The cruelty is subtle

The cruelty is subtle.

[On anti-homeless architecture]

You avert your eyes. You ignore them when they speak to you. You refuse to help out by donating money, worrying that they’ll use the money to buy drugs or booze, as if you don’t spend money on distractions of a different sort.

You’d rather they starve then risk getting them high. This cruelty is subtle.

It’s taking the benches out of public spaces so that no one can sleep on them. It’s putting spiky things over Street grates designed to keep people from sleeping on them. It’s pushing people out without giving them a new place to go.

It’s subtle cruelty.

We avert our eyes.

We don’t question why the bus stop has 3 seats instead of one bench. Or why the stop has no seating at all. We don’t want to see the problem, so we remove it from view. It’s subtle cruelty.

But we aren’t trying to solve a problem. People on the street are not the problem. A society where people can become street people and have absolutely no way to get out once they’re in. There aren’t enough shelter beds. They’re aren’t enough treatment center beds. It’s pipe line between jail and streets. And somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that the people kin the street are still just people. Living on the street does not remove your humanity, but ignoring the issue does. You become less compassionate every time you quietly accept these unspoken rules. When you don’t speak out, it is assumed that you are agreeing. Your silence allows people on the street to be abused by a system that is not meant to help them recover. If you’re on the street, you can’t afford $1900 a month in rent for a studio apartment, or $100/month for a metro rail pass. Where will you shower, where will you use the restroom? Restaurants make you pay to use it. Gas stations say they don’t have a public restroom. And the beach bathrooms aren’t open overnight. So you have to shit and piss on the street too, and you might get arrested. Arrested because you couldn’t find a restroom you were allowed to use, so you had to shit on the street.

It’s subtle cruelty.

It’s impossible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps inside a system meant to keep you under the ground.

It’s subtle cruelty.

I do not wish to be cruel, and I don’t think you do either, but when we close our eyes to reality, we are practicing cruelty. We do have a choice. We can demand better, for all of us. We can demand safe consumption sites. We can demand more shelters open, with access to long term residences and trade schools. People on the street are still people. Just because you ended up on the street Dosent mean you’re stuck there forever. We need to demand better services for humans experiencing homelessness.

It’s up to all of us to design what our future is going to look like. If you don’t want to see displaced people sleeping on the streets, then you must demand better services to help these humans get into housing and the appropriate kinds of treatment.

We can be better, if we choose to.

Or we can continue the legacy of subtle cruelty.

-Brodey Ryan Bartlett

Published by Brodhi

Brodey Ryan Bartlett is a 30 year old activist, artist, and free spirit. Brodey is a proud transgender man, a proud gay man, and a member of the Queer community. Brodey lives in Los Angeles, California with his partner Bob and his cat, Henry.

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