Actually, it's not that hard to understand.
|Alfred Postell is a Harvard-educated lawyer. He’s also homeless.|
In L.A., the median rent is now around $1800 a month, so if you're one of those can't-afford-a-sudden-$400-expense households and you suddenly lose your job, it's a Very Big Deal. It could mean moving into your car while you begin the 28.4-week (on average) process of finding a new job.
a story about a Harvard-educated lawyer who is homeless. It's the sort of story that goes viral because it's so unexpected. But it's only unexpected because so many people are so ill-informed about homelessness. Also, we have a strong need to believe our cherished myths about education being the key to a better life blah blah BLAH BLAH. When reality collides with that sort of myth, the myth, oddly enough, tends to win.
In Los Angeles County, where I live now, about 82,000 people are homeless on any given night; 32% are college graduates.
Nationwide, 56,000 college students are homeless.
Also: In L.A., 18% of homeless men and women are veterans of the armed forces.
But: The homeless don't work, right?
We tell ourselves all kinds of myths to avoid having to understand homelessness in any kind of detail, because it's just too frightening a subject. One of the most popular myths is that homeless people are, by and large, either drug addicts or mentally ill, or both. That's pretty far from accurate. In L.A., only about 20% of homeless are mentally ill. Substance abuse is harder to quantify (since it's based mostly on self-reporting), but the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated, in 2003, that 38% of homeless people were alcohol-dependent and 26% abused other drugs. That's a lot, but it's not 100%, or even 50%.
Another myth that's comforting (somehow)—because it keeps us from having to think any further—is that many homeless people choose homelessness.
We have a strong, primal need to cling to our feel-good beliefs. If someone is poor, it's obviously because they chose that. That's the predominant myth sold in America. If you're not a millionaire, it's because you didn't choose it; you chose to be the loser you are.
Not getting that dream job? It's because you made these 10 common mistakes in your resume.
Not getting traffic to your website? It's because you didn't follow these 5 surefire headline-writing techniques.
Not getting the man of your dreams? You didn't read last month's Cosmo. Your clothes are unflattering. Your hips are too big. You're not wearing the right perfume. You're not going to the gym enough.
Not successful beyond your wildest dreams? You didn't follow the law of attraction.
That's it. That's it in a nutshell. You're unattractive. To the universe. In general.
Go live under a bridge and die.
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