Saturday, September 12, 2009


The famous OPRAH magazine article author and book author, MARTHA BECK, is making some of us scream with her references to homeless people she works with to find their "right life - no matter what".

In her book STEERING BY STARLIGHT, she mentions in particular HOMELESS HEROIN ADDICTS, who she claims illustrate her point because although they cannot afford rent or food, they come up with close to about $200,000 a year for their heroin habit, evidence that (even if you have to prostitute yourself) if there is something you really want, you will focus on it and get it.

BECK SEEMS TO HAVE CONFUSED WITH THE DESPERATION OF ADDICTION with the New Age Hocus Pocus of STAYING FOCUSED, which is damn hard to do when you can't even get regular SLEEP ! Addiction causes heroin addicts to RISK ARREST and TIME IN PRISON. WITH A CRIMINAL RECORD it becomes ever more difficult to find any kind of work that supports you and the temptation is to return to selling the substance you use.

Is she saying that you should be willing to do that much to get what else you want?

BECK may not understand that there are many different ways to become homeless. Some of us are homeless and broke BECAUSE WE REFUSE TO BREAK THE LAW. For instance some of us refuse to sell our food stamps or to fake a psychiatric condition, even though there i s a lot of pressure to do these things when we stay in shelters or go to programs that expect us to get a steady income coming in one way or another so that they can house us somewhere that requires rent.

HOMELESS PROGRAMS are generally horribly inadequate to address the needs of the homeless, all sorts of homeless, from the street alcohlic to the family living in a RV.

1 comment:

Becky Blanton said...

Having been homeless I can see both your side and Martha's. I've read her book Steering by Starlight and am familiar with that passage as well. What Martha, a privileged, silver spoon in her mouth, broke but never impoverished mother doesn't understand is the utter misery of homelessness. It's a common stance of those who have never been there. Pity her. She's ignorant. Contrary to what she believes, people can't truly "imagine" what it is to be in someone else's shoes because each of us is different. I lived in a van and can't say I know what it is like to life for months on the street. I can come closer than Martha, but it's not the same as those who have actually done it. Not having experienced life in a gutter doesn't mean I don't know what it is like to be homeless. I know my experience. She knows hers, your know yours.

That said, I do believe she is right on one thing - if we want something badly enough we will find a way - legal or illegal, to get it. Her challenge is, I think, to ask ourselves what it is we want and want so badly that we'll focus all our resources to get it.

The homeless are already in such pain and so deprived that the climb out is longer and harder and it doesn't seem or feel fair. We want a hand up, but are not likely to get it. There is anger that someone who is rich, sitting pretty and full of glib advice seems to be sitting in judgment on us. What does or could she know? She knows shit. But she is right. As much as we hate it, as unfair as it is, ultimately WE are the only ones (unjust and unfair as it is) who will pull ourselves out of our situation.