Nobody ever told me how long grieving takes but I never put a time table on it anyway. I just knew that after the shock of losing both my parents a few months ago, I would get back to what I was doing before; helping the homeless while trying to help myself get back on my feet. When it comes to hardship, there’s no such thing as a class or instruction manual you can turn to for advice. You pretty much have to learn as you go but at the same time, there’s a lot of stuff going on inside your head because you aren’t just physically trying to live, you’re trying to survive mentally as well.

Due to the realities of the economy we’re living in, making ends meet is a common endeavor and some folks have it harder than others which is why I don’t understand people who look down on people struggling to survive. Most of the people I talk to who have this attitude are misinformed about the homeless and some, in spite of facts, still chose to believe in myths about the destitute as if it is a justification for treating other people as less than human.

I don’t buy into the mentality of “that’s just the way it is”, seems to me it’s more like “that’s the way people let it be” and no matter how someone tries to argue their point of view, children are still going hungry in this country and families get ripped apart when they have nowhere else to go. I can’t even begin to tell you how many elderly and disabled I have found sleeping under bushes or behind park buildings or living out of their cars. I’ve lost count of homeless youth camps I’ve visited and unfortunately, I remember every homeless death I’ve seen.

While community leaders battle with city politics, the clock keeps ticking out on the streets. Doesn’t matter how many meetings you attend on homelessness when the homeless are still homeless and any efforts that do come about are often too little too late and nobody knows that better than a homeless person. Then there’s those who have never experienced real hardship that only know poverty from an academic view instead of practical experience with it and these are often the same people who come up with policies that don’t work on homelessness. Taking a food stamp challenge for a week or a month barely scratches the surface but living in a shelter or out in a tent city for six months will give anyone a healthy dose of day to day reality.

We can be defeatists or we can be champions, it all depends on an individual’s priorities in life. Not everyone can do big things but everyone can do something. I appreciate all of the folks who have supported what I do by donating shoes, coats, socks, blankets, hand warmers, scarves, hats, $5 fast food gift cards and sometimes cash donations via the PayPal donate button on this site because to the homeless folks who receive the items, these little things mean a lot. When cold weather hits, the main thing I buy is sleeping bags, hand warmers and feminine products for the women out here. Sometimes I just need gas to get people to a doctor’s appointment or get them bus tickets to get to work, every person I meet out here has different needs but the obvious need is housing! How come we can find money for war but not for the poor?

Helping the poor isn’t about a handout, it’s about empowering them out of poverty but how can anyone empower the poor when a certain group of people do everything they can to eliminate food stamps, housing programs and job training? Even after all of that, where are the living wage jobs to pay for the always increasing costs of living? You can’t argue for self-sufficiency in a system that promotes dependency and the biggest irony I’ve observed is the myth of self-sufficiency. Often, the very same people who run around touting this myth are oblivious to the fact that they rely on support systems others don’t have access to. I love the hypocrisy of people who complain to me that homeless people are homeless because they were irresponsible. That’s when I ask them who takes care of their kids while they hold down a job. What would you do if you were un-hirable because you don’t have an i.d. or have been unemployed for a while due to an illness or have to take care of a sick relative? If you get a job, is it more than minimum wage? Does it cost more to keep the job you’re applying for than it pays? How will you get to work if you can’t afford a car? What if you don’t have a cell phone? What if you don’t have relatives to help you when you fall?

 Assuming there are programs to help people who face homelessness is also a myth. There are year’s long waiting lists and there are requirements you may or may not meet. You can’t just show up at a shelter the same day you become homeless, you have to be “processed” and you only get in if there’s room. You are self-sufficient as long as you can AFFORD to be, there’s no such thing as isolated sufficiency because in one way or another, you are dependent on resources you have access to. Even if you were living out in the wilds, you need access to materials to build a shelter, you need access to clean water and you need access to food and if none of these things are in abundant supply, how “self” sufficient are you? In one way or another, people rely on resources in order to survive and survival depends on how resourceful you are within the environment you are in so the argument that the poor are poor because they don’t know how to be “self-sufficient” completely ignores institutionalized inequality, lack of access to basic necessities, poor education and the absence of people to people support. I know of no society that can exist with mass poverty and remain, sooner or later it implodes.

