The Doctor Is In

in Poetry

Dr. Wes

Chronic Theory


Writing for Real Change puts me in the hub of the whirlwind of the big swirly thing that is homeless people's services on this planet. OK, not really in the hub, but at one of places where the spokes stick in the rim.

I try to ignore it. If I were to reflect upon every little policy paper, service squabble, action plan, or the little controversies surrounding them, I would turn into one giant pus-filled wonk. No one likes a pus-filled wonk. Still, one cannot help but notice that there is a big push on to separate "chronic" homeless people from "temporary" homeless people, in order to tailor interventions in their chronic-hood-ness.

The theory is that "chronic" equates with "wants to be homeless". So if someone is homeless too long, they must be asking for it. That proves that they are sickos who need help to see the error of their ways.

You see why I try to stay out of stuff like this? Right from the start I am tempted to have a big wonky fit about the abuse of the word "chronic". But if I do, I just get sucked into their level. I become the same kind of loser as the clowns who come up with these warped theories in the first place.

OK, suppose your Safe Oven or Brave New Haven or whatever you call it works like a charm, and you find out who all the chronic homeless people are, the nasty ones that cause all the trouble. You have a list.

And, suppose that these nasty chronic homeless buggers are to homelessness what anorexia is to starvation, in that they do it on purpose to themselves because there is something wrong with them.

Now you want to make them stop, so that they cease behaviors that negatively impact on society (eewww, I can't believe I just wrote that.) Since these are people who like being homeless, you can't help them until they recognize that they have a problem. In other words, you have to intervene.

What is that going to look like? Remember that while this intervention is going on, the 90% of non-chronic homeless are still going to be around and proof against any absurdity.

A man tries to sleep in a park after closing time of 11:30 PM. The police, recognizing a known chronic homeless man, send for a crack team of Chronic Homelessness Busters. The team leader, Jennifer, breaks the ice:

"Hey there, homeless man, what's your name?"

"They call me Bulldog, ma'am. Because once I bite you, I never let go."

"Well, that's a nice name, Bulldog. Now let me tell you why we're here. We're here because you should be in a shelter right now. Since you aren't in a shelter, it looks like you like sleeping in parks."

"I'm tired. When I'm tired, I like sleeping. Park seemed a good place."

"Well, that's wrong of you to think that way. Society doesn't want you to sleep in the park."

"So? Society's not here. The park is closed. So it's just me."

"Right, but the REASON the park is closed is because society doesn't want you sleeping here. Even though society isn't here to see it."

"OK. Where does society want me to sleep?"

"In a shelter."

"Take me to it."

See what I'm getting at? Point for Bulldog.


© Dr. Wes Browning:
2129 Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247

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