homelessness

Don’t Pretend You Could Tell

Riding the bus is neither a party nor a punishment for me; it serves as transportation. I neither seek nor ignore social moments on the bus because I find people interesting. While trying to traverse the city of Austin by bus–no small feat on a Saturday afternoon–I found myself talking to a younger woman about the frustrations of transit stop closures when we were both approached by someone asking for money. I general carry no cash, which I mentioned, but she engaged with him and asked, “Are you trying to get on the bus?” and then said, “You know what, that’s none of my business.” She and I searched our belongings, and to my surprise, I found less than a dollar’s worth of change, and we both caught the bus heading towards campus.

On the bus, she asked where I was headed, so I mentioned that I was meeting an acquaintance who insisted on difficult locations for me to get to and we shared our mutual annoyance with people who refuse to take no for an answer. I asked her where she was from, and she said, “I’m from Minneapolis, and I had to come down south because I live in the streets.” I said, “Well, of course, with it being 30 degrees below zero. Did you hear about all those people dying?” And she said, “Yes, because I don’t care how thick a blanket is, there is no blanket thick enough for that!” I heartily agreed, and then she got off the bus with her two smaller bags.

What people are most afraid of with homeless people is that they fail to subscribe to the cultural norms and have no understanding of how “real society” functions. As someone who rides the bus with homeless people all the time, I am here to tell you that no, people will only reveal their homelessness if they feel that you will not judge them. Therefore, as the cost of living continues to rise, no one should pretend that everyone will be able to tell if someone has a “normal” home life.

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