Having said that, I still apply for jobs I suspect I won’t hear back from and I still try different ways to earn money without having to pay for childcare but I’m a realist. I know things don’t stay the same forever but it certainly is taking longer to get back on my feet than it used to. I already know that it will take me longer to build my own support system because even when other people are around you, you’re still pretty much on your own. Everybody is on their own schedules with their own ambitions to follow. I get that. I also know that there’s a helluva lot of people out there who have it worse than I do but I can only do so much in a day and whatever gets missed today gets tacked on to tomorrow’s to-do list. It’s just too bad that so many are being shoved onto a to-do list that never gets done.

Duwamish in Tukwila

Duwamish in Tukwila

 

 

Walked by the river

And saw your face

Here, right here

I put my feet in the same place

You once stood

 

How high the water is today

Emerald swirls against a misty grey

Sky

This is where you brought us

Where we watched the salmon play

 

I thought I heard an echo

From not so long ago

Your laughter carried across the wind

And I think it’s still there

 

Yes I know

I can never go back

To sunny yesterdays sometimes spent

Waiting in the rain

 

I’m not supposed to be here

Like this

You weren’t supposed to be

Missed

 

All of this, sometimes I hide

Behind a fake smile

While I’m dying inside

And I wonder, maybe too much

How much more I can take

Holding Mom's hand

Holding Mom's hand

 

Death does strange things to the minds of survivors sometimes. Every time I pass by my mother’s room, it feels like she’s still here and will walk in at any moment. Even when I sat by her bedside and watched her take her final breath, my brain thought I saw her still breathing while she slept even though I knew she was gone. Watching someone die from cancer has to be the most devastating experience to watch because I could not feel what she was feeling but I knew she was in pain and I knew she didn’t want to die, not yet.

On some level, we all know we won’t last forever but having a terminal illness shorten your lifespan is terrifying for the individual and heartbreaking for everyone who loves them. I suppose recovering from tragedy all depends on how well you can deal with adversity but there is no getting around feeling pain. Kinda puts things into a different perspective, doesn’t it? All the crap we hold onto in life doesn’t mean a thing in the end so it seems to me the only reasonable thing to do while you’re still alive is to get rid of petty grievances and habits that do not add to the quality of the life you’re living or to the betterment of society overall.

Spend more time with loved ones while you can still enjoy each other’s company because once they’re gone, there’s no going back. My mother was always an active person who cared deeply about her family, friends and the environment. She loved nature, animals, outdoor activities, going to the movies, card stamping and hanging out with her friends but was no stranger to hard work. I remember her telling me what it was like as a kid to go work on my great grandmother’s farm and how she hated having to work at the cannery my great grandfather ran when she was 14. She made me laugh because she said that it stunk so bad of fish that the only way she could stand it was to lean over and sniff the woman sitting next to her who always wore heavy perfume. When she was old enough to wait tables, she took jobs as a waitress and spent the last 22 years working for Boeing as a wire tech. It was her hope to retire next year.

Mom was born on January 13, 1944, the second child out of 12 so in many ways she was also a second mother to her brothers and sisters. My mother is survived by her husband Ken (but we call him Duane) and her 4 adult children; myself, Michelle, Dana and Ciara. She has 8 grandchildren; Audrey, Maeanna, Kailey, Vanessa, Ariella, Magdalena, Isabella and Marianna. She also has 2 great grandsons; Aiden and William.

My mother asked me to promise her that I would stay by her side as she passed and to make sure it was painless. I gave her my word and I kept it.

I gave you my word

You asked me to be strong for you

To stay by you

As you walked toward that other side

I gave you my word

And I kept it

 

We said what we needed to say

To make peace with the past because

It was the only way to make room

For the short lived future

You had

 

I knew you weren’t ready

But you accepted what was coming

And asked me to make sure that your passing

Was painless

 

You told me to have faith

That everything would be alright

I just didn’t want you to suffer

Another night

 

And when the light

Faded from your eyes

I held your hand and whispered

I gave you my word

And I kept it

no positions available sign

no positions available sign

“Keep your head up!” “Trust in God and things will get better for you!” “You just gotta hang in there until things get better, don’t give up!”

As a homeless person, sayings like these are like nails on a chalkboard, especially if you’ve been homeless for long periods of time while trying to keep a job, your health and your sanity. Praying for people while they endure the injustice of poverty is not the same as doing something about it. Granted, sometimes people who are struggling themselves have little more to offer than their prayers but casually throwing around false hope is more damaging than folks realize. You can’t tell people not to give up when every day the odds are stacking up higher and higher against them. Cuts to food stamps, housing programs, mental health services and whatever else qualifies as a safety net all contribute to killing off hopes of being financially stable again and if an individual has other serious problems that prevent them from living a “normal” life, the future is nothing but a bleak prospect that can’t be escaped.

