From "homeless" to "unhoused."

After reading my post about artists' efforts to change perceptions of a Rio favela, Ben Molin points out a story in the San Jose Mercury News. "It's the story of a man trying to change the perception of what it means to be without a home in the shadows of Silicon Valley," Ben writes. The piece describes Norman Carroll's epiphany in thinking of his own struggles to find shelter:

A little boy walking with his mom stared at Carroll, who back then already had the same scraggly, lopsided beard covering a face beaten by the weather, arthritis, heart failure, depression and demons.

"The little boy said to me, 'You don't have a house, do you?' ''

Carroll sticks the butt into a full ashtray and delivers the bottom line.

"That little boy didn't think of me as someone to step over, ignore or push out of town,'' he says. "To him I was just somebody without a house. That's when I realized I was unhoused, not homeless.''

The distinction between being homeless and "unhoused'' may sound meaningless to you and me, but Carroll has been pressing his viewpoint tirelessly in Palo Alto ever since and getting results.

He delivered a speech he wrote, "Please, Don't Call Me Homeless,'' to the town's Human Relations Commission four years ago.

"Palo Alto is most definitely my home,'' the panhandler said to a gathering stunned by his speaking ability. "It's where I'm comfortable, within the limits of my situation. It's where I want to be, though not necessarily how. I am simply lacking a house, walls, roof, doors, locks and the security that comes with them.''

And now, local housing and social service providers are listening to the logic of this bent but unbroken man.

Read "Please, Don't Call Me Homeless."

No comments: