There are many kinds of fear. Some of them are straightforward, unproblematic and represent a simple correlation between a concept and the thing it represents. In this sense a fear of a specific animal is usually just that and regardless that arachnophobia, for instance, rarely represents something unconscious or indirect other than a linearly-related fear of spiders; triskaidekaphobia, a fear of the number 13.
There are other fears, though, and it is usually only in their unspoken persistence that they reveal themselves. The extent to which many people inadvertently exhibit a fear of homelessness is just such a salient reminder of the games our unconscious minds play with symbols and the facts they indirectly represent. Many people quite wilfully ignore and pretend that a person or whole broad class of people does not exist and not specifically or solely because another’s disadvantage engenders shame or pity and a thousand other uncomfortable emotional sensations but because it unveils a truth they are unwilling to recognise. What occupies a person’s reflexive blindspots can be most revealing but is rarely if ever directly observed or seen.
A fear of recognising and engaging or even self-consciously acknowledging the existence of the homeless that pervade our societies in growing numbers is itself an externalisation of the visceral, unpalatable fact that we each and all recognise ourselves in them. In their destitution, isolation and profoundly dissociative alienation from the world, we recognise our own. People fear them because the homeless are a cogent reminder that we have constructed a world in which no one belongs and in which their presence as an instance of exceptional misfortune does not present an unpalatable truth so much as it unmasks the sheer existential chill that somehow hides and haunts us in all our souls.
When one person has no home it does not represent an unfortunate truth anywhere near so much as it unmasks a shared lie and act of collective self-deception. When one person does not belong, no one does.