The biggest thing that aggravates me is when the social services sector gives misleading information out to applicants. Telling people that they can get help just by calling 211 or applying for welfare is the biggest misconception people have about overcoming poverty. Assuming church groups will be able to serve all the needs of the poor is also a false expectation because churches rely on the collection plate and if the flock is poor, then what? Also, if you happen to be of a certain orientation, you can forget about finding help through shelters ran by church groups. As far as I’m concerned, calling 211 is great for bureaucracy, crap for actually getting help on time! You will be put in touch with a “specialist” who will set up an appointment for you to meet with some other organization and that could be a 2 week long wait for that appointment. Shelters have waiting lists that are more than 90 days long and good luck getting into transitional housing of any kind because you have to meet the criteria standards these places have to get in! Luring people into offices to fill out endless paperwork just to add to that particular agencies numbers is a waste of people’s time but they do it because they are hoping something will come through but the reality is knowing it won’t be any time soon.

If you have any kind of felony on record, even if it was years ago and you’re clean now, your chances of getting a job, an apartment or a college education are nil. I’ve never had a felony of any kind yet I still can’t pass a credit check that I have to pay for not to mention I don’t have enough of an income to pay rent. If you are a homeless youth, you may not be old enough to apply for any social programs because of age requirements. If you’re living on the streets with nowhere to bathe or do laundry let alone get regular meals, how will you be able to keep up with school? The majority of kids I run into on the streets didn’t start using drugs until after they’d been on the streets for long periods of time. Desperate for money, they will resort to prostitution and drug dealing because getting a job that pays even minimum wage is out of their reach. You have to have an address to put on an application and how many places will hire you without a diploma or g.e.d.?

When I ran into a woman sitting in her truck crying her eyes out, I knew she was recently homeless because her household furnishings were piled up in the back of the truck with a tarp over the top. She had run out of gas and I gently approached her to see what I could do. She told me she had nowhere to go and kept crying “When are we going to find a home again?” That’s the sentiment of every homeless person I’ve met that knows the odds are stacked and stacking higher and higher every year. It’s not because people don’t want to work, it’s because they’re working for less longer and the cost of living isn’t going down.

When talking to homeless folks contemplating suicide, the number one contributor to hopelessness is always a lack of being able to access opportunities to get out of homelessness. But they get judged for that. They get criminalized for being poor. They get told to suck it up and get over it. They get harassed from public view by city ordinances and police brutality. They lose all hope that their lives are worth living. Then they die for it.

 

worn bible with crown of thorns

worn bible with crown of thorns

Woke up to a wet snowy morning out here in the Pacific Northwest and while staring at the ground for a few minutes, the first thing I wondered about was how many homeless around here got stuck outside in it during the night. I got about a handful of assorted warmers left but thanks to my friend Queen, I now have a few bags of warm socks to hand out. Handing out housing would be better but those of us doing outreach and working in services for the homeless already know that enough housing for all is a pipe dream the way things are going. I’m thinking about the other night when Maggie and I left my mother’s house and stopped at a local Safeway store to get our dinner and found a homeless teen girl outside quietly panhandling for change to get on the bus. Across the street at the bus stop was a homeless man sitting on a bench in the bus shelter, huddled in the corner to keep the cold air off his face and it seems like as I’m driving around, I see more people with cardboard signs standing on street corners, freeway exits and on ramps, shopping center parking lots and around transit stations.

Sometimes I sit in my car and watch people’s reactions to panhandlers or a visibly homeless person sitting on a sidewalk with a cup that doesn’t say a word. Watch reactions long enough and it becomes clear just how deeply entrenched society’s disdain for the poor is. What goes through your mind when you see a homeless person or needy people in general? Now ask yourself how those thoughts got into your mind in the first place. Another observation I’ve made has to do with church groups doing outreach to homeless folks versus every day folks who take it upon themselves to go out and do something. Depending on the neighborhood and the people, I’ve found that (and no offense to the white folks who might be reading this) that there is a big difference on how proactive faith organizations are in dealing with poverty in their neighborhoods. Wealthy white neighborhoods I’ve visited have a tendency to be in la la land when it comes to empathy and the facts about poverty. Step into the hood and talk to the church groups there whose members come from poverty and the attitude is very real and very proactive.

