Homelessness That Starts At Home

21 Mar, 2020

Lika Djalagania                                                                                                                                 Graphics: Davit Kukhalashvili

Homelessness becomes a matter for consideration only when it does occur, when the home is lost, the “evicted” families, labeled as ‘intruders’, invade into our reality, become refugees and are left without a dwelling. In contradiction with this, in this letter, my goal is to invert the inevitable story of homelessness and to start it not from the end but the very beginning. This must force us to ponder over the nuances of the correlation between the people and their home before eviction arrives, which describes the real and humane value of the lost ones and the loss itself. This blog is about queer people, whose stories of “eviction”, unlike other forms of homelessness, start both from home and family simultaneously.

We need to rewind this inevitability to better observe the process of the formation of certain reasons for homelessness, where such reasons, besides the material hardships, include the shame and rejection coming from the members of the family. This happens especially when the family, shaped in the ‘likeness’ of the state, unerringly replicates our community’s disposition of disregard towards the ‘outsiders’ and as the autoimmune disease, it attacks itself. For a part of the heroes of my story, such neglect oftentimes is connected with the loss of  the sense of the belonging to the family, with the loss of their identity, whichsometimes equals to degrading treatment. This is sometimes more painful than physical violence since as soon as you are forgotten due to your orientation or gender identity, you are no longer an object of the care. The emotional basis, if it had existed before at all, vanishes, while self-development and self-realization are often irreversibly arrested.

This blog and the conclusions I make are based on the stories told by queer people who experienced homelessness. Although this blog does not claim to make universal and unconditional conclusions, in some ways, it is trying to make the mutual and shared fears more obvious and tangible for at least a part of the queer people.

Homelessness at Home

The interviewees of this blog, whose experiences include the disregard from their families and the fear of possible violence, call for one necessity – the sense of home, as the irreplaceable emotional shelter, which accepts you for who you are and with such unconditional love, always supports you.

‘We do need a sense of belonging and attachment towards someone or something. People who have ‘home’, even if they live in a rented flat, still may experience this feeling that when you go ‘home’ there will be someone or something waiting for you and once there, you feel comfortable, you feel at home… and you feel better… when you do not have this, either because you were kicked out of home or ousted – this sense erodes and then you try to find this basis in other spaces.’ (INT.)

With the loss of unconditional love and the risks of homelessness related to it become the matter for constant fear and anxiety and individual, though a shared concern, when the sense of ‘home’ is taken from them even before leaving the house. Consequently, a part of queer people who live in constant tension due to their concealed identity or coming out, experience ‘homelessness’ even before they leave their homes.

‘I believe we all live with that fear. I mean, even if you have not lost your family yet, you still are under the constant risk of it… You can fight in court for the part of your property if this property is owned by the family, but in such cases, you can reclaim your ‘house’ but not ‘home’, which rejects you. The other story is when you stay at home, but your self-expression is so restricted that it affects your personal relationships.’ (INT.)

Based on this experience, for queer people, the house guarantees their well-being only when it offers not only the material shelter but when it becomes your emotional basis, the witness of your life  proofing that you are still alive. Only such a perception of ‘home’ must be accepted when it combines the physical, social and legal dimensions of it.

If these elements are analyzed separately, we will see that for queer people the housing does not always guarantees their well-being even before homelessness occurs. Here, relaxation and being your own self is seldom possible due to fear of violence and rejection. It can ensure neither your self-expression nor self-representation, and if it says anything about the person, it is not description of one’s personality, but tells the story of oppression.

In the interviews conducted for this blog, the interviewees could not recall any cases around them, when the queer people were able to retain their accommodation after having their identity revealed. As they note, such cases are exceptional, especially among adolescents. The formation of such gaps is often related to the improper means of upbringing by the parents or the lack of time for it. In such cases, the sense of shame produced by the community outweighs the love towards children and the attempts to understand them.

The other part of the interviewees believes that this cultural gap is formed due to economic hardships that prevail in the families, the constant concern of how to make ends meet or/and tough working schedules. All these lessened the possibility inside the families to get more familiar with each other and exacerbated the hard and extensive work required to recognize and accept your own child (of course, we mean the possibility that such cases exist). In such conditions, the family can become the unconditional evil, and the revolt, which ought to be marshaled against the oppressing system, can become the weapon against the only supporter. However, this confrontation is inevitable. It is inevitable because the system forced the families/parents to be steeped in slave labor and unpaid domestic work and forget about ‘care and upbringing’ for their own children. As for the children, they are forced by the system to accept this as an imperative condition. Here, there is no time and place for conversation. Here, you become both – the one who loses and one who is lost.

