Specters, disembodied from normal society – or what the normal think normal is – push heaped over shopping carts across the grimy landscape. There are piles of plastic bags, garbage and filthy sleeping bags, soiled clothing and shoes without bottoms. They are a visible, yet invisible class of humanity with traumatic brains and dirty, matted hair. Sometimes they talk to themselves and their imaginary friends, sometimes they punch at the air for every wrong — swinging and shouting. They sleep on the streets in doorways, on stoops, and in tents to protect themselves and their valuables from unfriendly elements. They seek like company, yet are wary of it. Feces lined sidewalks, needle-ridden curbs and gutters are an everyday backdrop.
Inner cities are full of specters. Few people dare to look at them for very long. Nobody talks to them. “Do you need something to eat?” is never said. There is no medicine. They have been enveloped by the huge fissure in society between the haves and the have nots. They have fallen to the bottom of a forgotten, foreboding pit. Specters are too weak to grab on to the welfare carousel. They are the sit-down seats that nobody rides on.
Why does society hold its collective nose and walk by so quickly? Why is there this great divide? Well for one, regular folks feel threatened by it, especially those who are a single paycheck away from eviction. And there are those who have enough problems to deal with; what could they possibly do to help? Most of civilization, though, simply doesn’t care, even though it pretends to. They can coexist just fine with this element of society as long as it’s not in their backyards. Maybe they could house these people in industrial areas or put them up in abandoned buildings. The poor you will always have with you. That’s just the way it is.
Some cities offer token programs for specters. One major city developed an apartment program for the down and out. It was much lauded. Its limit was 13 people. Each apartment came with a gift basket of toiletries from the Chamber of Commerce. This was their answer to the problem. Why did they bother? Is this the best that society has to offer – a civilization that doesn’t know if people lying down on the sidewalk are dead or alive? Is this the best it can do? Apparently it is.