For the purpose of my ethnography project, in this case, I chose to study the life of the homeless people within the local area. For the purpose of the project, I will use the name “street dwellers” referring to the homeless people and will also not use their real names for the case of those that I interviewed to avoid causing any harm to them or being insulted (Moore, 143). I also promised them of nondisclosure and therefore, am keeping their identities and also the name of the street and town withheld to avoid any information being linked to them directly. It is because the street dwellers that I engaged with were of a small cohort at one of the corners in the local area. The principal purpose of the ethnography is to have a better understanding of the lives, survival, and reasons that drove the individuals to end up as street dwellers and also to understand the reason why they live in small cohorts (Moore, 144-146). For the purpose of this, paper, the street dwellers are defined as those individuals and families that live in the streets, cars, abandoned buildings, train or bus stations and other areas not meant for human habitation. The major questions are “how and what is the experience of being homeless? What are the challenges faced? How did they end up as street dwellers? Do they live with their families or not? Why do they live in small groupings?” The primary aspect, I wanted to ascertain in the study was as to whether the street dwellers are ever happy, fulfilled and have a purpose in their lives or do they just lead a life of misery as the places they called home and their dressing suggested.
The observation and engagement with the street dweller spun over a period of 3 days and four nights that we spent with them. I had to observe and then later engage them on their day to day lives. I observed that in the morning they would wake up very early in the morning and as if it was a ritual or regular practice ensure that they are all awake before they set out for their daily lives. There were also clear boundaries that existed between cohorts and as Johnnie informed me, they have their boundaries as well. Members of one group could not cross the border and go unpunished. They also had a young lady and mother to two and was surprised how she evaded the social services officers to remain with the children on the streets. It was clear that it was the combined effort and protection that the other groups members of whom out of 15 there were twelve men offered the protection. The demographics of the street dwellers were also diversified; the group had individuals of all descent that lived together and in peace as long as one belonged to the in-group. They would also share the spoils that they took home for the day and took time before bed to tell stories, others pray.
The majority of the dwellers ended on the streets because of lack of papers. They were immigrants that lacked legal papers hence the need to evade the authorities in avoidance of deportation. Malcolm was fast to let me know that he would rather remain on the streets than go back home. Others were ex-convicts that had no families to take them back or faced the abject rejection of society due to their past transgressions (Howard, 60). Ahmed was bitter narration how he was abandoned by his mother and other siblings even after serving a ten-year sentence for child molestation. They now considered the groupings that they lived in the new families that they never could have and protected each other at all costs.
While watching the street dwellers, it was clear that despite any living, social relationships are fundamental. They were able to come together, accept one another and harness their energies and intelligence to remain alive on the streets. It was also clear that rules among human beings can never lack for there to be peaceful co-existence (Moore, 149). Even the cohorts had to set rules on territory and also engagements within the groups. For example, Brian informed me that they took the time to watch Mary and the babies at night and also during the day it is their responsibility to ensure that she is not caught by the authorities to avoid losing the baby (Howard, 60). To my surprise majority of them ended up on the streets due to past mistakes and others were there as a result of having broken laws. It was ironical that the streets were the safest places for the immigrants and the recovering addicts and ex-cons. Even more ironically, the street dwellers lived in very tight family units that were of diverse races and demographics while at the same time the well-off neighbors in our neighborhoods cannot stand living with a colored neighbor without raising false alarms of feeling threatened (Moore, 150).
In conclusion, the street dwellers are leading a healthy life. In fact, they proved to be happier than anticipated. The absence of a stable physical shelter does not stop them from having substantial mental, emotional and spiritual homes in one another. The street dwellers sleep with a family on their face because the day came to an end without either of them being deported, taken back to jail or their child being taken away. They find escape and solace as being street dwellers and therefore, it is how they lead their lives of fulfillment. Contrary to what I formerly believed in, they are happy, fulfilled and have a purpose in their lives.
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