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Posts Tagged ‘Homeless’

You haven’t been discriminated against…

10 Apr

Life on the street till you’ve been singled out by a homeless person!

True story, a coworker has a gay friend (actually, she collects us like she collects hand bags but that’s a whole nuther matter!) We’ll call this particular friend “Chuff” for the time being. Chuff makes it a habit of buying a sandwich for the same homeless guy in his neighborhood (he lives in or near downtown) on Friday of each week.

Mind you; not on a Monday, Tuesday, Saturday or even on Wednesday; Chuff turns good Samaritan each and every Friday, buying this fellow a sandwich.

For now we’ll just refer to the homeless guy as “Billy Bob.” Billy Bob KNOWS to be at the same place every Friday afternoon or early that evening but LAST week was a bit different. On Thursday, Billy Bob went out of his way to get Chuff’s attention as he was driving up to the building where he, Chuff, lives. Billy Bob waved down his benefactor who, feeling as though he was already doing his charitable duty, reminded the homeless man “it was Thursday and to please leave him alone.”

Billy Bob says, “Naw, I’m not looking for my sam’wich today… I jest had a question for you. I hear tell you’re a little bit funny! Is that true?”

Chuff, thinking about the question with an earnest but quizzical look on his face, responds, “What? Funny? Well, I guess I could be described as funny.” Billy Bob realizes Chuff doesn’t understand what he’s suggesting so he repeats himself. “No, I mean funny” (while wiggling his hand up and down in a sort of effeminate manner). This is when Chuff realizes the homeless man is asking him if he’s “gay.”

(I’m certain, at this point, Chuff is thinking, “Are we REALLY having this conversation?”)

Billy Bob goes on to say some of his pals and he had been talking and they had said Chuff was “funny” — to which Chuff just says, “So? What does it matter?”

Get ready for it!

This is where our homeless fellow decides he’s simply got too much in the way of sound family values going for him and he’s GOT TO take a stand! He says, “Well, we can’t hang out anymore if you’re ‘funny.’” (Hang out? Is THAT what they were doing? I thought that Chuff was only buying Billy Bob a sandwich, as he had been doing for many years now.) Seriously, I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried!

Chuff (who’s now in a HUFF) is thinking, “What the hell?!” Why is the homeless community talking about MY sex life? Haven’t they got anything better to talk about or to be concerned with?

So there you have it, folks! Chuff, who NEVER asked for anything in return – who only acted out of the kindness of his heart, has now been officially snubbed by the homeless man with values, never to be allowed to slip a little salami to Billy Bob ever, EVER again! (Did you really think that I could resist saying that? Come on! LOL)

Reminds me of the old Rodney Dangerfield quote: “I get no respect!” Sorry but if it’s a contest between family values and a roof over my head, food on the table and silver in my pocket I’ll take the latter as opposed to the cardboard box every time, my friend (and I’d wager so would you).

But lest you think this changes my attitude toward the homeless; it doesn’t. I’ll still go out of my way to give a person a hand-up if and when I’m moved to do so (which is fairly regularly). Just because “Billy Bob” is a di** doesn’t mean they are all narrow-minded a$$hats. {wink-wink!}

Speaking of douche bags, have you heard? Rick Santorum decided to suspend his run for the presidency. There is hope for America yet!

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Sending mixed messages

18 Jan

Love is UniversalThe day began as pretty much every weekday morning does; with the annoying, raised volume of the digital alarm clock and the gentle (but equally annoying) tone of the alarm on my mobile phone fighting for attention. There are mornings I’d like to take both and baptize ’em in the toilet! LOL

However, my normal routine took a nosedive when I checked the site of another blogger just before leaving for the office. Davey had posted a number of entries since my last visit to his site but one entry in particular caught my eye and set the tone for the remainder of the day.

In his blog, he writes about Eric James Borges, a nineteen (19) year old writer, filmmaker and [gay] son who was kicked out of his family’s home because of his sexual orientation.

This is where I might customarily go on a rant, expressing my outrage at the families of LGBTQ youth who respond to the news of their child’s sexual orientation by withholding love, support and in this case, shelter but I am tired of being angry. I’m tired of allowing rage to play such a significant part in my life, even when it’s in response to wrongdoing that seems painfully clear (to me) yet still exists in an age when we’re supposed to have evolved past this sort of nonsense.

