What is a Home?

So, I wrote a blog some time ago about a man who was living in a tree who was considered homeless.  There, I raised the question: was he really homeless if he was clearly living in a tree?

The question re-emerged the other day when I was reading a piece of newspaper I was about to use to clean my bathroom mirror.  The title of the article was “Brother searches for friends of deceased homeless man”, despite the fact that the brother of the man who died was quoted in the interview as saying, “He used to stay in rental places under the care of the Ministry of Social Development, but then he chose to live outside.  That was his home.”

Why is it that had he chosen to live under government care, he would have been considered a resident, but because he chose instead to live outside, he was homeless?  Somewhere along the line our connection to nature became so severed that anyone choosing to live in anything approximating the outdoors gets labelled homeless, even when they clearly feel that their abode is home.

It leads me to ask, what is a home?  I asked a friend this question after reading the article and he recounted a story about a friend of his who grew up in a terribly negative home life because his parents didn’t love each other any more.  When he asked them later in life why they stayed together despite the enmity between them, they said they did so to make sure he had a home.

Anyone might call that house a home because we’ve come to think of modern domestic dwellings as homes, but clearly it wasn’t.  Home is at least partly about the connection a person feels.  We’ve all experienced a deep sense of home in places we’d never been before, and probably also felt not at home in the places we’ve lived.

So, why then do people refer to those who feel very much at home outdoors as homeless?  Their sense of home, living in constant connection with nature, is almost certainly far deeper than those of us who spend most of our time indoors, separated from manifestations of life.  If anyone is homeless, isn’t it we, who have lost that fundamental connection?