small words trapped on giant voids of paper
My first reaction is that of a cynic/realist. All this poetic expression about the plight of homelessness that you expect to extract from design is, as usual, self-aggrandizing. Economic development will do far more to alleviate their condition. And if the condition is not economic or psychological but a choice, then one has to let them be homeless (I am in a state of homelessness, but right now purely due to lack of any meaningful economic activity). Anyway, you can also add Krzysztof Wodiczko to the list of the artists…But for me, a movie such as Bicycle Thief would do far more than any design. I persist in my state of homelessness well without the design-expression.
But even in terms of design “their” own expression is far more valuable. Consider for example the shopping cart and the plastic bags–put them together and the homeless is a present incarnation of the Benjaminian Flaneur/rag-picker. Go figure…
But I do agree with you that it is “out of sight-out of existence.” In other words, most Americans are oblivious of and incognizant of the condition of vast segments of the population. In comparison, Indians (and the laity of other poor and emerging economies) are more comfortable with this condition, and do acknowledge the poor. This is partly because Americans live under the myth that only those who are lazy are poor. Poverty is sickness–they too have bills to pay, and to do so, they stick to the grind like good soldiers. On the other hand, the Indians live under the myth that it is all a play of karma.
But overall I think Indians are more anesthetized to the being of poverty. We give them alms to get a better record “upstairs.” Otherwise “we” yell and scream at them and treat them as non-humans. And it is necessary to be that way to operate in places like India. Were we to be empathetic of the heart-wrenching plight of the poor, we would have a hard time breathing.
Enjoy the luxury of ennui, and of design. We homeless would still rather have your spare change (of life).