It’s reported Eric took his own life on Wednesday (1/13/2012), not all that long after describing his own tribulations with his birth family after they found out he was a homosexual. He described his life in an It Gets Better video a couple of months ago.

I didn’t know Eric personally but his death has affected me on a deep level today. Perhaps because (in ONE respect) this sounds so reminiscent of the suicide of a much younger teenager, Jamie Rodemeyer. Jamie had also posted an It Gets Better video, only to take his own life shortly thereafter. What a disturbing trend.

It doesn’t escape my attention that earlier this week, as I was doing some research for another blog entry, I stumbled across a link to a video about Reciprocity Foundation, a foundation that helps homeless youth in the five boroughs of New York City. The number of homeless children in NYC alone are staggering at thirty-eight thousand (38,000). What I find equally distressing is (according to the video) approximately 40% of those youth identify as LGBTQ. Draw your own conclusions.

It makes me want to cry, that in a world where our children should be cherished, they are instead turned out of their homes, bullied, made to feel “less than” or like freaks/sinners/demons (insert choice of label here) and too often have such low self-esteem that taking their lives seems like a plausible answer.

It’s late (11:11) but I’m getting dressed to go walk the labyrinth at one of the churches where I sometimes attend services. This day has been entirely too emotionally demanding.

Namaste,
Michael

Please send up a prayer for children everywhere,
gay and straight… that they might be filled with hope instead of despair, courage instead of fear.

Youth who are having thoughts of suicide (in need of support) can contact the Trevor Lifeline at (toll-free) 866-488-7386. Please make the call; your life is too precious to take for granted.

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The Challenge of Being Homeless

27 Aug

I embedded a YouTube video made by Jerry Day in my previous [blog] entry, entitled “Smart Meters: Future or Failure?” and upon further digging found several additional videos (and a wealth of talent) as expressed by the man.

One issue that is close to my heart is Equality; equality as it pertains to how people of all ages, backgrounds and stations in life are perceived and opportunities opened up to them “equally” to pursue their happiness, protections and … well, just the basic services we all require to thrive in life.

Much of my focus is on marriage equality and issues that appear to be directed toward the LGBTQ community. That is only natural as I’m a homosexual man myself; these things, I have a personal stake in and therefore am inclined to express a higher level of involvement and interest in but such issues are not the only ones that are of concern to me.

(It was the title of Jerry’s video that first caught my eye. LOL!!!)

In Jerry’s own words:

I used to work in Hollywood and had many encounters with homeless people. Always curious about how people become homeless and how they survive, I would observe and interact. Later I was hired by philanthropic organizations to produce videos related to homeless issues. It is not surprising that what we call “mental illness” is responsible for a large fraction of homelessness. This song explores the thoughts of a homeless man who drifts in and out from fantasy to reality against the backdrop of some of the images and events I witnessed on the streets of Hollywood.

“Helping the homeless” is a misnomer. They cannot be helped or served as a group. They must be helped one at a time by a friend who truly cares. Help cannot be prescribed at arm’s length, it must be discovered through intimate knowledge of the individual to be helped. It must be based on the particular needs and wishes of the person to be helped, not on the opinions and presumptions of the giver of help. We must realize that some cannot be helped, and most cannot be helped in the ways we assume they need.

Much of what we call “help” for the homeless are simply ways to prevent them from degrading our environments.

I once asked a dirty, drifting homeless man what the rest of us, society, could do that would help him. He said “Let me sell things. Pencils, toys, whatever. When I try to sell things the police arrest me for not having a Vendors License, I tried to get one but the city will not give a Vendor’s License to someone who does not have a permanent residential address.”

Well what do you know? The greatest obstacle to upward mobility and self sufficiency is government, that thing that is supposed to “equalize” society and provide the “safety net” is the thing keeping the homeless right where they are.

I am ashamed and disgusted at a city government that wants such “fees” from people who can’t even afford housing. Has city government gone insane? If a city politician ever says they are “helping the homeless”, ask them what they are doing to simply allow the homeless to earn a living. All they have to do is call off the cops and cut out the phony “fees” they charge. Begging is OK but selling is not? What does that say about our society?

