I used to use the word "homeless", referring to people who lived on the streets. Then I moved into a little camper (after living in a hammock for three months), and I felt homeless, in the normal, socially accepted understanding of the word--without a house.
Why did I feel homeless?
I didn't own the land I was on. Ok, renters don't either, but they're not homeless--that wasn't it.
I didn't pay for the land I was using--but I did work in exchange for its use.
I didn't have numbers on the tree next to the hammock, or currently, on my camper. Numbers don't make a home....
I didn't have a "normal" kitchen, or a shower, or a bathroom, though I had a camp kitchen, and a kitchen and shower available to me. Do rooms make a home?
Nobody gave me a key, nobody passed on vague threats for care, and nobody lives above, below, beneath, or beside me. Seriously? Nothing to do with homelesness....
"But you are kind of homeless...."
A few days ago I went for coffee with a friend. I'm not always as clean as I used to be or would like to be, and the cold weather has me wearing umpteen layers, and I carry a "just in case" bag in my truck. There's a headlamp on my dash, and a USB charging station for all my gadgets in the power outlet, cuz I don't have electricity yet. I told him sometimes all my layers, how I look, and my preparedness made me feel homeless. He leaned across the table and said, "But you are kind of homeless...."
So what makes home??
I have a roof over my head. It's a thin one. But it's shelter.
I am warm, much as my friends are incredibly worried that I'm lying. Merino wool and layers, people. That and a lot of experimentation.
I have food, and I have a kitchen, much as it doesn't really function as a "normal" one should.
I feel safe. The eyes in the treeline feel curious rather than threatening; my dog is more than reassuring, and I'd trust him with my life any day.
And when I go to bed at night, my dog on the floor, my cat at my feet, the stars out my window, and peace and quiet everywhere around me (even when it's monsooning outside), I feel like I'm home.
I have everything that I need (and I definitely need everything I have). Home isn't about what's not there or what is there. It's not about the roof or the rooms or the space or lack thereof. It's not about what's in the cupboards--or the boxes or the bags if there are no cupboards. Home isn't doors or dishes or flooring or owning anything.
Home is how I feel when I lie my head down at night.
Some people choose to live on the streets (some people don't, but that's not what this post is about), and some people choose to not live in standard, traditional structures. Some people choose to live in those structures as squatters, but are still considered homeless... do they feel homeless? My guess is sometimes, but mostly not, if they have what's most important to them--each other, a guitar, food, warmth...
So I will never be using the word "homeless" again. "Roofless", maybe, or "people who live on the street", or "squatters", or whatever literally describes their situation. Homeless? Maybe, but not always, and in most situations, probably not.
To your adieu, old word...