09 February 2011

Why We Need Places

I visited a home yesterday, which is not something I do very often while working with a predominately homeless population.

I have known Vincent for a few years now--long enough to watch him transition from frequent nights spent in a parking garage, through the application for disability benefits, all the way to the receipt of his own apartment. I have watched one further transition as well: self-sufficiency to dependency; mobility to immobility. This was the reason I was visiting Vincent today: to deliver to him his food pantry staples.

5 pounds of oatmeal
A package of salt-free rice cakes
3 rolls of toilet paper
A loaf of bread
Green Tea

With all of his bland, flavorless food requests, I was not expecting to open his apartment door to such a colorful, stimulating studio.

The walls were full of drawings, gifts from other people, fliers and dried flowers, strange sculptures. Plants (and consequently, dirt) littered the floor, next to stacks of books, and palates of paint. It was truly a 'studio apartment'.

Seeing Vincent in all his glory made me consider the further purposes of having our own housing. We desire to be in all our glory, whatever that means.

Some people fill their places with art and color, like Vincent.
Some people fill their places with people.
Some people want to be surrounded by order,
Or memories
Or collections (anyone who has seen my closet knows all about this).

Some people want their places uncluttered, simple, almost bare.

But most people want to decide for themselves. To extend themselves into wherever they are the most.

Vincent now seems himself, when he's in his place, throwing his being all over the floor and the shelves and the walls.

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