While on an extended stay in Humboldt County, California, where the homeless stand out in a way I haven’t quite defined for myself yet, I began to think about the visibility (and visuality) of this form of living. Counting the homeless turns out to be very provisional business--shelter surveys are faulted for both over and under-counting, direct contact census is blunted by the natural reluctance of a criminalized population to cooperate with official actors, and “capture/recapture” methods seem as uncertain as they are sophisticated (See Cowan et al., “The Methodology of Counting the Homeless”).
But what of statistics in general when it comes to the homeless? One might grant them a certain limited usefulness for agency planners, but for the rest of us, I want to say, they’re just a placeholder for something that doesn’t anymore (or yet) exist, or better yet, the emblem of what’s happening with our care for one another at this moment. To be a mere statistic, as Judy Butler puts it in Frames of War, is to have a life less grievable. Once you exist only as this or that statistical population, you are less pertinent as a person. “It may well be that some people die,” goes the logic (Foucault).
The Thanatoid Map is a work in progress still, my own map of the homeless in Eureka, California, intended to make visual (and visible) the problem of the visible (and visual) as it relates to this form of life.