Here’s an example my kids and I experienced while living out of our old Minnie Winnebago before I had a stroke:

During the summer, we’d spend our days at a park in Kent, Washington. The park was adjacent to a good sized church in a mostly white neighborhood. I ran into a family that was from that church and supposedly the father of that group had some kind of ministerial duties there. The family was nice enough and their kids would run around the park with my daughters. When the mother asked us where we lived, my youngest blurted out “We don’t live anywhere, we’re homeless. We live out of our motorhome.” As soon as the father heard that, the expression on his face changed and he whispered something to his family I could only guess at but from that day forward, their attitude towards us had drastically changed and their kids weren’t allowed to play with mine at the park anymore.

In contrast, when we met the pastors of color in Kent, there was a completely different approach, a more welcoming one. I didn’t get the snooty holier than thou attitude in fact, these pastors already understood poverty very well including the not so thinly veiled racism that comes from outside of it. It was the pastors of color I saw working the streets talking to people, feeding them, putting them in touch with local organizations and listening to what was really going on in the streets that impressed me the most. I even know of one sister who, after struggling to keep a roof over her head and ending up outside due to not being able to find any family shelters or transitional housing programs to get into, that church immediately opened its basement to her and her two boys and gave her the support she needed for as long as they could. The pastors of color I met told me to expect a distanced approach from the people on the hill who can’t understand the realities of poverty because they were never taught to. I saw first hand how some groups think they can make big impacts on their community from a distance instead of meeting it face to face on the street. I even had one church blatantly tell me they do nothing for homeless folks but they sure had plenty of  money for expensive electronic billboards outside their building. I have met a few white churches who did very well in addressing the needs of the poor from a non judgmental stance but they had something in common with the pastors of color: they were all in poor neighborhoods or grew up in one. That being said, I have also run into churches of color that think all they have to do to save a homeless person from abject poverty is wave the bible at them and if they just believe, God will bless them with a holy atm and all their problems will be solved. That is just as unrealistic as thinking you don’t have to be actively involved in your community to improve it.

Everybody who knows me knows I have a great disdain for religion as a whole, all one has to do is read about the history of religion to figure out why, especially in the Native American history but that doesn’t stop me from supporting local groups who actively go out to make a difference in the lives of homeless people. Churches reflect the mentality of their parishioners so if the people who make up those churches have ignorant tendencies, don’t be surprised by their behavior. Homeless folks will tell you right off that what they need is housing, not a sermon. Feeding people in parks is fine but they’re still homeless. When a church’s staff goes home for the night and locks it’s doors, there are homeless people sleeping in the doorways or under it’s bushes, I’ve seen it happen a lot in Kent and Auburn. Churches with large empty parking lots at night have run car dwellers off the property, another practice I’ve been a witness to. I once parked across the street in a dirt lot and watched a priest pick up empty bottles and cans and hurl them at homeless people who were sleeping on the premises to get them off the property. Then there’s churches who’ve dragged their feet to be proactive and the sad part about that is, by the time they actually ”get with the program”, the city’s police dogs have spent their time running local homeless people out of the city or due to deliberate lack of homeless services allowed by city government, push local homeless people off onto other cities.

While this time of year suddenly inspires folks to “Christian charity”, the rest of the year, the less fortunate are given the least of consideration. Instead of preaching salvation, maybe folks ought to start practicing it. How about giving the gift of justice besides just charity? Charity is giving from the top down, justice is leveling the field by ensuring equal access to basic needs everyone has a right to. The higher the pedestal you sit on, the further down you look on other people seems to be the reality of what people do, not what they say they believe in.

 

 

When stupid people speak, all I hear is incoherency: muah muah mwa mwah, muh mwah mwa muah.

After yesterday’s blog made its rounds, what I expected to happen, happened exactly as I thought it would. People were quick to throw around accusations and coddle their judgmental leanings so no surprises there. Their rhetoric is tired and old, just like their ignorance but when you’re addicted to lifelong stupidity, there is no rehab center to go to and there’s no cure for willful ignorance.

