Homeless ... it's one of those words that gets bandied about on a regular basis.

For most, fortunately, it's also one of those words that refer to others - never ourselves.

In a past column, I expressed my interest in the giant pumpkin at Kowhai Park as a suitable homeless abode. On site cooking facilities, built-in seating with neighbouring toilet and shower facilities.

Too breezy in winter? Find sanctuary in the old woman's shoe - we're talking high-end real estate by any homeless standards.

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My fellow columnist, Terry Sarten, has - very eloquently - opted for the virtues of the humble automobile as an alternative means of housing and made many a valid point.
But what fate awaits those who, sadly, are both carless and homeless?

Having recently found myself so close to such a position, I am able to relate and refer to yet another past column about the "Joys of Prison''.

Initially written tongue-in-cheek and somewhat in jest, I can't help but wonder now just how much truth there may be to it.

Thanks to laws that strictly govern the treatment of those incarcerated, let's take a moment to look at the perks.

• Three meals a day - undoubtedly more nutritional than a beneficiary or low-income earner could afford. Protein every day with fresh fruit and vegetables and even a pudding thrown in.
• The ability to learn and be educated without the prospect of having to pay back a student loan.
• A single room with ensuite and the ability to be pimped out with a flat screen and pillows and duvets from home.
• Meals and laundry prepared and done for you.
• No medical expenses - prescriptions paid for, free glasses and dental work as required.
• Free library and recreation room.
• Gym facilities without the membership costs and regular exercise time.
• Weekly visits from family and friends and pastoral care.
• No bills to pay - just a debt to society.
• The potential - through prison work - to earn discretionary income, no matter how small. A luxury many low-income people are never afforded, to save or spend on weekly commissary.

Spelt out like that, what's not to love. It's Club Med with a twist of concrete, and a side of steel.

Even more twisted is the fact that prisoners in our country get treated to a better standard of living than those earning minimum wage.

I was always brought up on the old adage "crime doesn't pay" but as a well educated and, I like to think, fairly intelligent individual, I'm beginning to have my doubts.
The negatives are minimal.

You lose your right to vote but that's assuming there's anyone worthwhile voting for. Upon release, finding work may be more difficult but considering most were unemployed to begin with, it's hardly the worst thing in the world.

There's a huge difference between living and existing. For those existing on the breadline, they are already imprisoned by their circumstance.

The responsible ones who pay their rent and bills and choose to meet their financial responsibilities, rarely have money left over for luxuries or a good time.

There's no going out, no large flat white every day, no meeting up with friends at a movie or wine bar.

No wonder the prison population is going through the roof. If I was the government, I'd be more concerned about people wanting to break into them, rather than out of them.
NZ prisons make the pumpkin and automobile options look like slums. How sad is that?

Kate Stewart, of Whanganui no fixed abode, is a potential minor crim looking for a way to break in to prison - investik8@gmail.com