Please, don’t call me homeless

We found this article about Norman Carroll and his opinion about the meaning of unhoused thought provoking. What is your opinion?

NORMAN CARROLL’S INTELLIGENCE AND COMMITMENT HAVE GAINED THE RESPECT OF THOSE WHO GET PAID TO HELP THE HOMELESS

By Joe Rodriguez, Mercury News

Norman Carroll lights a cigarette, blows a polite puff away from his visitor and stretches his long, thin arms along the back of a donated couch in his tiny, studio apartment in Silicon Valley’s most desirable town. He is talking about his days begging on the main drag and a child who opened his eyes.

“I was panhandling at lunch in front of Longs on University Avenue.” This was in Palo Alto in 1998. “But the money was good for only an hour or two.”

A little boy walking with his mom stared at Carroll, who back then already had the same scraggly, lopsided beard covering a face beaten by the weather, arthritis, heart failure, depression and demons.

“The little boy said to me, `You don’t have a house, do you?’ ”

Carroll sticks the butt into a full ashtray and delivers the bottom line.

“That little boy didn’t think of me as someone to step over, ignore or push out of town,” he says. “To him I was just somebody without a house. That’s when I realized I was unhoused, not homeless.”

The distinction between being homeless and “unhoused” may sound meaningless to you and me, but Carroll has been pressing his viewpoint tirelessly in Palo Alto ever since and getting results.

He delivered a speech he wrote, “Please, Don’t Call Me Homeless,” to the town’s Human Relations Commission four years ago.

“Palo Alto is most definitely my home,” the panhandler said to a gathering stunned by his speaking ability. “It’s where I’m comfortable, within the limits of my situation. It’s where I want to be, though not necessarily how. I am simply lacking a house, walls, roof, doors, locks and the security that comes with them.”

And now, local housing and social service providers are listening to the logic of this bent but unbroken man.

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