It is 30 minutes until the ball drops in New York on New Year’s Eve as I begin this next column for Invisible People. I am a very superstitious person regarding New Year’s Eve. Like other people from my background, I believe that whatever you do on New Year’s Day sets the pace for the year ahead. I would generally laugh at such a superstition, but it’s proven itself to be accurate more than not, so I honor it every year.
Intellectually, I know nothing has changed. The calendar is a man-made invention, as are clocks. A new calendar doesn’t change anything. We only need those things to stay organized and to create historical records. Even knowing all that, we as a species like to gravitate to hope, and New Year’s Eve is all about hope. A fantasy resetting of our lives is envisioned on this night. Whether you watch the ball drop in Times Square or from any other major city around the world, it always represents hope.
I am lucky this year, for I am indoors and alone, house-sitting. Solitude is the greatest gift in the world to me. As an artist and writer, I crave it.
I think about my situation daily, so I don’t need New Year’s Eve to reflect on that. Instead, I find myself doing what I do every year and, in fact, every day: Begging this malevolent, cruel universe for help, even knowing I am begging in vain, yet some piece of me still wants to hold on to hope.
Maybe that’s the curse of being alive. We hope for things we want or need and a better life, but for most people, that’s not going to become their reality.
The reality is that while I am eternally grateful for any time I am indoors in someone else’s home, it’s not the same as being in a place of my own. You don’t have the same autonomy. And while some people are grateful not to be alone, I crave solitude and silence. I have many good friends, and I catch up with them occasionally. But as a writer and artist, I don’t need company. I need to focus on using whatever time I have left on this earth to do the things I wish to accomplish.
Being chronically ill and chronically under tremendous stress, I could easily die anytime. A stroke or heart attack is not unreasonable to assume, especially since vascular incidents are much more common after Covid, even in very healthy people. The daily stress I am under pummels me. High levels of stress hormones pulse through my blood. This is why homeless people die so much younger than the general population. Stress, poor sleep, and lack of routine all take their toll.
So, like every New Year’s Eve, I sit here thinking about everything I hope for in the year ahead. The fact is, I don’t see any of it happening anytime soon or ever. There is no hope that there will be enough housing for lower-income people. Poverty-stricken people who cannot work are not a priority to this society or government.
The section 8 voucher system is a joke.
Even getting a housing voucher is like winning the lottery in many places. But after the joy, you are faced with a letdown. With the lottery, people are shocked at what is taken from the winnings in taxes. In housing, they are shocked that the voucher doesn’t come close to current rental costs. Even if people find some rare gem of a reasonably priced apartment, they are told they can only have the place if they earn three times the monthly rent.
Recently, I read an article about classifying people based on being either completely homeless, at risk for homelessness, or somewhere in between. With a live-in van, I am probably classified as somewhere in between. Either way, it’s like being in permanent limbo – no place to truly call home and no hope of ever having such a place.
The people with the power and influence to bring real, meaningful solutions won’t. And the people with the heart and mind to want to help and create lasting solutions can’t because they have no power, money, or influence.
So, who will fix this housing disaster?
Not greed-driven corporations that gobble up real estate to use for Air BnB businesses and vacation rentals, which cost a lot more money per month. Why bother investing in housing for low-income people? Who’s going to help the disabled or elderly who cannot work? There’s no profit in either.
Sure, politicians talk a good story about solving homelessness. But it’s not about solving homelessness. Instead, it’s about tucking homeless people away where they are out of sight and mind. Politicians will propose all sorts of things when they are running for office because a politician will promise anything to get elected. Let’s be honest. Of all the politicians since ancient times, how many cared about the poor masses? How many found decent, viable solutions? Very few.
Archaic hominin ancestors certainly had a lot to worry about. Their main activities were finding enough food, a safe shelter, and avoiding predators, which is the case for all living creatures. It’s a very sad statement that nothing has changed in millions of years.
We spend our lives trying to make enough money for food and shelter and constantly avoiding the predators who prey on us.
The big difference is that while your average Australopithacine had to worry about being attacked and eaten by saber tooth cats or ancient crocodiles, modern homo sapiens must worry about the members of their species.
There are so many dangerous people among us. They are the threat from within. Who knows, maybe even the archaic hominins had to worry about somebody of their species coming by and stealing their dinner, but I doubt that. There was safety and success in numbers.
It’s generally believed that those individuals cooperated as a group, hunting and gathering together and eventually cooking their food, sharing it, and even caring for their injured and elderly (which back then was about 40 years old). Today, however, cooperation is discouraged, and competition is encouraged. Today the sentiment is, “take care of number one” and “You’re on your own, pal.”
So, why should I hold on to any hope that I will be housed again? Why would I believe the housing disaster will ever be set right in a “profit before people” based society?