First assumptions that many want to believe are the negative ones, drug addiction, lack of education, a bad relationship, whatever negative image an idiot can think of or run to, that’s the one they coddle. Guess what? I’ve never done drugs, drank and for those that only read what they wanted to, I worked two jobs while being homeless so not doing anything to get myself out of homelessness is an assumption pulled out of your asses! How easy it is to put someone else down to inflate your sense of self-righteousness and people like you are a dime a dozen and your mentalities are worth about half as much. Your racism is the product of your inbreeding and you aren’t interesting in hearing any kind of truth that contrasts with your chosen beliefs about other people.

So what if you are involved in “charity”. Charity isn’t necessarily justice especially if someone is forced into constantly being on the receiving side without the hope of getting out from under a system that keeps you trapped in dependence. How about YOU research the facts before you open your mouth? And does your charity create living wage jobs for everybody trying to get one? What dumbass actually believes that’s not a real issue in this country?

I do thank those ignoramuses out there; they validate what I said before about stupid people. You can’t fix them because many don’t want to be cured. It’s easier to open their mouths without thinking and what comes out is a loud declaration of what kind of people they are. Unfortunately, these people vote the same way so it’s up to the rest of us to fight against inbred hatred. Here’s the thing about opinions, some are actually worth your time, the rest are toilet paper.

Stupid people don’t realize how stupid they are so that’s half the amusement. What’s not funny is what I see out here when I do outreach to homeless youth, seniors, vets, women with children, men with children and unaccompanied youth. Finding homeless folks who committed suicide or died from life out on the streets is equally un-amusing. Talking to runaways stuck in human trafficking ain’t exactly a joke but stupid people don’t care to hear about these kinds of realities. Stupid people look away from the fact that just having a job that doesn’t pay a living wage, won’t keep you out of poverty and yet these very same stupid people somehow think that poor folks don’t have the right to complain about the obstacles they have to overcome just to get to a level playing field.

For those of you who actually do get it, I salute you. It’s not easy walking among stupid people, is it? Every day you have to spray yourself down with Teflon so their stupidity won’t stick. Keep fighting the good fight against ignorance since the need is apparently great.

To the incurably stupid, mwah muah mwa muah, mwah mwa mwa mwa…….

 

My fist

 

 

I have a confession to make; there are days where I can’t stand what I do. It’s not the work in itself; it’s the dealing with mind boggling assholes who actually think their idiotic comments about poor people should be taken seriously. Even more aggravating is the dumbass tactics cities and police departments use to harass us and sweep us from public view as if just ignoring poverty or criminalizing it and the people trying to do something about it will somehow cure it. And don’t even get me started on holier than thou’s that are quick to pass judgments on people they do nothing for while sitting comfortably in their alternate universes.

Quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck about your misinformed opinions about homeless people because I know the realities of being a homeless mother for eight and a half years. I don’t give a shit that you think poor people should be tested for drugs before receiving “welfare”.  I don’t give a rat’s ass if you think the poor are somehow less human than those who aren’t. I don’t give a flying fuck that you’re stupid enough to believe there’s all these resources out here to send homeless vets, seniors, the terminally ill, the disabled, families and youth to and I sure the hell don’t give a damn about opinions that believe we don’t have the money to house people WHEN WE SURE THE HELL HAVE MONEY FOR WARS AND WE SURE THE HELL CAN GIVE TAX BREAKS TO THE FILTHY RICH!!

I’m not interested in the latest bullshit tabloid scandals or what crappy show is on television. I don’t give a damn about how many people you’ve slept with, what your sexual orientation is nor do I place too much importance on the color of skin or how you got into this country. Who gives a fuck what brand name is tattooed on the seat of your pants, your car or the phone you just bought? I don’t need you to tell me what I need to do since your ass was nowhere to be found while I had a stroke on the way to picking up my kids before heading off to a second job. Where the fuck were you when the car we were living out of broke down and we were literally stranded on the side of the road with nowhere to go and no gas or money to get gas to go anywhere else? Who the fuck are you to assume that poor folks don’t want to work and that they weren’t responsible enough to avoid homelessness? I’ve had two jobs since I was twelve, bitches!

