Homelessness - NI 503- June 2017
A note from the editor
The meaning of home
I still remember buying our first (and only) house decades ago; pinching ourselves that we’d made such an impossible leap into the financial void.
It was a late autumn afternoon when I slid the key in the lock and tentatively opened the front door for the first time. The rooms were empty and echoing; shadows of past lives seemed to hang in the air.
Then, gradually, that house became our home. We patched and painted the walls and filled the rooms with cast-off furniture. The closets and cupboards were crammed with stuff. And a mountain of memories piled up: babies, birthdays, dinner parties, Christmas mornings, first bicycle rides, play forts in the basement – life.
For me, that’s the core meaning of ‘home’ – it’s bricks-and-mortar, yes. But it’s more than that. It is also shelter wrapped in memory. That sense of security and of belonging is lost when people are homeless. But how do we calculate our loss when we are unable or unwilling to meet the challenge of housing those who have fallen between the cracks?
In the words of the old Phil Ochs’ song: ‘There but for fortune go you or I’.
The idea of home also comes under attack when the physical environment is threatened – as in our feature on the depredations of the sand-miners in Cambodia. And from Nigeria we report on the enormous effort to make the country polio-free.
Wayne Ellwood for the New Internationalist co-operative.