It's very cold where I live. Incredible bone chilling cold. It is the kind of cold where exposed skin can freeze in minutes. I only wish I was exaggerating. And yet I know people who live outside year round. And I know people who get stuck outside, with no shelter to turn to. It's unbelievable, and yet I see it time and time again. I truly don't understand why more of the homeless aren't dead. It sounds horrible, but it truly boggles my mind.
People are very resourceful. Survival instinct is strong. The biggest danger is the wind, and so even just getting out of the wind helps somewhat. Doorways, hidyholes, tarps draped over branches, anything which blocks the wind. Then there's layering. I have seriously seen people wearing seven layers. That's just the people I see. The people who are "best" at the art of survival are the ones I don't see. Then, you need a source of heat. Heating vents and fires seem to be the best way to get this. Unfortunately both have their problems as well. Lying under a heating vent can put you in a place to get run over, and fires of course are fires and can get out of control.
The truth is, while the shelters are bursting at the seams, there is a group of people who simply have no interest in going anywhere near one. It's a fascinating concept for a person who has been raised to value shelter so dearly. At the same time though, I have my very own one bedroom apartment, something some of my clients find exsessive and unbelievable. For some people, the idea of being around so many people is just so overwhelming. At all the shelters in the city once you're in, you're in. You can't go out for fresh air or to smoke, this can be very prohibitive for some. Many of the homeless are dealing with some form of mental illness, and there are many fears associated with the shelters, not the least of these being contamination, and in many ways it's a valid fear. I'm not sure I could sleep in our shelter.
This is a world so very different then my own, a world I cannot be a part of. And yet, when you really think about it, how far away are any of us from being homeless, and what would we do to survive?