I was reminded in watching this video that when considering homelessness, there are few symbols as powerful as the house key. When speaking to people with lived experiences of homelessness, the transition that is most meaningful, or that which they most desire, is a space of their own, and a key to lock it to be safe. Yes, food, mental health, recovery, and clothing are all crucial in terms of human needs, but safe space is essential. It is humanizing.
A key symbolized more than a place of one’s own, it also means:
- Safety, particularly for women escaping violence
- Control, I will let in or keep out who I want
- Hope, I am no longer labelled ‘homeless’
- Self-worth, I deserve my own space in the world
- Dignity, I no longer have to live out private functions in a public venue
This last point came up frequently in the interviews I conducted for my doctoral dissertation. People spoke to having no place to live out intimate relationships, struggle with substance use, catch up on rest, feel down or ill, that wasn’t public and exposed. Then in living out these human functions they would be punished, deemed inappropriate for public spaces.
There is so much power of a key.