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

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now I have a little travel trailer parked in a small RV park in a small desert town. I also have a minivan to travel in. When it gets too hot for me in my desert, I get in my minivan and move up in elevation to find cooler temperatures or I house sit in town in a place with air conditioning I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

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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