Analyzing the difference between a house and a home.
A House Is Not a Home
I have two residences, a house and a dorm. At both of these places I have a bed, I have a shower, and I have food. Every night when I go to sleep I don't have to worry about the weather or being found by the police. I don't even have to fear that my things will be stolen or worry about finding a new place to live every day. I have a place to live, two of them in fact. Yet I still feel homeless at times.
Home isn't a physical structure like a house or an apartment nor is it a region or country. Actually, home isn't a physical entity at all. After moving three times within a span of a year and half, I've learned home is a more than a physical dwelling it's a mental and emotional state. A state at which one feels both safe and accepted, comforted and in control. Individuals are home when they're confidently able to let their true identity show without fear of judgment.
And up until two months ago, I've always confidently known I've had a home. In the past, when I walked through the door of my house after a long day at school, my black lab would come bounding down the hallway without fail, pinning me against the wall and lovingly licking until I would manage to escape. My mom would shout "Hey Sis" over the gunfire echoing from my brother's Xbox as I grabbed an apple and sat down to tell her about my day. It didn't matter if I was currently living in Chandler, Arizona; San Antonio, Texas; or Mesa, Arizona, I was always at home when I was amongst my family. However, with college, home has disappeared. Now I'm occasionally greeted with a quick hello from my roommate as I walk through our dorm door. Rather than try to have a conversation I just throw my stuff down, put my iPod in, take out my homework, and begin to work. There is no sense of comfort or belonging, just a feeling of tolerance as we count down the days till summer. I live here, but Cereus Hall is not my home. 'Home' has changed too. I lie on my bed, study in my room but I'm still out of place.
Though I feel homeless I'm fortunate enough to still have a fixed place to live. Many individuals across the globe find themselves living in a park, behind a dumpster, or under a bridge. Though they are without a house they are not always without a home. Sean Kidd and Josh Evan's survey, encompassing 208 'homeless' individuals from Toronto and New York City, examines the varying perceptions of home. Through their interviews Kidd and Evans found that many of their interviewees found the term 'homeless' an "oppressive kind of action, an action that took something away" from them (753). These individuals, both young and old, found that having a home differed from having a fixed residence. Instead many perceived home as "the environment where you can let your hair down and let all those defenses drop" (Kidd and Evans 763). Whether their 'residence' be a park or a street corner these individuals have found themselves without a house, but not necessarily without a home. Their homes are defined not by walls and carpet but by "people who care and take care of one another," by the family "not who [they] grew up with" but the family of people "who care about [them] no matter what" (Kidd and Evans 764). Though all the individuals in Kidd and Evan's study were "houseless," not all were homeless. Some found safety, comfort, control, and a sense of belonging amidst the streets of Toronto and New York City. Being without a home isn't reserved for the "homeless." In fact they often develop relationships with other "houseless" individuals, forming their own sense of "home."
The feelings of security, acceptance, comfort, and control aren't the only aspects of life that create a sense of home. "Cultural home," a term introduced in Hart and Ben-Yoseph's article concerning the connotations of home across populations, conveys the idea of individuals feeling at home with respect to food, music, and cultural traditions (Hart and Ben-Yosef 5). Whether it's African Americans feeling at home listening to the blues, Mexican Americans feeling at home passing down abuela's tortilla recipe, or Native Americans feeling at home blessing their family members with 'smoke' before travel, individuals across the globe rely on their cultures to establish the actions with which the individual may feel at home.Though the yearning to feel at home is a universal human trait, the attainment of the sense of home depends on feeling accepted, secure, and comforted as well as fulfilling cultural traditions, norms, and values.
Growing up, I always believed that being with family or walking into my house automatically meant I was home. I never imagined that the day would come when I'd feel homeless. I lived in four different houses growing up and never felt without a home so the thought of college being any different never occurred to me. Though at Cereus I have a place to sleep, shower and eat, I still feel out of place. After settling in and discovering my longing for home I thought perhaps not having my family and the support they constantly gave or the lack of personal space was the cause of my being 'home-sick'. But I return home and don't feel at home there either. Rather, I drift between my dorm and my house, hoping to restore the "universal human yearning for being grounded, for being safe, for belonging" (Hart and Ben-Yosef 2). Eventually I believe I will restore them. Eventually I will find the comfort and acceptance I seek and once more feel at home. Until then I remain lost. I remain a drifter amongst houses searching for that one person, that one environment, where I'll be able to anchor my life and let my defenses drop.
Mechthild, Hart, and Miriam Ben-Yoseph. "Introduction: Shifting Meanings of Home." Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community 30.1-2 (2005): 1-7. PsycINFO. Web. 16 Oct. 2011.
Kidd, Sean A., and Evans, Josh D. "Home is Where You Draw Strength and Rest: The Meanings of Home for Houseless Young People." Youth & Society. 24 June 2010: 752-773. Sage Journals Online Database. Web. 15 October 2011.