Rocking Homelessness? January 15, 2008 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm uncomfortable that this "How Can I Be Homeless?" question was approved. Seems to me this person should not be helped to pursue a course of action that is not only dangerous but which will almost certainly involve his making use of resources intended to help people who truly have nowhere to turn.
posted by orange swan to Etiquette/Policy at 11:14 AM (123 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Seems to me this person should not be helped to pursue a course of action that is not only dangerous but which will almost certainly involve his making use of resources intended to help people who truly have nowhere to turn.

Why not?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:17 AM on January 15, 2008


There are plenty of people pointing out in thread why it's not such a good idea. It's actually an excellent accumulation of information. The usefulness of the whole thread outweighs the OP's intentions.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:19 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


I thought it was a fascinating thread.
posted by ORthey at 11:21 AM on January 15, 2008


It also occurs to me that Jessamyn (?) may have shared your concerns, but trusted the AskMe denizens to make some good points supporting the "it's a bad idea" reasoning.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:21 AM on January 15, 2008


It's a stupid question, to be sure. Naive, disrepectful, callow, all of that.

That said, so what? It's not illegal, and is unlikely to harm anyone else. Who died and made you mommy?
posted by dersins at 11:23 AM on January 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


Couldn't disagree more. I flagged that question as "fantastic post". I think the answers are phenomenal, and the whole this should be sidebarred.
posted by grateful at 11:24 AM on January 15, 2008


which will almost certainly involve his making use of resources intended to help people who truly have nowhere to turn

Even if he does make use of resources such as a soup kitchen or a free clothing giveaway, his use of themisn't going to deprive anyone else. But, I don't really think he's going to be making use of many homeless resources anyway. It sounds more like he wants an "adventure" where he's self-sufficient. And, while I agree that his idea is foolhardy, I think it's a very interesting thread.
posted by amyms at 11:25 AM on January 15, 2008


To go further, I'd rather someone ask for and be provided with help on how to "pursue a course of action" that is admittedly dangerous than attempt to do it without any help whatsoever. The OP knows it's probably not a good idea, and is being told so by many of the folks responding in the thread.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:25 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


*them isn't
posted by amyms at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2008


We all know that AskMe threads that ask to do illegal, immoral, or unethical things are always deleted. This one's only a matter of time.
posted by Plutor at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


He states in the question I'm not looking to be told this is a bad idea but most of the answers are in fact doing that, therefore violating the 'answer the question that's asked' rule.

I wonder if The usefulness of the whole thread outweighs the OP's intentions. this is going to become an excuse in the future for not actually answering the question.

That said, wanting to be voluntarily homeless is a totally stupid idea. Homeless is not a backpacker's holiday.
posted by pieoverdone at 11:27 AM on January 15, 2008


Eliminating questions based on the possibility for harm or selfishness wouldn't leave us much of an AskMe.
posted by desuetude at 11:28 AM on January 15, 2008


Yeah, that was my thought as well. This is a self-destructive idea that is classic avoidance behavior. There was another similar thread, and I would answer this question like I answered that one. This is basically self-destructive behavior that, in my opinion, should not be facilitated. I don't think it is a good thing to be offering advice that is apt to allow the user to walk into dage such as "I want to hit rock bottom, how should I?" or "I want to drink myself to death like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas, so what should be my plan?" or "I want to weight 1,000 pounds, what should I eat?"

If answers are to be helpful, then they should facilitate harmful behavior.
posted by dios at 11:28 AM on January 15, 2008


his use of themisn't going to deprive anyone else.

Well, actually, it will. Soup kitchens and free clothing giveaways are not unlimited, infinitely renewable resources. The community center where I worked had a soup kitchen, and we would run out of food and thus had to keep to a one-meal-per-diner rule. A poverty tourist getting a meal would be taking that plate away from someone who actually needed it.
posted by schroedinger at 11:30 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


1. It wasn't approved, flags may have been raised after the fact. Only anonymous questions have to be approved.
2. We've got a pretty long history of allowing the distateful to stay. It's only questions that create site-liability that are for-sure forbidden. Everything else is a grey mishmash of competing interests. There are several answers in that thread that would be useful to someone who has/is-going-to-be homeless by the 'normal' route. With the mortgage crisis looming, I'd say it's likely someone at mefi today, will need that info someday. Seriously. If reading the rants posted to dreamhosts' blog has reminded me of anything, it's just how tightly some people's finances are. I guarantee there's someone reading metafilter right now, that's just one job firing, one bad car accident, one sick kid away from homelessness. For them, the OP is irrelevant, only the answers will matter.
posted by nomisxid at 11:30 AM on January 15, 2008


>That said, so what? It's not illegal, and is unlikely to harm anyone else.

Bullshit. There are x amount of beds at your local shelter. Now there is x-1 beds. A bed taken up by a guy with a fucking home.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2008 [13 favorites]


Of course, what I say is pointless because I clearly kan't proofread spel.
posted by dios at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2008


It also occurs to me that Jessamyn (?) may have shared your concerns, but trusted the AskMe denizens to make some good points supporting the "it's a bad idea" reasoning.

If the mod who posted this question thought that, then s/he was expecting us to ignore the poster's limits of "don't tell me not to do it, I know the risks".

I don't think this is a "OMG what a wildly inappropriate question the mods must all be high delete it NOW" question - it's just somewhat iffy.
posted by orange swan at 11:32 AM on January 15, 2008


Not to mention a guy with an internet connection, a computer, a mefi account, and is literate.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:33 AM on January 15, 2008


I'm entirely comfortable with that post being approved, because Jessamyn is clearly in there moderating and giving her own responses which temper the initial questions potentially harmful and certainly obnoxious surmise. Most everyone is giving good responses (which do not "just answer the question", but point out its obvious flaws and offer counter-suggestions). It's why we have guidelines, instead of rules and it's a net positive.
posted by Divine_Wino at 11:33 AM on January 15, 2008


It would be better if he just hadn't used the word "homeless," it's a loaded term that means more to a lot of people than "I'm sleeping in a stairwell."
posted by Bookhouse at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2008


>If answers are to be helpful, then they should facilitate harmful behavior.

