0

Homeless: Some Personal Journeys

Pitch BlackThe prolific Huffington Post has a new columnist, William Laney, who published a book called Homeless Isn’t Hopeless. After three years on the streets, Laney himself is no longer homeless. The brief descriptions and reviews of his book mention such matters as living on a bus, knee surgery, getting around on crutches with no place to stay, having cash and ID stolen, the food storage problem, the sanctuary of the public library, and being homeless in a hurricane.

Laney also lived in a shelter for several months and is well aware of the phenomenon of economic homelessness — the situation people are in when they are working and still can’t make enough to afford housing. In Laney’s first Huffington piece, he discusses how the government avoids admitting the extent of the child homelessness problem, by not counting kids whose families are stashed in motels or doubled up with relatives.

Yes, technically, such children have a roof over their head. But the crowded conditions make it difficult to concentrate on homework or get proper sleep, and many kids ashamedly conceal their living conditions from peers and authorities.

They need to be officially acknowledged, Laney says, because:

Such a change of policy, such recognition, would open up, for countless children, HUD programs that are now unavailable to them. The fact that there is even a question about ‘motel’ or ‘doubled-up’ children being qualified is further evidence of a continuing lack of understanding of the homeless in general, and homeless families, in particular… They certainly qualify as homeless beings deserving of the aid given to the more visibly homeless.

Still, these kids are relatively lucky. Laney relates sightings of families camped by the roadside and in other distressing conditions that should never be seen or experienced in America.

In Santa Barbara, CA, Austin Rucker told a local newspaper the story of how, although employed, he ended up homeless because a subletting tenant has no rights under the law. The first night he slept under a bush. Should we ever find ourselves in this situation, we should prepare to get up early. Rucker says:

At around 4:30 a.m. when the first blue morning haze sets in, most homeless Americans wake up. First light means visibility, and visibility means police can give you tickets and passers by can throw harsh judgment your way… Illegal camping can get you fined… [Y]ou certainly do not want to get charged money to spend a cold night being bitten by bugs…

Robert Rashford, aka “Homelessrob,” has been blogging for several months, bringing readers along on his journey toward his destiny. He addresses such issues as when it may be a better choice, temporarily, to stay technically homeless, in pursuit of a particular long-term goal. Helping others has been a large part of his activity in recent years. The introductory paragraph says:

My day by day life as a homeless man. I give opinions about homelessness, tell stories, and offer homeless tips for surviving homelessness. Also, I share my plan on escaping homelessness. You get to watch my struggle.

How strange is it that the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, published an article commemorating the death last month of another narrator of homeless life, an American who lived in the subway tunnels underneath New York? Anthony Horton, 43, was killed by a fire in the abandoned communications office where years ago he set up living quarters after a history of parental abandonment, foster homes, and illiteracy.

For 20 years Horton scraped by, battling alcoholism and selling recycled items found in the trash. He also did volunteer work, teaching art and gymnastics classes for a church in Manhattan. Unlike many subterranean dwellers, Horton collaborated with another artist to produce a book about his life, which in 2009 the American Library Association named as one of the top 10 graphic novels for teens.

Titled Pitch Black, it is still available, and Youme Nguyen Ly (formerly Youme Landowne) has given interviews about her artistic comrade. She told a reporter:

He was incredibly gentle and chivalrous. He was an extremely talented writer with a great voice and sense of humor and he would draw everything all the time.

The pseudonymously published “Ex-homeless explains why life is worth living” does exactly that. It was written in response to someone who contemplated suicide, which the author, who spent part of his high school years living in a car, advises against. After describing the tragic circumstances of his earlier life, the author relates the changes that led to a more satisfying existence and encourages anyone in a bad situation to hold onto hope, and especially not to give in to the urge for self-destruction.

Now, with a 20-year-marriage to “the best person I’ve ever met,” two children of his own, and a career in which has the privilege of helping other people every day, the author says:

You can get a job. A menial job, sure. But I’ve had those. They don’t kill you. You can find a place to live temporarily. Shelters aren’t the best, but they’re a start. I’ve lived in worse. Food pantries can offer you food. And once you’ve stabilized your life, friends will come. Volunteer, go back to school, once you start working. Take things one step at a time and stop misleading yourself that the past is a mirror of the future. All these difficulties don’t have to last. I am proof they don’t have to last. I also am proof that life can change in an instant. But you have to be around to see it.

NOTE: The Foreword of William Laney’s book was contributed by Dr. Michael Stoops, and Richard R. Troxell of House the Homeless adds, “Michael Stoops has been the National Field Organizer for the National Coalition for the Homeless for over 30 years. For about two years he was the acting Executive Director. He is again the National Field Organizer and our nation is better off for it. I have few heroes… He is one. ”

Reactions?

Source: “Homeless With Children,” The Huffngton Post, 04/06/12
Source: “How I Became Homeless,” Santa Barbara Independent, 10/20/11
Source: “Homelessrob Has A Plan,” HomelessRobsHome.blogspot.com, 03/25/12
Source: “Homeless man killed when blaze ravaged,” DailyMail.co, 02/07/12
Source: “Ex-homeless explains why life is worth living,” GodlikeProductions,com, 04/04/12
Image of Pitch Black is used under Fair Use: Reporting.