Hierarchy of Homelessness


A couple of years ago, I spent the winter in Austin, Texas. One night I was downtown, on Congress Avenue, waiting for a bus. I was approached by a friendly young African American man who soon asked me where I was headed. I told him I was going to South Austin. His questioning quickly turned to whether or not I had a husband or kids. I told him I had neither, while realizing that he was being more than friendly. I didn’t get the idea that he particularly liked me or wanted to go home with me, just that he wanted to go home with somebody, the home being more important than the somebody.

I told him that I was staying with friends and I couldn’t really bring home company. (I wasn’t at all interested in the guy, but I’ve never been very good at rejecting unwanted suitors.)

Then he told me that he lived in a tent down by the river. He explained that it was very comfortable, with an air mattress and  lots of blankets. He talked quite a bit about the comfort of his tent. (Perhaps he had decided that if he couldn’t get a home for the night, he would settle for a somebody.)

He also told me that he’d been dating a woman, but it hadn’t worked out. He told me that when he dated someone, he didn’t like to act like they were homeless, he just wanted to act normal, do normal things like go out for dinner.

I told him that I understood, that I’d been homeless, that I lived in my van when I wasn’t visiting friends. Then I commented that I had lived under bridges before.

The man physically recoiled and immediately began protesting that he had never lived under no bridge. The idea of me having lived under a bridge (which is true, by the way) seemed to truly repulse him.

I guess that was his hierarchy of homelessness: those who sleep in tents next to the river are above those who sleep under the bridge.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

2 Responses »

  1. This is strange to me. I thought he’d be like, “I’ve never had to do that. I am glad you are staying with friends so you don’t have to sleep under a bridge. I bet that sucks.” I guess everybody wants to feel better than somebody else? People are so weird.

  2. I think a lot of people do want to think they are doing better than somebody, anybody. But yeah, you would think one homeless person would be sensitive to the situation of another homeless (or formerly homeless) person. In any case, I’m glad that my former residence under the bridge made the Austin guy see me as infinity less attractive.

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