Well this is a community of volunteers no one is paid to answer these questions. In other words helpful people dont want to give harmful answers. Wake me when youre willing to pay 100+ bucks a question.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2008


1. It wasn't approved, flags may have been raised after the fact. Only anonymous questions have to be approved.

Nomisxid, this was an anonymous question.
posted by orange swan at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2008


I thought it was iffy but answerable. I knew it would be a headache moderation-wise and it has been. I think there's a whole lot of speculating on what this person might be doing without having any idea what he or she will be doing. It seemed like for someone with a plan like this one, having good advice from smart people might be better than having someone delete their question from the anony queue.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:34 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Part of the problem is that the question is completely self-contradictory. (My comment pointing this out was deleted. Fair enough. Hopefully it's relevant here.) The OP knows the risks, yet knows he's naive? He doesn't want to be persuaded out of his plan — oh, unless someone has a "shocking statistic"? The question "Would this be dangerous? What are the risks?" would be a legitimate AskMe. "I understand this is risky but I'm going to do it; how might I minimize the risk?" might be legit too. "I know the risks but I don't know the risks, and I don't want people to tell me it's a bad idea unless they really think it's a bad idea" is just incoherent to start with, so it's going to be hard to debate whether the underlying question(s) are or are not legit on AskMe.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:35 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


If a guideline for Ask.Mefi is "not approved if likely to cause community uproar," and sometimes that seems like an unwritten rule, then no, it shouldn't have been approved.

If it's just "illegal?", then, yeah, no prob.

Anon's a spoiled rich dick for posting it, though.

"Boy, my folks gave me shelter and a good upbringing and my life's pretty boring. Hey, I'll pretend to be homeless for a year or two, to get all hardened and battleworthy."

Anon, if you're checking out this MeTa:

I wouldn't say join the Marines, since being dead isn't the best way to harden yourself* or enrich your life, but head to the inner city and take all that good upbringing — the good upbringing, health, funding and skills that you want to play-act as if you don't have — and put it to good use by teaching or helping run a shelter. Or join the Peace Corps or Americorps. There's much more positive, effective, and less offensive ways of testing yourself in hard, real-life circumstances than playacting at being homeless.
posted by WCityMike at 11:35 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


There's a whole lot of harm-reduction going on in that thread, which I think is great. I don't see where the question is illegal, immoral, or unethical. And an awful lot of people seem to be telling the poster to not do it and giving practical, question-answering advice.
posted by rtha at 11:39 AM on January 15, 2008


jessamyn:

I am glad you let it go knowing it would be a pain for you to deal with, thats one of the the things which makes this a good site. I think the OP is being offered a lot of good advice as well as thoughtful reflection on the whole project.

Good post. Bad idea.
posted by shothotbot at 11:41 AM on January 15, 2008


>If answers are to be helpful, then they should facilitate harmful behavior.

Hopefully that typo was clear: it shouldn't say "they shouldn't facilitate harmful behavior."

I think there's a whole lot of speculating on what this person might be doing without having any idea what he or she will be doing.

All the more reason why it should not be posted. We don't really have enough information about this person to decide what kind of advice this person needs or what their goals, intentions, or plans are.

(Also, the point about legality is an interesting one because in most cities vagrancy is a crime. And that's arguably what this guy is asking how to become.)
posted by dios at 11:42 AM on January 15, 2008


Anon's a spoiled rich dick for posting it, though.

You don't know that. I dislike the trend of people going to MeTa just so they can call the OPs in AskMe names. I appreciate that you went through teh trouble to answer the OPs question WCityMike, but how would you feel if he/she came here and saw "oh, that guy with the advice called me a dick, fuck him." I really feel like that strategy is counterproductive.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:44 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


If the mod who posted this question thought that, then s/he was expecting us to ignore the poster's limits of "don't tell me not to do it, I know the risks".

That happens all the time, especially if the poster says something like "I'm naive" along with "I know the risks". If the lecturing answers are really far from helpful, they get deleted.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:45 AM on January 15, 2008


I guess where you guys live, the homeless people are all stupid, crazy and utterly without resources. Around here, many of them are able-bodied young people, just with negative attitudes toward conformity. Beng homeless isn't depending on how much you have to be homeless. Of course, taking those charitable resources needlessly seems like some sort of anti-homelss political action, and assholish. But yes, some homeless people are assholes, who take advantage and will even steal, saints preserve us!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


No resources are being allocated to him right now because he's just talking about this alleged homelessness experiment.

Judging who on the street deserves services based on what they've got and what choices they make and whether or not they should be stubborn is an awfully frustrating game, if you want to go there.

No-one's required to answer a question that they find distasteful.
posted by desuetude at 11:50 AM on January 15, 2008


Man, that was illegible garbage. Sorry, I'm like 3 hours overdue for coffee.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 AM on January 15, 2008


There's a whole lot of harm-reduction going on in that thread, which I think is great. I don't see where the question is illegal, immoral, or unethical. And an awful lot of people seem to be telling the poster to not do it and giving practical, question-answering advice.

I completely agree with this; it's an iffy question but getting great responses, and I too think the sidebar might not be inappropriate. It should definitely stay.

