Drifting by Choice

Joe Kloc’s essay in the Paris Review about people who choose to be homeless is really fantastic and super interesting. An excerpt:

“These days, [Z. is ] ‘between a few places,’ he said, passing his time chatting up strangers on the subway and in Christopher Park, a block-sized patch of grass in Greenwich Village. (‘It’s the last vestige of decrepitude,’ he explained.) When I asked Z. why he chose this life of wandering and park benches, he told me he that if I wanted to understand people like him I should go read a book called Subways Are for Sleeping.

“Published in 1958 by the journalist Edmund Love, Subways Are for Sleeping chronicles the day-to-day lives of a handful of transient New Yorkers that Love met during a year he spent living on the street. ‘I was caught up in a whirlwind,’ Love wrote in the introduction. ‘When it all ended, I found myself walking the streets. I needed more than just a job. I needed to reassess life … So I drifted.’”

I really liked this piece, and it’s really tempting and romantic to hope that most of the people I see on living on the steets are choosing to live that lifestyle. But it’s clear that’s not true. The “Twilight People” are a small segment of homeless people choosing this lifestyle, as is their right. But so many other people living on the streets and sleeping in subways are there because of dire circumstance and desperation.

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