The Tyranny of the Address

How many functions of life require an address? No one stops and thinks about it because the assumption is often that everyone will have a place to live. Currently, the cost of living is rising and so are homelessness statistics. There are plenty of people who believe that “there are jobs out there,” but no one is considering that to accomplish the smallest task, most people are required to have an address. Therefore, if anyone believes that the status quo should be protected–and there are plenty of people who believe otherwise–people will be forced to reckon with the tyranny of the address.

By and large, the most basic administrative functions require that people have addresses. Even if someone chooses to go “paperless,” companies require the background of a place to send bills in case of delinquency. Phone bills and bank statements require that people have addresses, and people actually need both phones and banks to get paid most of the time. Only a small fraction of the population is able to be paid in cash, but of course, then there is the question of where to keep the cash to avoid losing it. In the year 2018, having a home should not be a requirement of being able to obtain income or communicate.

Often, homeless people are told to “get a job.” Luckily, many people are starting to understand that it is virtually impossible for people without addresses to obtain employment. The most basic element, cleanliness, is difficult for people without regular access to bathrooms and laundry facilities. Also, many jobs have a dress code that homeless people would be unable to accommodate. Most importantly, job applications require that applicants list addresses, and most will not accept a post office box. So even if a homeless person is able to magically wash and store all their belongings and get a suit for the interview, a lack of an address could mean remaining without one.

The year 2018 marks another very controversial election year in the United States. No matter one’s politics, many actions are underway to prevent voting by people from undesirable backgrounds. Voter registration may not require an address, but then there is the question of mobilizing the homeless population–a daunting task. If more of the population is becoming homeless, how will people be able to register, much less be reminded, to vote? All of these elements keep homeless people without a voice and without strong advocates to change the way voting is done. Advocates and activists are working endlessly to ensure that people are aware that even without addresses, homeless people can vote.

It is not impossible to live as a homeless person because people do it every day. What is becoming impossible is the ability to survive without the very basic element of living: a place to live. However, if people are not required to have a physical structure to have a business, why should everyone be required to have a home to exist in dignity? Social security numbers, which most people have or can acquire, track everyone and everything, and those numbers are the closest thing to data DNA as can exist. There really is no longer any need for institutions to avoid dealing with how the population is changing to be able to live without a home.

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