On the other hand, I'm glad this MeTa thread was posted to drain the pus out of the AskMe one.
posted by languagehat at 11:53 AM on January 15, 2008


It's a fascinating thread regardless of the poster's intentions. Assuming none of us know his real identity, we can't stop him from taking the risk, but at least people provided cautionary tales. It's valuable information for the rest of us. I have absolutely no aspirations to be vagrant/homeless, but I definitely learned a lot about those who are in that situation. I'm glad the thread stood.

In a more general sense, I think that the community will tell an OP when he/she is way off course, and I don't think those types of questions need to be moderated. If someone posts "I want to cheat on my partner, how can I not get caught?" they'll be met with a slew of responses advising them not to do it. As long as the responses are constructive and not "you stupid whore", I think the thread provides value.
posted by desjardins at 11:54 AM on January 15, 2008


I think it was appropriate to approve it. I don't think the mods should be in the business of deciding what is and isn't a good idea for someone to pursue in life.
posted by OmieWise at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, hopefully even if the poster goes through with it they will have learned from the thread that it would be shitty to make use of resources genuinely homeless people need. (But I'm hoping they'll give up the whole idea. Seriously, anon, if you're reading this... don't do it!)
posted by languagehat at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2008


> You don't know that. I dislike the trend of people going to MeTa just so they can call the OPs in AskMe names.

Okay, I'll easily grant you your point that it's firmly unproductive, but MAN, it's not as if I've not read far, far, far worse in MeTa on multiple occasions. MeTa often seems to be a "blow off steam outside of the main thread" kind of place, even if that's not its official designated function. It almost seems as if MeTa is the place people go when they think the fur needs to fly and the claws need to pierce deep.
posted by WCityMike at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2008


Anon's a spoiled rich dick for posting it, though.

It seems like that kind of thinking is why this AskMe is so controversial. The OP self-described himself as naive and sheltered, and fairly obviously sees being homeless as a sort of "challenge", which many people find offensive.

That's why I think it's misleading that this MeTa is questioning the post on the grounds that it is dangerous and harmful to other people, when clearly the issue is the OP's perceived attitude. If, for example, the OP had instead posted a story about a relative that had been homeless for years and died, and that the OP wanted to experience homeless life as a way of coming to terms with the relative's death, I don't think it would have caused this kind of uproar.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:56 AM on January 15, 2008


I look forward to him live-blogging his adventures on his iPhone.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:56 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


the point about legality is an interesting one because in most cities vagrancy is a crime.

wasn't there a question in the past week by someone who wanted to know how much to tip his/her drug dealer? and that was anon, so it had to be approved. I'd much rather delete those kinds of questions than the homeless one. Whether you tip your dealer 15% or 20% does not provide insight into wider social problems.
posted by desjardins at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2008


I guess where you guys live, the homeless people are all stupid, crazy and utterly without resources.

Pretty much. Exhibit A. The Harbor Light at 17th and Pine in downtown STL.
posted by pieoverdone at 11:57 AM on January 15, 2008


Like Jessamyn said in-thread, if the OP had stayed away from the loaded term "homeless" and said "go a-vagabonding" instead, I'd hope that the reaction would be much different.
posted by waraw at 11:58 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The usefulness of the whole thread outweighs the OP's intentions.

I agreed. Keep in mind that AskMe serves as a resource not only for the asker, but for anyone else who might search for it or find it in the archives. I'm not in this situation at all and far from it, thankfully, but I guarantee you if I had just gone through some crazy domestic abuse situation and had to flee my home with nowhere else to go, I'd first call a women's shelter, and once I was tempporarily safe I'd be in the library searching AskMe and elsewhere for what people know about homelessness until I figured out what to do. The information in this thread may be important for someone aside from the OP.
posted by Miko at 11:59 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of the criticism is really over the top and misplaced.

For example: There are some questions that are by their very nature so offensive that the only appropriate answer to them, even if directly requested otherwise, is to say this is a bad idea both for your fortune and by any standard of human dignity and rights. You should be ashamed of yourself for even contemplating this.

An awful lot of good (and bad) literature, fiction and non-, has come out of authors doing this sort of experiment, or writing about characters who are doing so. (Three that come immediately to mind, beyond the afore-mentioned Into the Wild, are the biologist character in Cannery Row, a bunch of William Vollman's books, and that really thick book that will soon be a movie about the prison escapee Australian traveling in India, Shantaram, I think it's called; there is a stupendously long list of others: On the Road, all the hippy books including Peter Coyote's that Jessamyn linked a while back, Nickled and Dimed, Moritz Thomsen's books including Living Poor and The Farm on the River of Emeralds, and on and on and on.) To learn directly, and experience first-hand, the lives of people very unlike yourself is not a bad thing and should not be discouraged.

That doesn't mean that there are not more and less sensitive ways to go about doing that, and I think some of the answers had really nuanced advice for how to go about this sort of poverty tourism without being grotesquely offensive (such as hitchhike around the hippy circuit, or go backpacking in Europe, and so on).

But to label this impulse of wanting to see the world directly as "offensive" is, to me, offensive itself. Sitting at home and never speaking to people unlike yourself is offensive. Never leaving your comfort zone is offensive. People need the room to make mistakes for themselves, to experiment, to find their place in the world. Some of us manage to do so while staying firmly inside the rules -- go to school, get a job, take a week's vacation at the resort -- and are genuinely happy with that. But other people need to go and recreate Travels with Charley or bicycle the Karakoram Highway or work as WWOOFer even though doing so is useless, silly, dangerous, and bad for your retirement planning.

