From the “Changing the World” blog:
Homelessness wasn’t talked about when I was a kid. It didn’t exist as far as we knew in Connecticut. But then we were the sheltered wealthy where dirty little secrets like poverty couldn’t touch us. Even in the streets of New York where we spent almost as much time, Homelessness wasn’t something that was visible in the streets of New York that my parents traveled on just as frequently as in Connecticut. What we knew about homelessness was what we saw in the movies or on television, therefore it was make believe.
The Tom Joad’s dust bowl of Oklahoma I had pictured in my mind was hot and sticky with various shades of gray. I imagined seeing a dust storm or perhaps even a twister coming, with barely enough time to head for cover. The Grapes of Wrath men would be in overalls with some type of well worn hat, chewing on a piece of straw. The women would all be large buxom grandmotherly types, and all, wiping their hands on their aprons after having just taken some wonderful hot buttered delicacy from a roaring campfire.
Charlie Chaplin’s famous tramp gave poverty a comedic turn as did Freddie the Freeloader of the 60’s. Street car jumping Humphrey Bogart or Jimmy Cagney romanticized poverty in the 40’s and 50’s. Even though the Gypsy’s of the B-movie thrillers, saved the local townspeople with their knowledge of the happenings of the full moon, they were considered just as monstrous as the fearsome Lon Chaney Jr. werewolf himself.
Hobo; tramp; bag lady; vagabond; gypsy; gutterpup; nomad; stumblebum. No matter how you say it, it still means homeless, penniless, poverty stricken. No matter how you label it, there is still the connotation that makes a negative impact. While the public may still think of living in a shelter as being a horrible way to live, here in Portland, as in many places we have been to date, having a place to turn your life around is not.
Here in the city of roses…
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