During the counterculture, "bums" became "street people." And then they became "homeless." Their essence was analyzed brilliantly in the award-winning British book "Stuart: A Life Backwards." The author, Alexander Masters, dug into the DNA of various types of homeless. There is no monolith.
Well, in 2016, it is shocking, at least to this former doctoral student of linguistics, that today's New York Post headline refers to the homeless as "bums." Here you can read it.
Bums haven't linguistically existed since we Baby Boomers were conforming madly in the last vestiges of the Eisenhower era. Since that protected era we have become too aware of how easy it is to be without a means to pay rent. Or, more scary, losing the determination to keep a roof over our heads. When I was working 18 hours a day in communications at an auto company, I fantasized just pulling the plug on all that. My plan: I would move into one of the abandoned buildings in Detroit.
Yes, it's pretty simple to wind up on the street.
For some, their industry might change. And that's it. "At our age," we can't find another job.
There's that slide into alcohol. In the early 1990s, I dated a man who went from Greenwich, Connecticut, to a SRO to a dry spot under a bridge. Eventually he did make it back to Greenwich.
Just as often, early trauma gets the best of people. Why not just plop on the street.
At the end of the 1990s, I did volunteer work supposedly helping homeless mothers re-enter whatever. It could have been school or a job. They were surprisingly pleasant and without complaint.
But the odds were against most of them. They got into that pickle because they were co-dependent on men. All had been forbidden to communicate with their former lovers. The majority wound up getting kicked out of the shelter because they violated that rule. I saw little difference between how they assumed they needed men and how I assumed I needed extreme success.
In short, homelessness could be in the cards for many of us. Temporarily. For long stretches. Or even as how we get our last night's sleep on planet earth.