And honestly, which is more morally offensive: traveling "undercover" as a modern hobo for a summer, or paying $1000 a night to stay in an "eco"-resort in an area where children are routinely malnourished? At least the first might give you some sense of proportion and sympathy with those disadvantaged by how our society is structured; the second will give you a great spa experience but not much insight into how the other half lives.
posted by Forktine at 12:01 PM on January 15, 2008 [10 favorites]


Reading that thread, I'd be surprised if the OP is "helped" in pursuing his dream by what he reads there. My #1 takeway was: Don't be homeless. It sounds horrible and scary, and nothing at all like that movie "Trading Places." If anything, the thread probably extinguished whatever inclination the OP had towards poorism.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:03 PM on January 15, 2008


nthing "the value of the answers outweigh my mixed feelings about the tone of the post." There is definitely lots of good information in that thread.

I really liked how eponysterical the straightener's answer was.
posted by churl at 12:03 PM on January 15, 2008


Seems to me this person should not be helped to pursue a course of action that is not only dangerous but which will almost certainly involve his making use of resources intended to help people who truly have nowhere to turn.

He's a big big, making a potential foolish decision. If others can help keep himself safe while doing this foolish thing, then that's good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:03 PM on January 15, 2008


A big big boy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:04 PM on January 15, 2008


As OmieWise points out in the very first answer, when Orwell did that, it turned out to be the start of something quite worthwhile for the entire English-speaking world.

I think we have to give the Asker the benefit of the doubt, here.
posted by jamjam at 12:04 PM on January 15, 2008


said "go a-vagabonding" instead

Hey sailor, whydontcha try Chattanooga? Ride the choo-choo where it takes ya!
posted by yerfatma at 12:06 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lots of people decide voluntarily to "live outdoors" (as it's called here), in situations similar to the OP's. I'm not seeing how this is a bad question in any way, shape or form.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:07 PM on January 15, 2008


I thought it was iffy but answerable. I knew it would be a headache moderation-wise and it has been.... It seemed like for someone with a plan like this one, having good advice from smart people might be better than having someone delete their question from the anony queue.

Okay, if you're going to allow people the latitude to tell the poster "it's a bad idea because" and are willing to do the extra mopping up, that's a good decision.

I do wonder why this poster posted this anonymously. If you really believe something like this is a good idea, why not stand by it?
posted by orange swan at 12:09 PM on January 15, 2008


Those of you accusing us of making assumptions that this offensive are making assumptions yourself. There is nothing in the question indicating that this person is after that hipster-wannabe-beatnik Kerouac lifestyle of individualism. There is nothing indicating that he is looking to live at Walden Pond. There is nothing indicating that he is doing this to learn about homelessness in order to reach a grander awareness about life. Quite simply, everyone answering the question based on assumptions that they bring to the question.

We don't know enough nearly enough about the poster to be giving him advice on this topic. We don't know what he is looking for. We don't know what his plan is.

Yeah, he may be wanting to do this because he wants to be the next author of Into the Wild. Or he may be doing this because he is a ridiculously immature and self-destructive person who has a ill-formed romanticizing of homelessness as a way to escape the pressures and demands of everyday life.

I would submit that because we don't know, we ought to assume the worst and not facilitate it.
posted by dios at 12:12 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


As a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, my college chapter would set up a cardboard city and sleep outside on the quad for a week. It wasn't life-changing, but I did find out that the night is cold even in April and got a chance to interact with the univ. cleaning staff (who are segregated from the students by schedule). What makes it less than a complete mockery of homelessness? Intent and action.

I think the OP has every right to ask and receive good faith answers. It's only poorism if you don't engage it. The OP may be a little overconfident and self-destructive, but certainly isn't an egoist.
posted by cowbellemoo at 12:12 PM on January 15, 2008


Shit, I give up. I can't type today. My apologies for the unreadable crap.
posted by dios at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2008


yerfatma: hey, that's what I called it when I did it. People understood what I meant.
posted by waraw at 12:15 PM on January 15, 2008


little bit of spare change from someone who's actually done what he's trying to do. i went homeless out of necessity for about six months when i was about his age.

first off, i don't think it's offensive to want to go homeless. i do think it's condescending to equate his desire to test his mettle outside the boundaries to a desire to live a life of the unwanted. that's a totally different concept.

there are plenty of people in this world who live off the grid, and their version of homelessness is not the same as assumptions a lot of people seem to be making in the thread (and this one). they're not sick, they're not dangerous, and they're certainly not in need. they just don't want to belong with the rest of the world, and that's fine.

just because someone expresses the desire to get out of structure for a while doesn't mean he's a bad person, or spoiled, or overprivileged. he said it himself: he's led a typical life. it sounds to me like he needs to see if he can do something he considers outside that. getting outside structure is a great way to do that.

when i went homeless, it wasn't originally by choice, but i realized that i was making different decisions than i would with a home because i was forced to live by my wits, so i stayed outside longer than i actually needed. sounds like he might feel like he needs to test himself in a similar way.
posted by patricking at 12:19 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


If you really believe something like this is a good idea, why not stand by it?

Irrelevant and a perfect illustration of why people use the Anon option.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:20 PM on January 15, 2008


This reminds me of the post on Freegans from a couple of years ago..

The visceral rage people feel over it is kind of hard to fathom. Are they afraid that the economic system that leads to their big incomes will be undermined by alternative lifestyle choices? Or, are they guilt ridden over the destruction their lifestyle is wreaking on the world?
posted by Chuckles at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I guess where you guys live, the homeless people are all stupid, crazy and utterly without resources. Around here, many of them are able-bodied young people, just with negative attitudes toward conformity.

