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I don’t know what’s worse…the waiting around for a mechanic to call with a quote or the anxiety that comes with the wait. Add to this the frustration of never hearing back on all the jobs you applied for and the constant worrying about a better future and you have the perfect recipe for an ulcer. To my surprise I haven’t gotten one yet.

Maybe it’s because when things start to pile up in my mind, the only way to vent is to write it out in poetic form. That’s what happened late last night while reading about my favorite poet, the great Maya Angelou. Her words always take me to that place inside me that keeps me from caving in.

Thank you Maya, for all your “singing” words!

 

I know why the great lady sings

 

I know why the great lady sings

Of freedoms we all dream of

It’s because she sees as only she can

The obvious in everyone’s wingspan

 

The first time I read her poetry

I thought she was talking straight at me

About a woman’s work taken for granted

The kind many of us call our own

 

When the great lady sings through spoken word

I feel as though she understands what it’s like to be alone

Because like her I find that my soul is still seeking

That place to call home

 

All this time I thought I was making it on my own

But then that couldn’t be true since

I have been traveling with souls equaling two

My girls are the eyes I must measure up to

 

And I think this time around, while I’m down in the dirt

The perspective has changed from here

If I look up into the sky, to greet the dawning sun’s light

Then maybe too like she says, still I will rise

 

Across this land like a red ocean, my ancestors bled

Because greed came to visit and take

What did not belong to it

I have become the dreams they hope

Will bring us all back

 

Child within the woman I am sees a little clearer now

How love frees pleasure from the pains

And memories drawn from deep inner springs

Made me a little wiser and now I know

 

Why the great lady sings

As soon as the kids were off at school, I called around to some auto junkyards to see if they had a decent automatic transmission for a 92 Ford Aerostar. I didn’t have much luck and I called a few garages just to see what would be involved in getting a rebuilt one. To my horror, a rebuilt tranny costs over $1900.00, plus tax, plus almost $100.00 an hour to install it, plus a knot growing in my throat and the feeling of air being squeezed out of my lungs while listening to the mechanics quote prices for money I don’t even have.

Out here, not having a car is a nightmare as there are only two bus routes, the one that runs in the morning and the one that comes back during the dinner hour. That’s it. I had to cancel my teen’s doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning because we have no way to be there by 9 am. Even if the buses out here ran earlier than they do, we’d have to leave here by 4:30 – 5:00 am to be there on time. Add to this the fact that I got the van for free so spending close to $2,000.00, (possibly more as I don’t know what else might be wrong) is beginning to feel like the vehicle isn’t worth saving. For that much money, I could get another used car without a transmission problem.

Then there’s Caly calling her mechanic to see if he can find a transmission. I basically told her what’s the difference if he finds one less than what I was quoted since I still don’t have the money to pay for anything? He can call all around if he wants to but that doesn’t mean money is gonna fall from the sky!

I couldn’t eat yesterday and the day before I was just too stressed out to care. Maybe by tomorrow, Caly’s friend/mechanic will tell us how much he would charge but again, if I can’t afford to have him fix the van, it’s a wasted effort. Right now it’s about 6 pm and he hasn’t called so maybe by tomorrow I’ll know for sure.

Ahhhh….another day in paradise.

On the way to picking up my eldest, the mini-van started acting funny. It dragged when I stepped on the gas pedal and while driving down the highway, it wanted to slow down then speed up. When the high-pitched whining sound started, I pulled into a Firestone Mastercare garage I was familiar with. Thank goodness my mother and sister lived only a few blocks away. I left the car at the garage thinking by the time my sister drove us to Bellevue and back, they would at least have gotten on diagnostic done but after waiting a couple of hours after getting back from Bellevue, no one had called.

It was getting dark and the shop closed at 6 pm. They aren’t open on Sundays and I had no way of getting back here to pick up the van let alone the funds to pay for more than a diagnostic. I got to the garage at 4:30 and told the mechanics that I might as well just take a chance at driving the van back to Caly’s place, 70 miles away. One mechanic said that he suspects that the transmission on the Aerostar is going out from what he could tell (they were nice enough not to charge me anything for taking a look after all!).

