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A bag is not a home
September 27, 2013

I am a little obsessed with bags. I am always on the lookout for bags, totes and cases with many pockets so I can carry my things just perfectly.

I have a lightweight, hardshell case that safely secures my Macbook Pro and allows space for a few work papers or magazines. I have thermal lunch bag that includes a water bottle pouch. (I look pretty stylin’ when I go to work.)

For travel, for years I’ve had a heavy-duty REI backpack with strong shoulder straps and a hip belt to help displace weight.  It can hold two weeks’ clothing if I cram everything in, so it’s great for vacations. It also comes with a zip-off day pack for when I just want to lug around a couple books, a water bottle and some snacks.

I have many bags to accommodate my exercise desires:  a yoga bag; a locker style hardshell that is great for preparing for a running race; and a duffel bag to just throw workout clothes in, just to name a few.

For gardening  I have a pretty and utilitarian basket for collecting produce. Baskets are just another form of bag, right?

Two laundry bags, a pouch for my daily planner, and so many canvas bags given as “swag” at conferences I’ve attended on affordable housing, ending homelessness and economic security.

A little admission, I’ve had so many bags, I’ve thrown and given many away.

And I want more.

And then I think of Stephanie, a formerly homeless youth who shared with me and hundreds of other Beacon Citizens the single very small backpack she had while she was homeless for many years.  It carried textbooks for school, some IDs, photos and index cards for notes.  She had no room for an extra change of clothes. 

One backpack … to carry all her things. Versus my many specialized bags.

And maybe you have seen people emerging from the doors of overnight shelters as you drive to work, all the possesses they have in a grocery bag, a paper sack or even a black plastic garbage bag.

Mind you, I’m not faulting the shelters. Giving people things to carry their belongings is not a shelter’s primary responsibility. Far from it!

But a garbage bag … a GARBAGE bag … to carry all you own, to carry everything you need.

I know what would be a better container for someone’s possessions. A home.

Michael Dahl
Michael Dahl is Beacon's advocacy coordinator.