Reflection on a “Home”
Posted on April 17, 2015
This week, my wife and I put our home up for sale. This decision came after many months of consideration and finally a painful recognition that our lives no longer allow us to live up in the mountains we love so much. We will likely end up back in Denver, a city I truly love, and the excitement of the new life has replaced some of the heartbreak of leaving our mountain home.
I’ve moved a lot in my life. Having a dad who was a basketball coach in Indiana, we moved seven times in my childhood. While we did live in one house throughout my high school years, this home was sold when my parents divorced while I was in my early 20’s. I soon realized the odd nature of “going home” to a home you never lived in, and I’ve come to understand the meaning the physical home has in one’s life. Losing the only real home I had known, and the family that once occupied it, was heartbreaking on many levels.
I continued this pattern into my adult life living in nine different places through my twenties and thirties. Then, six years ago, Sarah and I purchased our home at 351 Hummer Drive, about six miles outside the small town of Nederland and 15 miles from Boulder. For the first time in my life, I had a home and the odd sense that there was not a next move anywhere in my future. I didn’t truly appreciate the security and stability this offered until three days ago, when our realtor listed our house and suddenly my home was for sale.
At the time I reviewed the listing, I was preparing my workshops for the National Health Care for the Homeless Conference in May. The power of the word homeless took on a new meaning at that moment. While shelter is part of having a “home,” it only explains one aspect of the experiences of homelessness. To have a place that is yours, that provides not only shelter, but stability and a sense of place in a community, does not just satisfy Maslow’s Physiological Needs (Food, Water, Shelter, Warmth) and Safety Needs (Security, Stability, Freedom from Fear), but also the Need for Belonging, as a home also provides membership to a community.
The experience of homelessness and the loss of Belonging, Safety, and Basic Physiological Needs makes being a healthy human being nearly impossible. Without a home, energy and focus has to be given to meeting these basic needs. A society that does not value ensuring that its members have housing takes away any opportunity they might have to fully experience their potential.
We have to make sure we do not mistake a “shelter” for a “home.” A shelter is a short-term intervention that meets someone’s immediate Physiological and Safety Needs. While shelters are a critical part of the service continuum, we have to make sure that our policymakers and the community understand that even the best shelter is not a home. Without the stability, security, and belonging of a home, we cannot expect the majority of people experiencing homeless to change their lives and realize a better future.
Having a home is a human right, because without a home, a person’s ability to reach their potential is stolen from them. This systematic repression of potential should be seen as both an economic and humanitarian crime against the citizens of any country. Continuing to turn our backs on the poor and traumatized means we will lose generations to violence, poverty, imprisonment, and despair. I hope that everyone, regardless of political or religious persuasion, can understand the power and need for a home. Maybe it is this connection that can bring an end to the longstanding policies that create and maintain generational poverty and homelessness.