Homelessness is an uncomfortable symptom of a truly free society. Show me a city with no beggar and it will easily be proved that it is in fact a perverse, violent and thinly veiled tyranny.
Someone asked on reddit once how to help the homeless. This was my response, which earned my first reddit award:
Homelessness is an uncomfortable symptom of a truly free society. Show me a city with no beggar and it will easily be proved that it is in fact a perverse, violent and thinly veiled tyranny. Homelessness is uncomfortable because a truly free society will be so wealthy, so abundant, that homelessness seems absurd. Food and shelter and almost everything else is always at hand, literally within grasp.
The best one can do for the homeless is to make sure that compulsory institutionalization remains illegal and that one always has the right to BE homeless. There once was a day when any one of us could, on practically a whim, be declared insane and incarcerated against our will in a cruelly named “asylum.” Every one of us ought to defend our sacred right to walk out of situation we are in, whatever home or office or hospital we are in: walk into the street and utilize our constitutional right of free speech to ask our neighbors for help to live on our own.
For maybe we will one day find ourselves in a situation where we would rather walk outside and beg on the street than endure another day in captivity with whomever before may have emphatically claimed to be our benefactor. Homelessness is a necessary relief valve of organized society: freedom is the source of entropy that gives life to human organizations, homelessness is limit that proves it’s working.
Those whom we all agree to call “homeless” in the modern sense, that is, the chronically homeless as opposed to the recently dispossessed, are, in their own way, already at home: they are more at home in a sleeping bag on the Capitol steps than they would ever be in a compulsory shelter, with its curfews, its strict rules and its smell. It may be alright for a cold night here and there, but the whole reason for not having a job in the first place is because you don’t like people and people don’t like you. But that doesn’t make you crazy and it doesn’t make you a criminal – at least not in a truly free society.
The same society whose sincere practice of freedom gives its most difficult individuals the freedom to walk out, even though it might endanger them and even ourselves in the effort to protect them – that same society’s sincere practice of individual freedom is so rich that it can afford to feed and clothe and shelter and heal even our most stubborn and obstinate members again and again and again.
So defend our individual liberties. We must both have the right to sleep on public property and have the right to personal property. In a free society, you will notice, humans naturally wish to use their personal property to help others. It is a beautiful thing to behold. Only in a truly beautiful society will you witness the greatest potential of humanity to help others; only when truly free will a human’s full capacity for altruism both be tested and simultaneously unleashed.
Witness that in our society, people frequently ask how to help the homeless. Only a free and abundant society could have asked this question. It brings tears to my eyes to see that humans are good, and that so far at least, my country is still, by one measure
There are the the unlucky, who need family, in which case, if you want to help, become their family or find them a family. If “home” means a place in society or “with family,” then there are those who want a place in society and want a family, and simply have not had the opportunity to become part of one. They need to be befriended and inducted into a family and society. Most people in our society ultimately find family through their job if not through birth relatives or friendships formed via proximity.
But then there are “the homeless.” They are not at home simply by having a place in society. They have another, individual measure of contentment that does not involve having one of the prescribed roles within society. We probably will not understand their way of thinking. They may not want or need a family, or they may view family completely differently than we do. We may offer them a job, a meal, shelter, therapy, you name it: they might refuse it all and choose to eat wild honey and live in the desert and you may never, ever understand why they want to.
Help, help and help some more but don’t let homelessness bother you too much, don’t let it disturb your soul too greatly. For such a phenomenon would never be encountered in poor and/or totalitarian societies.
When you encounter a beggar, acknowledge them. Make eye contact and listen to them. Honor their presence as a fellow human being. But at least this day and age, you needn’t feel compelled to give them money or a ride or even let your heart be disturbed by their desperate lies. They know where the shelters and the soup kitchens and the women’s shelters and the methadone clinics are, they’ve been there, and they’ve found that it’s not what they’re looking for.
Keep leading horses to water, it is in your nature, and it would be perverse to suppress it. Often no matter how often or well led, wild horses will again and again return to heroin, alcohol, abusive spouses and off-med psychotic episodes.
The alternative to leading a horse to water is capturing it and forcing fluids into it without its consent.
The best thing you can do for the homeless is to provide a good or service that people really want and thereby get paid for it. You can then use that earned wealth to fund the shelters, soup kitchens and all the other privately funded programs that make homelessness, and therefore freedom, possible.
Defend the homeless’ right to be in a public place, even if they’re are in a sleeping bag and smell bad. Defend the homeless’ right to ask people in a public place for money, even if they are saying incoherent things that challenge us and make us feel uncomfortable. Defend the homeless’ right to check out of and walk away from any shelter or any hospital, mental or otherwise. If these rights were to disappear…. so too would the homeless – and when the homeless have disappeared, you can be sure that you don’t live in a free society any more.
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society