Love and Family

(Editorial from the July Issue of Street Sights, read the whole issue @

Love and Family as Important as Food and Shelter
By Cassandra Tribe

Abraham Maslow developed a pyramid of human need that has come to define the social service system and social attitudes toward the homeless in America. In this pyramid, the needs for food, shelter and safety must be met before a person is considered capable of pursuing the “higher needs” of love, morality and fulfillment.

Studies done around the world have disproven his theory repeatedly. One of the most noted (Somalia Mental Health, Schuchman et al, 2004) contained a series of interviews with women in Somalia who had suffered through both war and famine. Without fail, each of these women stated that before food, before shelter and before safety came their need to love and be loved. They showed that of all the horrible things that happened to Somalians during the war and famine – it was witnessing the loss of loved ones and social isolation that led to the greatest instances of developed mental health problems. The loss of food, shelter and safety – while deeply traumatic – were not nearly as dangerous to the human psyche as the loss of intimacy and social connection.

Despite this evidence, along with dozens of other studies, the American social service system still structures itself based upon Maslow’s theory. The result has been a creation of mental health issues in a population that typically did not have them upon entrance into a state of need.

Being in a relationship while homeless is something that the social service system rarely acknowledges. If you are married and become homeless, there are only limited spaces in shelters that allow spouses to remain together who are without children. 95 percent of the time, spouses are separated – removing the primary support system for each person.

No studies have been done on the impact of forced separation on the mental health of individuals in a relationship or, the impact on the relationship.

Curfews, separation of sexes, and a lack of realistic support for those in relationships creates an environment in which adult persons are treated as if they were children. The fact that intimate relationships (both physical and emotional) are one of the strongest sources of support for an individual that helps to prevent disorder and disease is ignored. With Maslow’s blessing, once a person is given the title of “homeless” they are perceived as existing in a state in which they must be taken care of and do not know what is good for themselves.

No matter how desperate the needs for survival, as shown in the study in Somalia, we seek intimacy, union and bonding. Forming a bond with another human being is a part of what allows us to survive the worst of the situations in our lives without becoming permanently damaged. And it does not matter if you have no shelter, no money, no safety or lack the best of clothing – what we seek and offer in relationships comes from a portion of our selves that is not dependant on material things or even on physical necessities for our body’s health.

Intimate trust is an essential part of our survival as mentally and emotionally healthy human beings. The more that both the homeless and the service agencies begin to recognize just how much a person has to offer to another – no matter what their circumstances – the less dehumanizing the entire system will be and the less disorder and disease they will create.

(Editorial from the July Issue of Street Sights, read the whole issue @


About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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