Don’t invite me to your half ass meetings on ending homelessness because you just plain don’t do enough fast enough! When did any of you listen to people like me who night after night stayed awake behind a steering wheel listening to their kids cry themselves to sleep in the backseat because they were hungry? Oh you’ll open your pocket books to help a pretty white girl or guy but if that woman or man happens to be of color, they’ll be lucky to get bus fare and a sandwich. I don’t give a damn if you don’t want to believe that race plays a part on how much help you get but it’s a reality I’ve lived with and you can’t tell me my experience with racism, even among my own people, doesn’t exist.  Don’t waste my time with waiting lists and promises of help when you already know damn well you can’t guarantee anything! I don’t need false hope, I need real stability like a living wage job and a safe place for my kids to be while working more than one job because that’s the only way I’ll ever be able to afford a place of my own before I die.

Don’t assume that just because I have a blog and a few followers that I get money from “fans”. Truth is there are only a handful of people who donate to me to help me help local homeless folks who are worse off than I am.  That’s not to say folks didn’t rally around me when I was in desperate trouble, like when my only transportation and shelter broke down in winter but that was about two years ago and the only thing that’s changed after living on wheels for almost 9 years is the direct help I got to “couch surf” through the winter at Liz’s house thanks to Andy but guess what? I’M NOT OUT OF POVERTY! I worry about not having a job much less child care and if you don’t have money for child care, you don’t have a job, do you? What happens if I can’t (after a sufficient amount of time has passed) make enough to help contribute to utilities or pay rent? Section 8 is closed to apply for in this state and should an application magically appear out of thin air, the waiting list for Section 8 is several years long.

Maybe I’m just pissed off that everywhere I look, I see masses of people who care more about bullshit than they do about being real. Maybe I’m pissed off that my mother’s doctors told her that at the rate her cancer is going right now, she only has a few months to live and watching her sell off what little possessions she has to compensate for bills she can’t afford to pay is the reason the rage inside of me can’t be contained any longer.

But who gives a fuck about that as long as they ‘re comfortably distanced from the reality us poor folks get to face every day.

handful of pennies

 

An aunt of mine asked me something I get asked a lot and that is whether or not I see more people of color out here than I do white folks. I’ve also been asked by others if I think racism plays a part on who gets help. Since I can only speak from my own experiences and what I have personally observed, I can tell you that yes, there are more people of color in poverty than whites, yes, I have seen preferential treatment given to people who do not look like me but I have noticed a curious phenomenon that occurs outside of white communities and that is we people of color do not support each other as much as we should.

Let me give you an example of what I have seen happen not just to myself but to other people of color who have fallen on hard times. Recently I was contacted by a woman much darker than me who had two kids and was staying in the basement of a church in Seattle. They were only able to give her shelter for 30 days, after that, she and her boys were on their own. I posted photos of her online so that people could see this was a real woman struggling in their community. Right away I started getting accusatory questions regarding her situation, does she have addiction problems that led her to homelessness? Is she mentally ill? Maybe she doesn’t manage her money properly. Is she a high school drop out? This woman went to college, applied for every job she could think of, was on a standby part time position at a local hospital, didn’t own a car and never had to ask for help before and yet all this negativity was being hurled at her not from white folks but from other people of color! Assumptions made about a woman of color they did not personally know! For all my fundraising efforts, donations came in from a handful of people that only totaled three weeks’ worth of motel stays. Out of the handful of people that donated, two were white, the others local people of color that barely had enough to live on themselves.

Flash back to another case of a young single white mother with a three year old I found sitting on the sidewalk panhandling for enough money to get a hotel room for the night. I posted her story and people couldn’t wait to donate funds to help her. Then there was another white mom who happened to be married to a black man. Before anyone donated to them, again, accusatory questions were asked about them right from the start not just from white folks but from people of color as well! Time and time again I have seen a pattern when it comes to how many donations I get to help local homeless folks and the fact is, if it’s a white person I post about, they get more help from their community than our community helps our own.

If you think this only happens in the black community, guess again. I have experienced this same behavior in the Native American community and the Filipino community as well. It is as though we judge ourselves and our prosperity based on the white man’s standards of living instead of keeping to our ways of supporting our own communities the way we always have without outside influences dictating to us what are priorities should be. We need to be teaching our kids that life is not a rap video. They need to be taught that narcissism and materialism do not make them better human beings. We need to be the first line of defense against the offense of poverty in our communities since poverty is something communities of color know all too well. It doesn’t matter what other people think of us, we have to think better about how our perceptions prevent us from being better societies.

