Homeless Homemakers

When you see a person “flying a sign” at an intersection, their homelessness is palpable: perched between lanes of speeding cars, out in all weather, they announce to any passer-by their need for help.⁠
And yet, if you are privileged to receive an invitation to a homeless camp, you may be surprised to find so many signs of home-making. Makeshift kitchens where every tool has its place. Tents arranged carefully around a simple hearth-fire. Rules (spoken and unspoken) about what is and isn’t allowed. ⁠
This photo is from early 2016. Steven and I, along with a few others, had been up since the wee hours of the morning, participating in a “point in time” count, which is a method cities often use to estimate how many men and women are experiencing homelessness in their area. ⁠
I was struck by two things during this census. First, I was ashamed to see how much more cheerful the folks we met in the woods were than *I* would have been had someone come to my home at 5 in the morning. ⁠
The second memory I carry from this day is the area rug you can see in this photo. Someone went to the trouble to rescue this rug from a dumpster and haul it deep into the urban woods. Its message was clear: this is a place someone cares about. A place of settledness. A place where a human person lives. ⁠
I saw so much determination and hope in that rug. It was the first of many lessons that every creature made in God’s image is a home-maker, world-builder. That impulse can be frustrated, misdirected, and crippled, but it is hard–perhaps impossible–to destroy completely. ⁠

Published by Bethany Joy

Radical homemaker, renegade PhD. Let's be friends and change the world. Austin, Texas

2 thoughts on “Homeless Homemakers

  1. A friend who has worked with homeless women here has noted that we attract homeless people because of the benefits offered in our city. She also noted that there is no reason to be homeless here unless you don’t know what assistance is available, or you have taken advantage of all the available assistance and still not made the changes to get you off the street and out of the tent cities. Our Urban Ministry has noted that once you’ve been on the street for about 30 days, you become acclimated and some actually prefer being “off the grid” and homeless. I liked your comment about “A place of settledness” which can be so much more than just a place.


    1. Hi Mac! Thanks for your comment. I think that a lot of misunderstanding about why people are homeless comes from not recognizing some of the differences between folks experiencing temporary homelessness due to job loss (for example), and chronic homelessness. With chronic homelessness, there’s often significant childhood trauma underneath the complex web of disabilities, addictions, etc. This web can make it really hard for folks to operate in ordinary jobs and housing. That’ why Community First! isn’t transitional housing — they believe that some people need permanent supportive community if they’re going to stay off the streets.


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