Maybe this is where the disconnect comes from. This is not the case where I live. If you are homeless it is because you have no choice. At the homeless shelter where I volunteer, I have had to tell hungry people "I'm sorry, you can't have another sandwich until we are sure we have enough to feed everyone tonight." A lot of nights the shelter serves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, because they don't have anything else to serve. If one of the homeless tourists from Seattle or Austin or New York came into my shelter, then it might mean one of the "stupid, crazy" homeless people that usually eats and sleeps there would be outside for the night. To me, that is not a negative attitude towards conformity, but a negative attitude towards human decency. I realize that those homeless tourists that you describe have their own problems, but it seems like there is so much more you can do as a result of a negative attitude towards conformity than pretend to be homeless.
posted by ND¢ at 12:24 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, if you're going to allow people the latitude to tell the poster "it's a bad idea because" and are willing to do the extra mopping up, that's a good decision.

That's pretty much always been allowed, as long as it isn't along the lines of "You asshole, you're wrong, you're so stupid, here's why"


I do wonder why this poster posted this anonymously. If you really believe something like this is a good idea, why not stand by it?


Oh, PLEASE, do get over yourself.

Maybe they're embarrassed or shy. Maybe friends or family know them on Metafilter. Maybe it's one of the non-anons. But really, who cares? There's a thousand and one reasons why a person might ask for an anon question and it probably has little to do with whether they a need to "stand by" their thought or idea.

Somebody had a question. Either answer the damn thing without thinking they're less of a person, be it an anon question or no, or move along. That's it, that's all ya gotta do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:25 PM on January 15, 2008


If you really believe something like this is a good idea, why not stand by it?

Because so many people are being total jackasses about it? And because that was 100% predictable?

Just because I may thing that getting my ass pierced is a totally great idea doesn't mean I want all of YOU knowing about it and/or being like "oh yeah well why should I listen to your opinion on global warming anyhow, pierced-butt?"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:26 PM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


I would submit that because we don't know, we ought to assume the worst and not facilitate it.

In general and in the case of Ask Metafilter, I vote for the policy that, lacking any more information, we assume the best.
posted by vacapinta at 12:28 PM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


I may thing that getting my ass pierced is a totally great idea

Jesus, are looking to be butt of future jokes?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2008


Just because I may thing that getting my ass pierced is a totally great idea doesn't mean I want all of YOU knowing about it and/or being like "oh yeah well why should I listen to your opinion on global warming anyhow, pierced-butt?"

Yeah, like that paragraph's totally not going to come back to haunt you.
posted by item at 12:34 PM on January 15, 2008


Because so many people are being total jackasses about it? And because that was 100% predictable?

It's up to this guy to keep his identity secret if he wants, but if he can't stand being criticized for wanting to live a homeless lifestyle, then he has a poor chance of withstanding the actual tribulations of homelessness.
posted by orange swan at 12:35 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I may thing that getting my ass pierced is a totally great idea

"Christ, what an ass hole."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:36 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't crush his lifelong dream of winning a Darwin Award.
posted by studentbaker at 12:37 PM on January 15, 2008


Oh yeah well why should I listen to your opinion on anonymity anyhow, pierced-butt?
posted by dersins at 12:38 PM on January 15, 2008


The problem with winning a Darwin Award is you don't get to enjoy it.
posted by orange swan at 12:38 PM on January 15, 2008


Seems to me this person should not be helped to pursue a course of action that is not only dangerous but which will almost certainly involve his making use of resources intended to help people who truly have nowhere to turn.

People do this all the time. Researchers, journalists, writers, artists. Just because you don't like the question, doesn't mean it shouldn't be asked. It doesn't violate the terms. Many, many AskMe posts could be misused by a reader to cause harm to themselves or others. That's not our problem. Furthermore, many seemingly misguided decisions can lead to wonderful, life changing experiences. Maybe he'll become an advocate for the homeless after spending time in the trenches (literally). Settle down.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


but if he can't stand being criticized for wanting to live a homeless lifestyle, then he has a poor chance of withstanding the actual tribulations of homelessness.

This why AskMe needs mods, because people tend to a lot of projecting, while insisting they are so very, very right and things just HAVE to be this way.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:42 PM on January 15, 2008


I guess where you guys live, the homeless people are all stupid, crazy and utterly without resources. Around here, many of them are able-bodied young people, just with negative attitudes toward conformity.

I think Santa Cruz is an unusual case in this respect (perhaps somewhat like seattle etc.) I also think that most of us who live here really don't see very much of these people's lives. Sure, they look like harmless able-bodied non-conformists when sitting on pacific with the "homeless, please give me cash for weed" signs, but that's really only one aspect of their lives. We really have no idea what their medical condition is, where they sleep, if they've been raped, etc. (Apologies if you do have some more direct knowledge of this kind of information.) Also, Santa Cruz really does have a lot of homeless who do not fit your description (i.e. not homeless by choice), and my guess would be that this is actually a significant majority. In fact, I suspect it would be the vast majority of non-seasonal homeless. You do not tend to see them as much on pacific, especially in the summer, and I think in general on the west side of town.
posted by advil at 12:44 PM on January 15, 2008


Just because I may thing that getting my ass pierced is a totally great idea doesn't mean I want all of YOU knowing about it

Send me a MeMail; I think we can work something out without getting the hoi polloi involved.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 12:47 PM on January 15, 2008


Jesus, are looking to be butt of future jokes?

There's no U in my name. I was looking for an example that lacked realism.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:49 PM on January 15, 2008


MetaTalk: a grey mishmash of competing interests, to drain the pus out of the AskMe one.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:50 PM on January 15, 2008


Dios - I would submit that because we don't know, we ought to assume the worst and not facilitate it.

Or - as with many other Anonymous AskMes, those answers that are based on assumptions could always state those assumptions up front. If the anonymous poster then wants to edit out all those answers with incorrect assumptions, so be it.