Maybe if I were white and wrote a fictitious story about why poor people make bad decisions, I could garner donations totaling $50,000 or more but the reality is that I probably never will since I am a very real woman of color who knows what it’s like to be a homeless mother and even though I write about the experience as well as tweet about it, any help I’ve been given hasn’t gotten me out of homelessness. The only thing that gave me a place to stay was direct intervention about four months ago from a friend who happens to be white. I’m still struggling to find a steady income that will pay for rent and child care but how long will that take?

Paper plate

 

 

 

 

Ever notice how the poor are suddenly the focus of more attention around the holidays? What about the rest of the year? Does Christian charity only happen on Christmas and what about the atheists? Does not having a belief system make them any less caring than those who do? Does your political affiliation make a difference in reducing poverty anywhere?  Seems to me that beliefs either personal or political, have nothing to do with showing compassion all year round but I have noticed that as soon as the holidays come around, all of a sudden it’s popular to be considerate.

Let’s face it, nobody wants to see just how widespread poverty has become in this country much less be in poverty yet the more we ignore it, the less gets done about it and the problem  will continue to be a problem. Sure, you can pass a farm bill with massive cuts to food stamps and you can take away funding for public housing thinking (unrealistically) that such measures will push people into jobs and that sounds great on paper but the reality is that there aren’t enough living wage jobs to go around neither is affordable housing otherwise why are there so many people living out of their cars, under bridges or couch surfing on other people’s couches? Quite a few people who work can’t afford to keep a roof over their heads or enough food on the table no matter what they do and for those of you quick to point the finger at “individual responsibility”, not everyone who is homeless is a drug addict or mentally ill.

And how about those folks on the brink of losing their homes because of all those miraculous jobs that some people think are out there? If all their earnings go to rent, utilities and childcare, there is nothing left over to buy groceries with and food banks can only give out so much because I know from personal experience that if you are homeless, you can only go to a food bank once a week but if you’re housed, you can only come in once a month. If you are living out of your car or a backpack, you can only take things that don’t require refrigeration, cooking or a lot of storage space.

Then comes the holiday season and all of a sudden, here comes the media and would be do-gooders to come take care of the poor! This is not to say that local orgs or agencies aren’t doing anything every other day of the year, it’s just that needy folks need more than a turkey dinner and a candy cane! If you really want to help the less fortunate, you don’t have to wait for the holidays. All you have to do is get involved with local organizations already involved with services like clothing banks or food pantries. Maybe there’s a volunteer group that visits the elderly to help them with housework or yardwork and if these services don’t exist, don’t be afraid to create them!

Sometimes the most a person can do is put together care packs. Basically this is a large resealable plastic bag filled with things like a pair of warm socks, travel sized toiletries, ready to eat foods, a bottle of water, hand wipes or even a $5 fast food gift card to get something hot to drink or eat. Maybe there’s a community hall or senior center with a kitchen that you can host community dinners or breakfasts in that are open to the public or bring food items to those who can’t get out. A lot of times I carry things like extra socks, hats, coats, hand warmers or rain ponchos in the back of my car to give to local homeless folks who need.

Oh and please don’t assume that what you read here on this blog is in any way shape or form the only thing I or you can do to make your community a better place to live in because there is a lot to do when it comes to helping your fellow man, woman and child. There is still the matter of educating people on the facts of poverty and that includes policy makers and voters. One person can’t do everything but maybe everybody can do something!

 

 

 

The Other Day

 

Seems like everywhere I look

Tough times are getting tougher

And mean keeps getting meaner

Maybe it doesn’t want to be

But does it anyway

 

They told me they found Pops

Frozen on the ground the other day

He didn’t have anywhere to go except

Under a bridge or out in the woods somewhere

Not that anyone cared ‘cause

If they had maybe he wouldn’t have been out there

 

So I went for a walk

In my old neighborhood

Passing by two guys

I thought were sleeping in their car

Turns out they were dead from an overdose

Can’t help but wonder how long they’d been there

 

The neighbors across the street said

They found those missing girls I was looking for

Finally found them in their final resting place

In two shallow graves along the highway

 

Then they asked me if I knew

Who jumped in front of the trains last Friday

I guess somehow they figured I would

Since I’m always out here

Anyway

When I went around the block

To see if Lois was still around

They told me she got evicted

And couldn’t get any housing

So she climbed through an empty window

And took her last breath

On the dining room floor

Maybe she died from a broken heart

 

Sitting in my car

Wondering where the hell I am

And where I’ll be tomorrow

Has left me wondering if

Anyone will remember

I used to be here