This is a note to all those who grew up in a small town and went off into the big wide world to seek their fortune and make a life for themselves. And did.
Then it all fell apart courtesy of COVID-19.
And when they lost everything, their house their job – Everything – they decided they would go home. To where they came from because that’s what you do when you’re down on your luck and at the end of your rope.
But will they find help and shelter and a friendly face when they come back home to their Hometown after being away for 20-25 years?
If what I have seen here in this small town is any indication: they’re going to find it’s kind of like that movie trope where the kid goes off to University and it doesn’t work out and they come home and they find out that Mom and Dad have rented out their room to some stranger and there’s no place for them at home.
Except that would be nice. What will happen will not be so nice.
My town is a small town and has a small homeless population. But many of the people in this town are fed up with that homeless population and like an awful lot of people in small towns, and Big Towns, everywhere when they start thinking with their guts and their emotions they want simplistic solutions to complicated problems.
One of the things I hear them say is: The Homeless are here because we’re such a soft touch – if we weren’t so easy on them then they’d move on.
On its face that’s easy to refute – there are homeless everywhere and our town is not special.
But the implied reasoning also says these homeless are transients that will move along if the pickings get too lean or the streets get too mean.
One thing that they don’t want to hear and conveniently refuse to remember is that a large portion of that homeless population grew up here.
That fact flies in the face of their desire for these homeless people to just take off and go somewhere else.
When I look at the organized groups and the loudest voices I find an interesting phenomenon: While there are hundreds of people in these groups some of the loudest and most angry are people who have been here about as long as I have, 15 years.
I had this conversation with one I know who has been active in the community and even local government:
Them: They are transients coming here from other places because we’re a soft touch.
Me: But the RCMP told all of us, at the meeting we were both at, that a significant portion of them grew up here. They’re the sons and daughters and cousins and nephews and nieces of people here.
Them: Well he’s not saying that now. What do you think when you see out of province plates dropping them off at the _____ (local soup kitchen)?
Me: I went through the hitchhiking craze too and I know that just means that’s where their lift dropped them. And I haven’t heard the RCMP detachment commander change his statement.
Them: Well he has. He’s not saying that now.
Me: Well I’ll wait to hear it from him myself.
Months later there was another town hall meeting and the RCMP commander said the same thing he’d said before: quite a lot of our homeless are here because this is where they grew up.
Which leaves me wondering if the person I was talking to was (a) BSing me to my face to make a point (they had been in local politics) or (b) genuinely could not remember hearing the RCMP commander say that or (c) had just not heard him when he said it (but they did not say that, they implied they had heard it)
The thing is, these angry people don’t want to hear a fact like a lot of the homeless aren’t transients from elsewhere. And they don’t want to accept it either. So even if you got them to grudgingly admit that this is what the services that interact with the homeless say they will conveniently not remember it later on when they’re out there bombasting the world with their angry ideas.
If the information comes from some quasi-governmental office they don’t like they’ll conveniently disregard it as lies or fake news. Because that’s the thing to do today: ignore or disregard anything that does not agree with your world view. Cast shade on anyone who disagrees with you. Recast scientists and experts as just people with opinions.
So if you grew up here, moved away, made a life and lost it all because of things beyond your control don’t think your return home will be a return to a safe harbour. Strangers have taken up residence and to many of them you’re going to be just more homeless trash. You might not do crimes or drugs but in their minds all the homeless take drugs and do crimes. You might have led a normal life before but now you’re a scary threat better off in someone elses’s back yard.
If I had to make that trek back I’d do as much as I could to reconnect with old friends and family and pave a way back that doesn’t give the angry newbie nimbys a reason to see you as the thing they fear and hate so much.
But then again you might be lucky and your old hometown might have a heart and a support system . . .