Hot and homeless

From the January-February 2013 issue of News & Letters:

Hot and homeless

Chicago—Anyone who has lived through a homeless winter on the streets of a Midwestern city knows the value of a warm night. It means you die a little less. Maybe get to stay out of a shelter, or avoid the humiliation of the Mission. Maybe talk with a friend in peace.

We’ve had a lot more of those warm nights lately— with global warming. Sixty degrees in January? That’s crazy. It can almost feel like what they call charity.

But there’s one thing a lot of us know. Things can begin to fall apart on you slowly. Without you noticing. But then it all goes to hell real fast. That happens with homes. It’s how you lose them. It’s happening now to the whole society, to the world we live in. These warm nights are nice, but they’re going to become more Katrinas and Sandys and things that are even worse.

And you know what? From what I’ve seen, I expect this society to do just about as much to save itself as it does for the “bums,” for the homeless kids in Boystown, for the old woman on the train hiding her face.

You see, they talk about charity. That’s supposed to mean love for your fellow human beings. But it doesn’t amount to much down at the bottom. I’d like to see that change so that there can be a future past a few warm nights—but the view from here doesn’t look good.

Anyway, it’s a warm night. Thanks for chatting.

—A watcher

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