Home in Homelessness

Based on the interviewees’ experience, the hardest aspect of the fear homelessness is  the actual result of it, when you eventually became homeless and you need to rationalize it and inhibit the emotions related to this condition.

‘I didn’t even had the possibility to think it over… you cannot relax, you cannot deal with yourself, you are not able to be alone, though you actually are and you lose the sense of serenity.’(INT.) ‘My life piled up… I left all my belongings there… when you have nothing, even having no pan in the kitchen is stressful, I started collecting all such things again… I will buy something when I get my next salary.’ (INT.)

This condition is hard to perceive for those who were suddenly ‘thrown’ into the real life, for those  unprepared, for those who have no ‘skills’ to deal with such problems and for those who have been left without any support from the state. From the very moment of being homeless, one’s emotions must be repressed by the economical rationality; the feelings must be silenced by the pragmatic skills and logical thinking. If in the cases of victims of the natural calamities, eviction or war, as a rule, they are accompanied by their supporters/relatives while living their home,  collective anger and pain are brought together against the extrinsic culprit, here, you become both the ‘culprit’ and the victim of that collective anger.

‘When some tragedies are experienced together, I think they become easier to deal with. You have people around you, who suffer from the same problem and when you are united you better deal with it. When you become the prey of the tragedy due to your identity or orientation, empathy becomes a luxury. It is so hard to perceive homelessness resulted due to being a queer person, as a collective concern.’ (INT.)

For those who are left on their own, the escaping of the family violence becomes the verdict of constant fear of homelessness and in some cases it results with chronic poverty. In such situations, any plan or barely built welfare becomes fragile and frail, as it is not based on a strong financial foundation. For those who do not own their houses, even obtaining an education can become a risk. Living in constant instability means a vicious circle of lost goods – the rented house depends on the job, the job – on your health, your health – on endurance and endurance depends on your strong emotional condition. However, emotional steadiness, as a rule, at the very beginning of this circle, is sacrificed to the sense of derogated dignity of the people kicked out for no reason or those who left homes on their own.

The home in homelessness is frailty. ‘Your life, built in the conditions of homelessness, can fall apart and wreck in your hands.’(INT.)

The State or the Family?

The campaigns planned by us for ‘raising awareness’ and ‘fighting homophobia’ is directed towards only the general society. . But cultural oppression can also bring material hardships (including in the form of homelessness), which must be primarily addressed by the state, not by the family. The role of the state in supporting the independence of the queer or any other people is utterly disregarded. Consequently, it becomes harder to enter into the labor market in our country, general and higher education do not represent the pretext to enjoy social goods, and healthcare is an inaccessible luxury. Our revolt must be directed against this very policy, which averts us as debtors do, leaving us with the illusory hope that they will bring the money someday.

The state and the society, instead offering care and welfare systems, preach the mere narrative of personal emancipation for the queer individuals, which on one hand leads them astray on their way to the liable system and on the other hand, imposes the burden of responsibility for self-development and personal success on the ousted, marginalized and abandoned youngsters.

This mere narrative of emancipation, which offers a curtailed transition from dependent childhood to independent adulthood, only encourages the combat for cultural freedom and the revolt against homophobe individuals and members of their family. As a result, adolescents gain their freedom from their parents even before they can be financially independent. Those queer people, who are forced to leave their homes without financial stability, are forced into the interminably precarious labor and the dream about self-development and emancipation can only be “realized” in the dimmed rooms of safe spaces offered by the clubs.

As we have already mentioned, for many queer individuals, homelessness is the only means against family violence. In such situations, they find themselves alone before the social milieu, where the state does not stand by them and where each step made for one’s well-being is accompanied by its own creditor.

For Conclusions

‘When they say ‘my house is my castle’, probably they mean that no matter how tough the situation is outside when you come home, you see the goods you have been accumulating for long, the goods that heal your wounds as you come home. It should tell you, that you knonw what?– tomorrow may be not as bad as today… when you are homeless, such symbols cannot be accumulated, you cannot find a place for their collection. You can find a shelter from the rain, but you will never find a shield that protects you from the negative things coming from the outside world.'(INT.). In this reality, it is hard to hope, but it is possible to fight for better world if we find a proper target for the mutual resistance and if we revolt against the oppressive systems, in order to create the shared goods. Let us find together, in this fight, our own castles, which will tell our stories, guard our safety and dictate: ‘tomorrow may be not as bad as today’.

Note: The information about the individual interviewees are not provided in detail, for their safety and for the protection of their privacy.