Government is run by politics, and politics says that a lot of voters want those “dirty scary people” out of sight. We still have a long way to go to find the right approach, much less real solutions for homelessness.

— Jerry

After clicking on the link to access the video, I listened to the song and read what he had to say about the issue; I was impressed. The concern over “the homeless” is another that has been close to my heart for the better part of fifteen years. I’ve no personal reasons for taking an interest in the challenge; It’s just something I am drawn to. So much so that for the longest of times, I always kept coupon/gift books for meal combos from McDonalds, Burger King, etc. in the console of whatever vehicle I was driving at the time. This allowed me to provide a meal for someone who appeared to be down on his or her luck when the opportunity arose.

There are those who will argue the homeless are so because they choose to be. While I admit that may be the case for some, I’m convinced that is by far and apart not the case for most.

I remember how, while visiting a gravesite in Fort Worth in the dead of Winter for a friend of mine buried there, I was on my way back home when I drove by a group of homeless huddled against a building off the main street. I couldn’t ignore what I knew to be the right thing to do, so I drove back to the nearest fast food place and purchased an [estimated] eight combo meals with drinks and took them to the group, apologizing that this was all I could do (that I had no blankets in the Jeep that might help to ease the cold). Even in the face of what I did do, I still felt guilty for not being able to do more.

It’s not funny but the homeless have a way of drifting in and out of my life without warning. I can be standing outside of a restaurant talking to a friend after church services and somebody who’s “down on their luck” can walk directly up to me and ask for help, acting as though my friend doesn’t even exist. That’s happened on more than an occasion and it’s not like my own associates aren’t sympathetic to the issue (they very much are, usually) but I’m the one who seems most likely to be approached for some strange reason.

I’ll admit, it is sometimes quite aggravating and annoying, as if the Universe is constantly reminding me I’m not the only one who “has problems” I know I’m not, for if you look closely enough, we all have reasons to be joyful and thankful. Likewise, we all have our fair share of issues in life.

I’m reminded that one cannot appreciate the blessings were it not for something against which to compare.

My prayer is that one day the challenge of the homeless will be won and (on that day), those who had been without shelter and a means to provide for themselves will be able to look upon their lives in comparison to where they had come from — and be both, proud and thankful for the blessing that is then theirs.

Namaste,
Michael

Homeless Boy Steals The Talent Show

One cannot help but be moved to tears by this amazing young man; Sung-bong Choi.

When Sung-bong decided to sing on the Talent Show “Korea’s Got Talent” he had no idea that he would win the hearts of millions all over the world!

His story of his childhood is so moving that even the judges had a hard time keeping their composure.

He told the judges that even though he didn’t think he could sing very well, he sang because it made him happy.

They couldn’t have been more surprised.

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Helping the Homeless

26 Nov

Photo of myself at around age twenty-seven

I’m guessing I was around 27-years old when this photo was taken (approximately five years after the incident at the car wash). My God, look at how much thinner I was back then!

My first brush with a homeless person came shortly after moving to Dallas, Texas. It was late and I was washing my SUV at the car-wash on a rather busy street.

My attention shifted to the young man I’d seen walking back toward the trash dumpster earlier but I continued with the task at hand. Eventually, I found myself at the front of the vehicle and looked over toward the dumpster just in time to see the kid (at the time, he was probably close to my own age but by today’s standards and my present age, he was only a “kid” in his late teens). At any rate, I looked over just in time to see him pull a coke bottle out of the dumpster and drink what little was left of the contents.

That visual has stayed with me forever since.

I immediately called him over, took $2.00 out of my wallet to keep for the drive back home and handed him the rest of the cash I had on hand. It was clear to me he needed it far more than I; after all, I had a warm home to return to and food in the fridge. This kid was drinking warm soda out of the trashcan.


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The Plight of the Homeless

10 Jul

Photo depiction of Gustus-BozarthIf or when you ever gave a thought to the homeless, what was going through your mind? Do you think of them as being lazy and mentally deficient; people whose only interest is in standing on a street corner and panhandling for money? Perhaps you saw a man sitting in a wheelchair, or standing on a pair of crutches with one leg amputated at the knee and thought, “What is his story?”

What rarely crosses our mind (but perhaps we’d do well to remember) is a simple phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.

