The Hidden Anarchy Among Homeless Youth
Written by Jack Wahlquist.
I live in a “youth transitional program”, which is a longterm housing shelter intended to transition homeless/abused youth to stable lives and housing. My program is run by The Salvation Army and the director is an openly married lesbian. We recently received funding from a church who specifically chose us because of our diverse inclusion of gay people and lack of discrimination. So, for any news you’ve read against The Salvation Army (or churches for that matter), here’s something entirely different. Supportive, inclusive, interactive. A community that lives and lets live.
I already know that the community in my building is very strongly established, natural, and open with our own differences. We help each other out with finding jobs and routinely share food by choice, but also respect property rights and negotiate. Some people sell, trade, or give away things they don’t need. Recently my neighbor made me dinner in exchange for using my debit card to sign them up for a free week’s trial of Hulu. With the high number of card players we have in the building, Yu Gi Oh cards are a currency, if albeit “decentralized fiat”.
Beyond my program’s building is also a neighborhood that is surprisingly connected and aware. There’s an older lady next door who often gives residents small jobs in exchange for a few dollars. The owner of a car dealership down the road also offers to help residents get jobs in this year’s state fair; the grounds are only a few blocks from our building. The local Chinese market has a lot of Chinese-speaking customers and also knows our residents well. The college kids around the neighborhood also play basketball with us on our court. There’s a small cafe a few blocks down that people of the neighborhood frequent, and our residents are inclusive in this. A few miles down the road there’s also a volunteer-based grocery co-op, which I have been volunteering at to add to my resume.
Not to mention, every year the state fair opens there’s a spontaneous throng of entrepreneurs selling bottled drinks out of their coolers on street corners, and musicians like myself play for tips. The money comes rolling in, because it’s easy to make a profit with prices slightly lower than the expensive food and drinks inside the fair. People rent out their lawns and parking lots for parking at $10 and $20. I got a free ticket to the fair for helping with my building’s parking.
Jeffrey Tucker seems to encourage ‘education’ on anarchy as the key to making real societal changes. But I think breaking it down to tangible, daily life occurrences is the best way to go. When I start from a negotiating standpoint, people tend to negotiate back. Anarchy is such a natural state of existence (pun on “state” intended), that people can often be tricked into living anarchist. Furthermore, our program is one of the least-state funded (with high donations) and one of the most successful in the Twin Cities. It also has an unusually wide age range, at 16-25 for various sections of the building. This makes for greater diversity and a stronger tendency for residents to get jobs instead of welfare. Though there is still some lingering welfare-supported culture, it isn’t as prevalent as other areas with related problems.
All in all, my current little Minnesotan world is oozing with spontaneous, anarchist community. I feel that long after I leave this place, it will still hold some of the funniest, most unique stories from a truly diverse community of culture AND ideas. I had the thought for a long time that I was more sentimental than my neighbors, but in recent times with old residents moving out, they come back to visit and have expressed the same gratitude at having befriended us. In any other context, we wouldn’t have found things in common. Yet somehow, it’s more about repeatedly hanging out together, and less about actually having something in common. That it takes time, and after investment is when you find those stronger connections.
Most of us know that besides our friendships there, we probably will lose contact with many of our acquaintances as we move out. It’s very convenient to just roll out of your apartment down the hall to hang out. And people get really busy. They move on. But we’ll all have a connection based on undeniably unique and crazy stories, like the time (names changed) Sarah peed her pants at a bus stop in Dinkytown, or when Alex hid in the cabinet to scare Hanna when she got home from work. Or when DJ paid Alex $20 to drink a full bottle of cooking wine we found behind a bush. Someday we’ll be older, we’ll have moved on. Who knows where each of us will end up.
But thanks to my community here, I have found that living anarchist was only a step away, and I’ve already accomplished it.
If you enjoyed this post check out Jack’s book Transformation of the Birds and consider sending him a bitcoin tip to: 1K2Uq3fPzcVV5GaMts2MCJiZ