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A house is not a home

Thursday, 14 August 2014 Written by // Michael Yoder Categories // Finances, Health, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Michael Yoder

Michael Yoder talks about the importance of affordable, accessible housing to people living with HIV. But is it “housing” we need - or a home? There’s a difference he says.

A house is not a home

“There’s no place like home…” 

The Wizard of Oz 

It’s no secret that people need housing. Housing is one of the basics in Maslow’s hierarchy, but there’s a clear difference between housing and a home. 

I tend to believe that people need homes. Housing in my mind is the bare essentials – bed, table, and fridge. Housing reminds me of bedsitting rooms: nothing much more than a place to sleep. 

A home is considerably different to me. Homes are warm and inviting, they are places where people express who they are through whatever things speak to them: furniture, art work, colour and other things that are personal and intimate. 

I’ve just gone through a move. In a previous post I talked about the need for a roommate for purely practical purposes. It was a challenge: I had to undo myself from years of living alone to sharing space with a person I didn’t know really well. In the end, the whole thing became a nightmare and I suppose my decisions in taking in essentially a stranger were my own undoing. There were aspects to this person about which I knew nothing until after he moved in and while we mostly got along, the darker aspects of his (and probably my) personality emerged. 

Now I’m on my own in a smaller one bedroom and I’m determined not to have a roommate again. What had been my home had become a house – my space shrank as I accommodated the roommate’s stuff. My self-expression became secondary to me and I felt more and more like a visitor in my own home. 

As people living with HIV we know the importance of having a stable home. With a stable home comes improved physical and mental well-being. We’re more likely to adhere to medications, we’re more likely to relax, eat properly and our stress levels (hopefully) go down. 

Of course, this is all tied to income. Where we have enough to live in a place that suits us, the better things happen. But where we are strapped for cash and like so many other people worried about paying bills and living cheque to cheque, the good things evaporate and even a home becomes a place of stress and worry. 

Where’s the balance? I’m not certain. I know that people living on disability or EI are more often than not forced into situations that are not appropriate for them, but they have no choice. As was my situation, I had to share my place to make ends meet. For those of us who have sufficient income a home, as opposed to housing, is a much more accessible thing. 

And yet, in the end I suppose that each of us has the capacity to create a home wherever we are. It might be a challenge, but the opportunity to express who we are in the place we live is the essence of our creativity and imagination.