More and more families are realizing that they are only one paycheck away from joining the Middle Class homeless population.


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Ever Been Homeless?

18 Jun

As I sat here relaxing in front of my computer tonight I began to wonder what I would blog about (or even if I should). After all, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time off now and then … but just at that moment a bulletin from Liles, a musician here in Dallas, caught my eye.

Dear Jeff,

I’m about to get evicted and have to go live under a bridge somewhere…

I wonder how many people you know in California who have some land I could perhaps live on? I’m not necessarily looking for a freebie, but the truth is, in California my handout is about $870 a month, in any other part of the country its going to be about 2-300 bucks less, and I just cant afford to pay my entire income, just to put a roof over my head…

I do have a trailer that I live in now, but i don’t drive or have a vehicle, and I really don’t want to have to go back to being homeless…..

If you can think of anyone, anywhere who might be able to accommodate me and my dog, then please do get in touch! I will also need someone to be a caregiver (i.e.. do physical things, take me shopping, carry stuff indoors, make my bed, etc.) who will be paid a pittance by whichever state I end up in… so I ask you again, got any ideas?

I’m just asking everyone I used to know, and the few people i do know, if they have any possible solutions to my impending dilemma….once this place gets sold, I’ll have 30 days to find someplace… this could happen tomorrow, next week, next month, i just don’t know when, but it will happen, so if you really want/can help, then RSVP, ASAP…

Cheers,
Ray



From Liles: Ray was a very key piece to the Theatre Gallery, the live music venue in Dallas that helped to revitalize the Deep Ellum neighborhood. We need to help him out if we possibly can. If you can do anything to help him, let me know. I would really appreciate it.
Thank you, JL

Not many people know this but about a year after I left my ex, I found myself living out of my Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Cherokees aren’t as small as the CJ-5’s but still, they weren’t made for “living out of.”

My circumstances were perhaps a bit different than your average “street person” but in some respects, very much the same I believe. I had fallen into a deep depression at that point in my life and I think many if not the vast majority of the homeless are experiencing a depression of one kind or another.

I felt like a loser, having been informed eleven months earlier I’d been infected with the HIV virus by Greg, my ex (and my finances were pretty much nonexistent).

I’d gone from having had a 12-year professional career as a training specialist with EDS (at the time I’d met Greg) to leaving EDS in order to build up a business with him. Our business was very successful; we hit profits in the seven figures before it all went to shit but when it fell apart … it FELL apart!

Were there things I could have done differently? Yes. Were there things I should have done but failed to? Most assuredly! Do I believe I was mentally strong enough at that time in my life to take the necessary steps to avoid the hazards yet to come? No, I was in no shape to do anything differently than what I did then — at that time. I was struggling to keep the will to stay alive by that point and I was barely winning that fight. I had already started out to end my life during the summer three years prior – but for the saving grace of my love for my family I managed to find the will to turn off the ignition that day. (After which I cried uncontrollably, wondering how in the hell I was going to get through the next twelve months if I were already seriously considering suicide.)

Let me explain some of what was going on in my life then. By the time I gave up on my 6.5 year relationship; by the time I walked away the: (1) IRS was hounding me for $20,000.00 in back taxes because of a tax deposit Greg was supposed to have “made” which they couldn’t find any record of, (2) I had over $20,000.00 in credit card debt, (3) both my physical health and self-esteem were greatly compromised, (4) I felt like a failure whereas relationships were concerned (I sometimes still do), (5) I’d lost touch with most of my pre-existing friends (of my own choosing while Greg and I were together, mostly because of his controlling behavior in front of my friends and how embarrassing that behavior was for me), (6) I was making payments on a three year old vehicle I’d previously paid cash for because I was talked into taking out a loan “for the business” using the jeep as collateral, (7) I had lost my best friend and [canine] companion a year earlier when her own health gave out and she had to be put to sleep (we had been together sixteen years), and (8) (to reiterate) I had fallen into a VERY deep depression.

