About a week ago, I spent about an hour talking with a homeless man named JT on the way home. In this conversation I learned a whole bunch of things I didn’t know about the homeless.
Yes, JT did things commonly associated with homeless people: he was out begging for money, he told me he does drink, (although less than he used to), and he slept on benches and buses. But, I learned some things that surprised me.
- He had a college education. JT told me had an associates degree in art design from Ohio University. Granted, this is not full Bachelors degree, but still. He seemed pretty informed with the news. Which leads me to my next point…
- He cared about social issues. J.t. was worried about global warming. Of course, I jumped on this topic with enthusiasm. He was slightly confused between global warming and the ozone layer, and I was able to give him some good news about how the ozone layer is clearing up. “Even if global warming doesn’t affect our lifetime” he said, (although it most likely will), “we need to think about our children, and their children”. Good man.
- He worked. JT told me that he wasn’t often out on the streets begging. Apparently there are places that will give you daily temp jobs for 8 hrs and you can pick up 55 bucks at the end of the day. He can’t do it everyday because his back prevents him from doing so.
- He was trying to get a real place to live. JT gets around 350 bucks a month from some health care system because he has depression, which he gets medication for. Normally he uses this money on a week of motel stay before he is out on the street for the rest of the week. But he heard about a new apartment complex that was being built nearby that is offering low-income housing for around 300 bucks a month. He’s planning to save up money so he can live there. that apartment was also going to help him because…
- He wants to get a full-time job. Jt. used to work as at the front desk of a hotel before he lost his job and came out to California. But as soon as he gets his apartment he wants to start looking for a full-time job. He even has a resume on yahoo.
So I know what a lot of you might say, and that is
“He’s probably lying to you” or “This is only one guy”
But he came off as very genuine and honest to me. And yes, it only is one guy. But the point is, everyone has a story. And when you learn to see everyone as real people, and have compassion for them, you can no longer treat them with cold-hearted indifference.
Takeaway: the homeless are people too, treat them as such.
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