Having said that, I thought it was a stupid question (because I'm assuming that this is an immature kid looking to make him/herself interesting somehow) and have no intention of facilitating that.
posted by Sk4n at 12:53 PM on January 15, 2008


I think there's a whole lot of speculating on what this person might be doing without having any idea what he or she will be doing.

All the more reason why it should not be posted. We don't really have enough information about this person to decide what kind of advice this person needs or what their goals, intentions, or plans are.


By that logic we can't answer questions like "what's the best chef's knife?" since we can't be certain the person isn't going to use it to commit a crime.

----

He states in the question I'm not looking to be told this is a bad idea but most of the answers are in fact doing that, therefore violating the 'answer the question that's asked' rule.

There's no such rule. At best it's a guideline, to be tempered by common sense. In fact, I could point to any number of AskMe questions where the "best answer" and/or answer praised by the OP did not answer the question as written, but raised points the OP had not previously considered.

I wonder if The usefulness of the whole thread outweighs the OP's intentions. this is going to become an excuse in the future for not actually answering the question.

So what if it does? That can still be handled on a case-by-case basis, just as answers which don't answer the question are now (flagged/deleted if they're truly unhelpful, stay up if they're helpful even without answering the question as written).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:55 PM on January 15, 2008


While there are a lot of very well thought out and quite convincing comments on this thread that take the opposite perspective from mine, I have to admit, I was pretty shocked by this question. When I was 10, my mother, two brothers and I left my drug addict abusive father in the middle of the night. For six months, we lived in cheap motels or packed into friend's or relatives spare bedrooms, or in rundown women's shelters. We carried our clothes in trash bags and I almost cried because I was so happy when someone gave me a cardboard box to use instead. We hid from my father when he drove around with a gun in his truck, trying to find us and punish us. Eventually, my mom found a $10/hour job so we wouldn't starve. We were white and middle class with way more of a safety net than the true homeless. It was still the most horrifying time of my life, and has informed everything I believe about home, security, and safety to this day. I have a true fear, almost a phobia, of every finding myself in a situation again where I have to say to myself, "I don't live anywhere. I don't know where I'll sleep tonight."

So to have even brushed that close to homelessness, I found the poster's cavalier attitude toward one of my biggest fears kind of hard to take. Still, I think the thread yielded both some useful resources for anyone in that situation and some good arguments as to why it's a pretty stupid idea, so I agree with letting it hang around.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:57 PM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've been homeless. Lived in a shelter for three months. Lived in a transitional living program for a year.

Poor sleeping conditions. Bad food. Sketchy company. Occasional acts of violence and abuse. Stuff disappears. People treat you badly. Your future in uncertain. A little money trickles in, then quickly runs out.

It was about the same experience you would get living on the road as part of a dirt-poor band. I'd recommend our AskMe questioners learns how to play drums.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:04 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


> I would submit that because we don't know, we ought to assume the worst and not facilitate it.

In general and in the case of Ask Metafilter, I vote for the policy that, lacking any more information, we assume the best.


I'm more with vacapinta here, leaning toward the latter—but my inclination as far as filling in the blanks (as opposed to judging intent) is that in the face insufficient information it's probably best to assume the likely middle-ground and allow for some error bars.

If answering a question usefully requires an assumption about the what or the why or the how, there's nothing wrong with answering to various reasonable assumptions. In a sense, that's what we end up in aggregate when different people make different assumptions, and so though subsets of those answers will tweak different people, it's not a bad end result.

But if each individual answerer would take the time to not just assume the best or the worst but to recognize that they were making an assumption and try to answer not only to that but to the alternate assumptions they didn't leap to, it might moderate some of this stuff a bit and raise the signal/usefulness in general.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:04 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's up to this guy to keep his identity secret if he wants, but if he can't stand being criticized for wanting to live a homeless lifestyle, then he has a poor chance of withstanding the actual tribulations of homelessness

Ah yes, these situations are exactly parallel.
posted by desuetude at 1:06 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Certainly a learning experience. If I had not followed jessamyn's "crusty punk types" link, I would never have thought of making a meal of a bruised banana and a bottle of Tabasco.
posted by Cranberry at 1:09 PM on January 15, 2008


Or what Cortex said.
posted by Sk4n at 1:17 PM on January 15, 2008


There's no U in my name. I was looking for an example that lacked realism.

Y do you jess with this man?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:23 PM on January 15, 2008


Just because I may thing that getting my ass pierced is a totally great idea doesn't mean I want all of YOU knowing about it.

Point taken. However, if you're looking for recommendations on ass modification, might I suggest horns? Ass horns - while a niche market - have a certain "je ne sais quoi" that piercing just doesn't capture.
posted by grateful at 1:24 PM on January 15, 2008


I had N45-grade Neodymium magnets inserted into my ass-cheeks. Now I can climb onto the roof of a semi trailer and sit up there for a thousand miles without ever falling off. Free transportation, bro! There are a couple of downsides, though, if you're thinking about doing it yourself: you can't keep credit cards in your wallet; and it's always best to check hookers for piercings.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:39 PM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Seems to me this person should not be helped to pursue a course of action that is not only dangerous but which will almost certainly involve his making use of resources intended to help people who truly have nowhere to turn.

If this person had not asked the question, they would probably made use of shelters, soup kitchens, etc. when/if they did this. Because they asked the question, people pointed out that he shouldn't make use of these resources. The poster might now be less inclined to use these resources than otherwise. Many responses also point out dangers that the OP might not have considered.

What makes you think that this thread won't lead to the OP making decisions that would lead to a safer course of action, with more resources available to others, than they would have without the thread?
posted by yohko at 1:43 PM on January 15, 2008


os, my d'oh. I'd swear it wasn't anonymous when I first saw it, though obviously it was all along.
posted by nomisxid at 1:46 PM on January 15, 2008


Out of curiosity, what would a good answer to this question look like?

