What you Don’t Know About the Homeless

homeless

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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6 comments
Paige
Paige

I wanted to say that I have been homeless for two years.....at first it was my choice....running away from an abusive family....but now I am working and saving money....but sometimes you may see me with a sign in Seattle....lol....thank you for this Article

Sue Copening
Sue Copening

I heard Chris Gardner speak... he was the guy the movie Pursuit of Happyness was based on. He is a multi-millionare now... but earlier in his life he lived on the streets of San Francisco with his son.

He has lots of statistics on the homeless... as he is still heavily involved in that issue. I was surprised to learn that the MAJORITY of the homeless DO have regular jobs... they just do not earn enough to get a place to live.

Also... many are single parents with kids, but very few shelters take in single fathers with kids... and neither do some of the low-cost housing... which is why Chris and his son became homeless initially... his wife left him and the housing kicked him out as it was against their rules for a man to live alone with a child.

Many people become homeless at some point in their life. I think I read where some Senator, or Governor was homeless at one time. A friend of mine has a friend who at the age of 65 was left a widow. She had lived in a multi-million dollar home with her husband... and he died. Turned out he was financially devastated and never told her. Within 6 months she was living on the street. All her rich society friends who would buy $100 tickets to charity dinners to support the homeless... guess where they were? No where to be found.

Sad.

Personally I always talk to the homeless when I travel to a new city. It is amazing what you can find out and they are way more helpful than a travel magazine... they know the streets... know where people go, what is happening. I sort of judge the quality of city by the homeless there. Atlanta has the friendliness and most helpful homeless folks, in my experience. They will carry your luggage for you for a tip and I had one GIVE me a buck for the metro train when I had no change.

I used to live downtown in Orlando and would leave the doors of my car unlocked for the homeless to sleep in if the weather was bad. They were always appreciative and always left it clean. I often left money in the car.. small amounts, in case they needed it. Sometimes I would get in my car... could tell someone had slept there... but they had not taken the money left for them.

It is a disgrace that in a country as wealthy as ours that we have people living on the streets.

Marion Gillon
Marion Gillon

Hi Jason,

Homelessness is an issue that needs to be addressed. The following is an effort my friend, Brenda Walcott, made when the National Democratic Convention was in Boston in 2004. We plan to repeat this in 08 wherever the National Convention is held.

CALL FROM : MARION GILLON AND BRENDA WALCOTT
ncaeh2004@yahoo.com

National Convention to End Homelessness in America
Mission: An Alliance of homeless citizens, frontline providers, and advocates for the homeless, with Melvin King as one of our key note speakers will piggyback on the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston to bring attention to the disgraceful condition that exists in the United States of America, the ever-growing and unchecked problem of homelessness. While the whole world is watching the Alliance will convene a meeting of delegates from cities and towns across the nation to establish a national agenda, which will demand elected officials to address the issue of homelessness in America. Among other initiatives, the Alliance will mobilize the homeless to register to vote, and it will organize grassroots support for the Bringing America Home Act that was introduced to the United States Congress on July 25, 2003.

The old stereotype of the homeless as wandering hobos, unemployed alcoholics or washed out drug addicts has never been further from the reality. According to the press release announcing the introduction of the Bringing America Home Act to Congress, "In the United States, 3.5 million people; almost 40 percent of them children - experience homelessness each year. Many of these individuals work, but due to high rents, tight rental markets, and low paying jobs, they have found themselves living on the streets, in cars, in shelters, in abandoned buildings, in motels, or in over-crowded, temporary accommodations with others. The current economic downturn has put even more Americans one paycheck, one illness, or one rent hike away from homelessness". It continues, "Today, a worker making minimum wage cannot afford housing at fair market rent anywhere in the United States. Today, over a million children are without housing. Today, access to health care is out of reach for many. Today, approximately 40 percent of men who are homeless served in the armed forces."

Not one candidate has made the above issue part of her/his platform. Not one candidate has even acknowledged this plight of millions of U.S citizens. Are these people considered human waste, because they are not perceived to be a powerful voting block? Is there a conspiracy to keep this travesty an American family secret?

Will we be part of such an inhuman conspiracy? Will we be muted militants? Will we wander in complacent despair, placing our energy into trying to stay two or three paychecks away from the plight of those above? Come join us.

National Convention to End Homelessness In America signs on as one sponsors of MARCH TO ABOLISH POVERTY www.abolishpoverty.org

BOSTON HOMELESS CONVENTION

An alliance of homeless citizens, frontline providers, and advocates for the homeless will piggyback on the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston to bring attention to the disgraceful condition that exists in the United States of America, the ever-growing and unchecked problem of homelessness. While the whole world is watching the Alliance will convene a meeting of delegates from cities and towns across the nation to establish a national agenda, which will demand elected officials address the issue of homelessness in America

Among the resolutions, the Alliance would ask the National Black Aenda to bring to the floor are: 1. mobilize the homeless to register to vote and 2, the enactment into law of the Bringing America Home Act (h.r.2897) that was introduced to the United States Congress on July 25, 2003.

Contact: Brenda Walcott ncaeh2004@yahoo.com

See schedule

NATIONAL CONVENTION TO END HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA

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Sureshg
Sureshg

Great blog ! I really appreciate your work.

Jason
Jason

Unsospiro, I'm very glad to hear that. It is unfortunate that many homeless people are isolated and "untouchable" in our society. Although you should always be careful when talking to strangers, in a public , populated and well-lit area, there is nothing wrong with stopping to chat with a homeless person.

unsospiro
unsospiro

It's amazing how you can just walk up to a homeless man and start up a conversation. I was brought up sheltered and would never dream of such a thing for fear of being knifed or raped. Somehow, they were isolated in my mind as "others" - not to be trusted and certainly not connected with. I think you will be happy to know this entry has asked me to reevaluate that perception.

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