I heard this term used recently and for some reason it has buried its way under my skin. Maybe it is because it suggests a murky side to my resilience thinking that I’ve been unwilling to explore, namely the idea that for all the strength and resilience we can draw from our networks, if those networks flat our reject you, there is very little you can do.
This feels of particular relevance to me in terms of the subject of homelessness.
Before I continue let me state up front I am not well versed on this subject and that these are just musings. I welcome all challenge on this as it’s important that I don’t accidentally self-perpetuate myths of stereotypes.
Being homeless, to my mind, is the epitome of being at one’s weakest level of resilience. I say that in full recognition that people do survive on the street and develop a certain type of resiliency to achieve this. However, if we break it down to the five themes I normally use:
- Social – is there any more isolating place to be. Not only has one’s established friends and family network broken down, but one is dehumanised to such an extent that people often walk past without the compulsion to stop and ask if you are ok;
- Health – lack of sustainable diet alone (never mind alcohol/drug abuse that can at times be associate with homelessness) and poor/no access to healthcare means that not only are things more likely to go wrong but if they do they’ll get worse, fast;
- Finance – no savings, no income, no access to financial instruments that might get you back on your feet. Arguably being in extreme debt isn’t as bad.
- Environment – while it could be argued that you need to get creative with your environment to survive, truth is that someone who is homeless is surrounded by an environment that fights against them, particularly in London where aggressive policies to discourage/move on street sleepers are often in force;
- Skills/experience – of all the themes, this is perhaps the only one where someone may well retain strengths and assets, both from life before becoming homeless and from the experiences of survival under such trying circumstances where one has to constantly learn and adapt. I will forever big up Open Cinema for recognising and acting on this to positive effect.
So I’d argue that of all the difficulties facing those people who are homeless, the deficit in personal networks and relationships is the greatest one, because for all the help available against these themes, not only is that help extremely difficult to sustain without some form of support network, the networks most people use actively work against people who are homeless.
Which brings me back to the term “beyond redemption”, and my natural follow on question “redemption to what?”. Is it true that once you’ve been unplugged from the Matrix you can never go back, or once you’ve joined London Below you can never re-join London Above? I’m not convinced, but I do think that homelessness presents something terrifying to society. Networks reject such extreme isolation because it represents something so opposite and horrible as to be threatening to the existence of networks.
Where am I going with this? As per usual I’m not sure, but perhaps I’m struck by the idea that whenever we write someone off, we are making a declaration of weakness because we are saying that our failure to help them is more damaging to us than just pretending they didn’t want our help in the first place. Perhaps I’m saying that in the same way individual pride stops us from seeking help from others who might see us fail, collective pride oddly stops us from helping others who might see us fail.
If that makes sense any sort of sense. Which it might not do.
This blogpost is dedicated to @LucieBoyle – for no other reason than she reads my blogposts.