The cover story of Tel Aviv’s weekly Ha’Ir (the City) this past Friday addressed homelessness. What familiar turf, coming from San Francisco where hundreds of millions of $$’s are spent annually in an effort to stanch the floodgate. SF’s load is tremendous what with a teeming, 5000+ street-bound population (compared with Tel Aviv’s 787 last year). Incidentally, this series about SF’s problem is one of the best I’ve read.
But back to HLC (Holy Land Central).
On a personal level, I couldn’t help but notice the change since I last lived here. Particularly when recalling the ONE, homeless guy living in the park near Tel Aviv U. who we overseas students so proudly supplied with fashion magazines. Like he was really going to apply perfume to his cleavage and at pulse points in an effort to follow CosmoGirl’s hints for enhancing sexual allure.
Striking how the homeless problem bears universal qualities: mental illness, drug addiction, shelters, jails and the general consensus shared by outdoor dwellers of the shelter being a more loathed venue than the street.
Tel Aviv is no exception. According to the article’s stats, 70% of the city’s homeless are addicts, 25% are mentally ill and the other 5% are victims of unforeseen circumstances like job loss, over-extended spending, accidents leading to bankruptcy…
What surprises me is the candor with which some of the interviewees admitted to feeling claustrophobic indoors i.e. preferring a life on the streets where they needn’t abide by society’s dictates. I thought about that one: What a price to pay for freedom. Freedom or hell. Depends upon your view.
Whatever that view, for the most part homeless people here aren’t strolling the streets barefoot or wearing cardboard shoes exposing severely, gangrene-infested feet. They aren’t lying in pools of urine in Tel Aviv’s bursa (financial district), defecating between parked cars in broad daylight or shooting up on door stoops. Talking to imaginary friends, screaming at invisible foes and physically lashing out at the non-imaginaries barely occurs. So far.
What’s the solution? If only….