up here in the upper peninsula, you fight for your life as it frequents 30 below zero & there are no shelters I'm aware of…hang out in coffee shops, walmarts, libraries, but eventually you get thrown out to the cold. THAT is homeless, not Texas in June. It is 46 here today in June…

      Reply
    5. Staff

      Neville,

      I believe you did us all a fantastic service with this experiment. It was an entertaining read and your frequent updates made it very appealing.

      You say that "many of these people are not motivated to get off the street." It has been my experience with the homeless that this is common.

      Two questions for you though:
      1. Do you believe this would have been an entirely different experience (better or worst) had you not had your phone or laptop with you and why?
      2. For you personally, if you were to do this experiment again with nothing, in a town you were not familiar with, how long do you believe it would take you to get back on your feet with a job, and food, and shelter that you pay for with no assistance from current acquantances (IE: asking for a job from a friend, or borrowing money to do laundry for a job interview, etc.)?

      Reply
    6. Drake

      When some homeless person comes up to you and asks for money, what is your recommendation based on this experience?

      I keep a little card in my wallet with the United Way Get Help phone number 2-1-1. Supposedly this is a number anyone could call to find out about services like the ARCH.

      I don't want to give them money, but I thought this would be better than just saying no.

      Any other suggestions?

      Reply
    7. Pingback: The Homeless Experiment – One Year Reflection - Neville's Financial Blog

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