Life was just ducky! 😉 {/sarcasm}

• • • • •

I’d been staying with one set of friends or another while attempting to work out the details of my newly single life, trying to get back on my feet. However, sometimes pride will allow us to barter on the good will of friends for only so much time. On February 1st of 2002, I put the balance of my belongings in storage and kept with me only what I needed in the way of clothes, toiletry items and some writing materials. Those things I kept with me in the jeep. I had begun working with a temp agency and after work each day I would drive somewhere to get a bite to eat and find a quiet place where I might be able to park for the night. I lay down in the back for the evening and got what rest I could (when you’re that exhausted it was easier than you might think). The weather in Texas had turned hot so I’d crack the windows open. Some evenings I would drive out to the nearest State Park, pay for a campsite and stay there overnight to avoid the police as well as to be able to take a nice long hot shower there in the public restroom. On the balance of those nights I would set an alarm to wake up early so that I could get into the office before everybody else, so that I could quickly shave and clean up for the day to come.

The weather continued to grow hotter and hotter. I eventually would (occasionally) check in to a low-budget hotel/motel for the reprieve of air-conditioning and cable television.

And approximately eight months after I’d begun living out of the car I [finally] checked in to an “Extended Stay” (InTown Suites). I had a bed, a table with two chairs, a kitchenette and a bathroom with a shower stall. It was great! UNTIL!…

• • • • •

Soon after I’d begun staying at the extended stay my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and I began traveling back to New Mexico to see my family every third week or so. I needed to spend time with Dad; his health was getting worse and it would only be a matter of time before he would pass away. One weekend I was returning from New Mexico and on approach to InTown Suites I saw what appeared to be my ex and I’s motor home parked in the lot there at InTown Suites. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! That son-of-a-bitch had the nerve to not only make my life miserable while we were together but now here he was — again? To say I was angry would be an understatement of indescribable proportions.

I spoke to the hotel manager the following morning and explained the circumstances. She and I had a good repertoire and I found her attitude to be very sympathetic toward me. She expressed that she wished I’d told her all of this before. I explained that I just wanted that part of my life behind me and had been intentionally choosing not to talk about it whenever possible.

So. One week to the day after I had discovered he was staying at the same extended stay I moved myself into this apartment where I continue to live today. I’m doing much better. My health, though not the same as prior to that fateful day in October of 1994 (when Greg and I first met) is improved — and my state of mind is MUCH better! I work full time, make decent money, have friends and the IRS is dealt with. Life could be better but it ain’t bad (as they say).

WHY am I telling you all of this?

• • • • •

None of us expects to ever be without a roof over our head or food in our belly but the truth of the matter is that there are many more people in this country, today, who are closer to being homeless than one would imagine. It isn’t uncommon.

We send jobs overseas, paying people in third-world countries MUCH less than the minimum wage here in the U.S. (because we can and because it helps to make the companies who do so more profitable). Is doing so really such a great idea when we’re taking jobs away from our own and putting those people at risk of having to live on the street? Our economy is worsening by the day. The cost of living continues to rise while wages do not.

It can happen to anybody and God only knows how I would have turned my own life around if all of what I was going through had happened in THIS economy!

Whatever you do, don’t feel sorry for me please. I’m fine; I survived some of the darkest hours of my life. I know there are others among us who are not so fortunate.

• • • • •

By the way, some will argue those who are living on the street and/or pan-handling are doing so because they choose to (or that they are too lazy to pull their lives back together). I’m sure that is true of some; it stands to reason as there ARE lazy people in the world. There always have been. But not every person who finds him or herself in such circumstances “chooses” to be so afflicted.

And please don’t think I’m suggesting you make this your personal cross to bare; that you should go out and find a homeless person to take in, give money to or otherwise support. I’m not (and wouldn’t) ask anyone to do anything of the sort. I am asking that you be aware of what is going on around you. IF you see a street person nearby don’t immediately think he or she is simply too lazy to do anything about their own set of circumstances and “chooses” to be there. Don’t think badly of another human being just because they aren’t as fortunate as you or I. There may be a very REAL reason for why that person has found their way onto the street. I guess what I’m attempting to say is “don’t prejudge.” Don’t be gullible and allow yourself to be talked into doing something which might put your own life at risk of harm but don’t prejudge either.

And if you can raise the awareness of others to some of the problems we face in our communities today I encourage you to do so. Do some research relating to some of the causes in and around your community. You might be surprised by what you find.

Okay, that’s pretty much all I had to say (and I apologize for, once again, being so damned long-winded). 😉

Peace, love and hugs – but most of all, peace…
Michael

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