The story of a group of homeless alcoholics, who squatted in an abandoned house in Tel Aviv, living in a commune for several months, until they were evicted by the authorities.
The life of the homeless- the dark side of society
This story has no beginning nor can its end be seen. They come to the street for a variety of reasons. Most of us can cope with the hurdles they initially encounter. With a little help we get over the difficulty and go on. But for them help just had not come, and their lives took a turn into that road full, of pits, which often leads to the abyss.
A whole population lives in the street, a small "people" seek a country: lone wolves, couples, childhood friends, fathers and sons, mothers whose children were taken away by the social authorities and given to be adopted, alcoholics, drug addicts, schizophrenics, refugees from mental institutes, work migrants, refugees from normative society, and people who just prefer to live in the street in order to avoid child and wife payments, or heavy debts they are not able to pay.
Numerous groups roam the streets from one place to anther, drop anchor for a while and go on to another place. Their numbers are constantly on the increase, and friction is inevitable, sometimes the result is strong friendship, more often- hard violence, sometimes ending with death.
This is the story of simple individuals who have wrapped their past in layers of lies, fables and anecdotes so thick that often they themselves are unable to tell truth from fiction. The truth they keep buried deep inside in a corner of their heart- a burning memory which cannot be shared with anybody, be it for shame, or for pain too strong to bear. A well made cover story is probably the best shield for those who strive to survive in the street.
Life rushes at them, hits them wave after wave, and they try to hold onto anything with a semblance of stability ,be it for a brief moment; one moment they make a step forward and next they go back two. "Every ship struggling in a raging sea wants to cast anchor one in a while" said once to me one of them.
We know much to little about these population of street dwellers who live among us. Saying that nobody is insured against falling into the dark side of society is no mere fable; this is the reality of a growing number of people coming true much too often.
But what we know of this reality is just the top of the iceberg. A whole form of life exists far from the public eye and from its comprehension: A small people fight for their daily survival, for their right to live…
The relations of these homeless people with the social authorities, on whom they depend for help, are a prolonged and complicated story, often lasting for years. Despite all the love and good will, it too often transpires that there are limits to love and giving, and that there are limits, conditions and rules making progress towards normative life slower and more difficult. The "romance" is then full of repeated painful separations, and seldom, leads towards an unproductive end. This may easily bring in its wake deep disappointment, and steep physical and mental decline. Seeking another alternative it is all too easy to fall into the open, waiting arms of alcohol, drugs, crime and prostitution.
The fall into the swamp of drug and alcohol is like a life sentence, and often a death sentence. Only few survive it and manage to clime out whole. Those who find themselves alone, with no help, in this battle will find themselves sinking deeper and deeper despite all their attempts to resist. Is this the essence of the homeless life?
In my attempt to understand I befriended many homeless, individual and groups. This story is the story of a group of homeless alcoholics of a Russian (or "soviet") origin, who lived for several months in a kind of commune in an abandoned house in the center of Tel Aviv. I studied and documented their life, and got familiar with their relationship to each other and to the "outside world". I got familiar with their methods of obtaining food, smoke and alcohol, I got to know the agencies municipal and charitable where they turn for help and (some) shelter. I heard of their preferences, dreams and their fears. I heard of their considerations regarding drink, and other commodities and learnt their daily schedules and various practices. They taught me their rules and regulations, and we argued about their pro and cons. I witnessed many moments of happiness, and alcohol driven elation, and many moments of pain, sorrow and even mourning when they lost a friend, a parent and even a son. I witnessed them bestowing on each other tender friendship, and their willingness to help each other, and also moments of extreme egotism and estrangement. I saw their group expand with new members they wanted to help, and shrink, when they quarreled or felt fed up. I saw how outsiders disrupted their lives, and finally, how, in the end they were turned by the authority out of their shelter (Zula) into the street and what happened to them thereafter.