I'm not trying to claim that I can say with certainty that the question should be deleted, but damn. Homeless people get beaten death, pissed on, lit on fire, raped and more simply because they're homeless and the more vicious among us see them as a target that can't fight back and won't be missed.

Now, I know. Other people have those things happen to them, too. In fact, there are many dangerous things that a person can do that are allowed to be asked about on Askme. I know.

On the other hand, I still don't know what a good answer to this question would be besides "It's a really bad idea because it's really dangerous, and if you think this is a good idea then there's ample reason to question your ability to provide for yourself in this situation."

I suppose part of what's going through my head right now are images of newspapers saying "Voluntary Homeless murdered in Detroit." The sub-headline reading something like "Encouraged by website."

Another part of what's going through my head right now would be someone posting to askme a question like this:

"I want to walk around in Laramie, Wyoming late at night by myself with a sign around my neck saying 'Gays Rule. Straight Guys Who Don't Like It Can Suck My Dick.' Any advice?" I mean, what advice is there besides "this is a bad idea?"
posted by shmegegge at 1:48 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd swear it wasn't anonymous when I first saw it, though obviously it was all along.

Not necessarily.
posted by grateful at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2008


Since this is MetaTalk, and not AskMe, at least we can editorialize on how stupid a decision the OP is going to make. To quote Pulp Fiction:

VINCENT
So if you're quitting the life,
what'll you do?

JULES
That's what I've been sitting here
contemplating. First, I'm gonna
deliver this case to Marsellus. Then,
basically, I'm gonna walk the earth.

VINCENT
What do you mean, walk the earth?

JULES
You know, like Caine in "KUNG FU."
Just walk from town to town, meet
people, get in adventures.

VINCENT
How long do you intend to walk the
earth?

JULES
Until God puts me where he want me
to be.

VINCENT
What if he never does?

JULES
If it takes forever, I'll wait
forever.

VINCENT
So you decided to be a bum?

JULES
I'll just be Jules, Vincent – no
more, no less.

VINCENT
No Jules, you're gonna be like those
pieces of shit out there who beg for
change. They walk around like a bunch
of fuckin' zombies, they sleep in
garbage bins, they eat what I throw
away, and dogs piss on 'em. They got
a word for 'em, they're called bums.
And without a job, residence, or
legal tender, that's what you're
gonna be – a fuckin' bum!
posted by KokuRyu at 1:53 PM on January 15, 2008


"I want to walk around in Laramie, Wyoming late at night by myself with a sign around my neck saying 'Gays Rule. Straight Guys Who Don't Like It Can Suck My Dick.' Any advice?" I mean, what advice is there besides "this is a bad idea?"

Have your sign laminated because it might rain,
and avoid Comic Sans. I'd recommend an elegant serif font, like Bodoni, to give your sign a bit more flair.
posted by Floydd at 2:00 PM on January 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


I'm not asking who, but just out of curiousity, were we to learn an anonymous poster (not necessarily this one) was doing something dangerous, do the admins know who the OPs of anonymous questions are? Or is it anonymized and randomized somehow?
posted by WCityMike at 2:23 PM on January 15, 2008


We can track it down if we need to, yes. I went into detail about it a day or two ago.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:32 PM on January 15, 2008


I feel conflicted about this, having both been friends with a bunch of crustpunks, including a guy who's now a teacher who wrote a children's book about hopping trains and being homeless, and doing outreach and dealing with folks who are involuntarily homeless. That might be part of the disconnect—just a brief skim of this thread seems to have folks who have been involved with serious NPOs and social services giving a "What the fuck would you ever WANT to be homeless for?" and people with a little bit more artsy-fartsy background saying, "Sure, why not?"

Astro Zombie's remark was pretty on-point; if I was going in there to give advice that was only half flippant, I'd tell the OP to join a shitty band or hook up with a touring Food Not Bombs crew. Or, really, to go to Western Europe, where there's more of a camaraderie among expats tramping.

But that's not to deny that being involuntarily homeless is a really terrible experience, and that it comes with all sorts of horrible degradations that make it impossible to recommend.
posted by klangklangston at 2:41 PM on January 15, 2008


We don't know enough nearly enough about the poster to be giving him advice on this topic.

Then don't.
posted by phearlez at 2:45 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


orange swan: Seems to me this person should not be helped to pursue a course of action that is not only dangerous but which will almost certainly involve his making use of resources intended to help people who truly have nowhere to turn.

It seems to me that, for every kid who decides to become homeless and take some street resources because of that thread, there will be a dozen already- or imminently-homeless people who will be helped by it. I say leave it up; it's at least a start as a link to some resources for them.
posted by koeselitz at 2:47 PM on January 15, 2008


Then don't.

That pretty much sums it up. It's simple: If you can't or don't want to answer the question, just don't. It is not hard to step aside and let people who know what they are talking about share their knowledge.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:50 PM on January 15, 2008


What koeselitz said. The advice in that thread is useful to a homeless person whether the person becomes homeless due to circumstances of life or their own choices (which itself is a philosophical issue beyond the scope of this thread). There's plenty of warning in the thread about the downsides, and those warnings in themselves constitute advice to the involuntarily homeless too.

"Don't swim in the river, there are crocodiles!"
"Whoops, I fell in the river. I might not be able to avoid them, but I'm glad I was warned about the crocodiles."
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:21 PM on January 15, 2008


I vaguely know a bunch of the folks in jessamyn's "crusty punks" link (in the askme thread) and, well, most of these people are pretty hardcore - and not just in the "urban outdoorsmen skills" department.

You wouldn't be able to tell it just from the photos, but many of the folks in those pics have a lot of real-world skills and experiences. One of the girls in those pics is way into electronics and engineering. Her work is so good she's contracted for Google. Others are hardware hackers. Some are way into sewing and fashion design. If you observe the photos closely, a lot of them have rather sophisticated home-brew instruments or portable sound amplifiers. Note the portable speakers, and the dude with the freaky guitar with all the boxes bolted on to it. Circuit-bent and self-amplified, undoubtably.

A bunch of those pics are from New Orleans. They went there to help with cleanup and rescue and to set up a soup kitchen. From the pics I've seen and the stories I've heard, it was a success. Some folks are still down there feeding people. Some folks liked it there so much they stayed.

Not your grand-father's hobo, for sure. Granted, there's plenty of run-of-the-mill trainhoppers around, but these folks aren't it.

I really should write my damn book already. I've been homeless a whole lot. I've been homeless-homeless, vagabonding, couch-surfing, on the road, etc...

I've been "working homeless" and it was one of the best periods of my life. My boss even knew, and would even drop me off along the freeway and arroyo where I was camped. Laundry and shower facilities were available on-campus, and I even was able to rig up a pringles-can WiFi antennae to grab wireless internet from out in the sticks.

Even now I'm technically homeless - a digital nomad, even. I don't have an apartment or house. I just have a shared art studio and a couple of places I can go crash on a couch. My life is inordinately inexpensive. I make my bread-and-butter doing tech support, consulting, graphic design and art, along with a some assistance for stability. No job, no bank, no car. Just me and my computers.

No, none of it is as glamorous or as interesting as the romantics make it out to be - but I like it, and it's what I know.

posted by loquacious at 3:29 PM on January 15, 2008 [12 favorites]


God damn it loquacious!

I have completely failed to grasp who you are.

I've always thought of you as completely eccentric, absolutely arrogant, and threateningly brilliant-- and while two out of three of isn't supposed to be so bad, this really does change everything.
posted by jamjam at 4:42 PM on January 15, 2008


VINCENT
No Jules, you're gonna be like those pieces of shit out there who beg for change. They walk around like a bunch of fuckin' zombies, they sleep in garbage bins, they eat what I throw away, and dogs piss on 'em. They got a word for 'em, they're called bums. And without a job, residence, or legal tender, that's what you're gonna be – a fuckin' bum!


Yeah, things ended up turning out pretty well for ol' Vincent Vega. Good thing he kept his job.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:52 PM on January 15, 2008


I've always thought of you as completely eccentric, absolutely arrogant, and threateningly brilliant-- and while two out of three of isn't supposed to be so bad, this really does change everything.

I do hope you were able to drop "absolutely arrogant". I'm just some guy, y'know? I look up to lots and lots of people.
posted by loquacious at 4:56 PM on January 15, 2008


Brilliantly arrogant, threateningly complete, and eccentrically absolute?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:01 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


^^^not a dig
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:35 PM on January 15, 2008


He also looks a bit like a young Stephen King. Mindblowing. I can wrangle cattle on horseback. We're all full of surprises. Also, cocks.


(Okay I'm sorry, but as a newly discovered meme, how am I gonna keep my hands off that one?)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:43 PM on January 15, 2008


We're all full of surprises. Also, cocks.

Some of us are just full of the first item.
posted by orange swan at 6:08 PM on January 15, 2008


Some of us are just full of the first item
Not when I'm around.
posted by aramaic at 7:12 PM on January 15, 2008


*sigh*

Really? Are we going here, again?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:24 PM on January 15, 2008


Yet another pointless MeTa asking for a question to be deleted. The Straightener, jessamyn and others had already moved the thread well into "amazingly useful" territory long before this thread showed up.

*shakes head*

You have to be kind of blind not to see the value in that question standing as is, or even as it was this morning.
posted by mediareport at 8:15 PM on January 15, 2008


Some of us are just full of the first item
Not when I'm around.


Because then we are full of shit also?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:26 PM on January 15, 2008


Nope, this. Knew I'd snare someone, didn't think it'd be a mod.
posted by aramaic at 5:52 AM on January 16, 2008


Yet another pointless MeTa asking for a question to be deleted.

I'd like you to show me where in this thread I have requested that this question be deleted. I must have missed that I did that.
posted by orange swan at 5:54 AM on January 16, 2008


What were you proposing? That nobody answer the question?
posted by grateful at 6:56 AM on January 16, 2008


aramaice, The Meta sites aren't hunting grounds, so lets not treat'em as such, ok? In short, please knock off whatever games you're trying to play.


orangeswan, you're uncomfortable that it was approved. Sounds like you're asking that it never should have been put up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:06 AM on January 16, 2008


God damn it loquacious!
and would even drop me off along the freeway and arroyo where I was camped.
You had better not have been in my secret spot under my secret bush in my arroyo... I keep meaning to go back and visit one day, I'll bet some little piece of my stuff is still there.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:42 AM on January 16, 2008


What were you proposing? That nobody answer the question?

orangeswan, you're uncomfortable that it was approved. Sounds like you're asking that it never should have been put up.


I merely wanted to discuss the thread.
posted by orange swan at 8:58 AM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I got a lot out of this thread, orange swan; I even think it's an excellent thread apart from my idiosyncratic likes and dislikes.

I'm delighted you posted it.
posted by jamjam at 2:56 PM on January 16, 2008


Isn't this just "Into the Wild" for somebody who is too much a pussy for Alaska?
posted by Megafly at 12:33 PM on January 17, 2008



Isn't this just "Into the Wild" for somebody who is too much a pussy for Alaska?


Into The Wild was Into The Wild for somebody who is too much a pussy for Alaska, apparently.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:39 PM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


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