I went online to see what a rebuilt transmission would cost and most of the prices listed say $1500.00! Then my instincts kicked in. Maybe I can find a used transmission at a junkyard that has less mileage on it than mine does. The only thing after that is to see how much a shop would charge to install it.

Since today is Sunday, I can’t call any places until tomorrow. I am hoping with any luck, it won’t cost that much but since I don’t have any money, I am thinking the van may not be worth saving since it was given to me for free.

So today is another adventure in homelessness and tomorrow will determine what I do in the very near future.

Stay tuned!

Dear Abby:.

In regards to your advice to a homeless family to go to a shelter indicates a lack of understanding on the homelessness issue. For one thing, if this family is able to get into a shelter (many are full and have to turn people away), they may not want to. Have you personally talked to any homeless individuals or to anyone who works at a shelter? If not, allow me to “educate” you on what many experience at shelters.

For women, being out on the streets is dangerous enough and you would think that a shelter would be safer. I invite you to read a post by Eric Jonathan Sheptock regarding the treatment of women at a local shelter.

Need more? Then check out what Carey Roberts has to say about shelters for women.

Splitting up families is nothing new in the world of homelessness since many shelters are for men only, women only or women with children. If folks can’t get into a shelter guess what? They have the privelege of living out of their vehicles. Telling Scared from Texas that going into shelters isn’t breaking up the family is far from the truth. Families living out of their cars will tell you that in many cases, living out of their cars IS safer than going to shelters.

I suggest before giving any more advice to the homeless, it would be a good idea to do some research before handing out a convenient suggestion to just “go to a shelter”. Yes, there are some good ones out there but like I just mentioned, they may already be full.

To Scared of Lubbock, Texas, I have this to say. Please, please visit us at We Are Visible on Facebook if you can get access to the internet. We would love to talk to you about your concerns. Many of us, including myself have been and are in your family’s situation.  

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Looking back on what I would call a strange reality, being homeless while at the same time being busier than I’ve ever been in my life, is a paradox I am still struggling with.

To think it all started with one letter to an editor of change.org still boggles my mind. I would never have met Mark Horvath if it hadn’t been for change.org, nor would I have run across Eric Sheptock. Thanks to Mark I have met several grand souls that I am extremely grateful to count as friends (You all know who you are!).

Do you find it odd that the more you go out of your way to serve your community, the more you run into people with negative attitudes about what you’re doing? I love it! What better way is there of gauging attitudes among the masses about what homelessness is and who the homeless are? We are people and yes…some have addiction and mental issues but hey, so are people who aren’t homeless!

I look at it like this, taking the path of least resistance sure does look like conformity to me and from the looks of things, conformity doesn’t seem to be working so well. I strongly suspect that the service providers who take a different approach are the ones with the most success rates. Let’s be real here, although shelters can provide an immediate place to be on any given night, they were not intended to be permanent housing. Not only that, many people have to be turned away when the shelters are full and shelters are seeing unprecedented numbers right now. Tent cities are mushrooming as an alternative to the shelter system and yet…in a country that is supposedly wealthy….people are still dying in the cold because they had nowhere else to go but under a bridge or the nearest sidewalk.

Why do families have to experience homelessness when it could’ve been avoided if relatives in a position to help actually did so? How do soup kitchens help folks by putting limits on how many times the needy can eat there? Why is it a crime to sleep in your own car but not considered inhumane to penalize and jail folks for simply having no where to go?

Here’s one that has always bothered me: Why is the state willing to pay a stranger to raise your kids but won’t lift a finger to guarantee housing for the parents? If you don’t think this is true, look up foster parenting.

But what do I know about what it’s like to be a homeless mother………

Yes indeed, we humans and the way we think is a strange paradox.

So far I have applied for 5 jobs today. Pretty sure I won’t hear back from them but I will keep trying anyway. I’m not concerned about Christmas, haven’t been for the last six years. Not for any particular belief sytem but because of monetary practicalities. Rather than spend money on gifts or wrapping paper, keeping the gas tank filled and the engine running were more important. When I had my old Minnie Winnebago, propane was at a premium to keep us warm in the winter and yes, sometimes it took all the cash I had.The only thing different this year is that I now have a mini-van that still needs a tune-up and probably an oil change.

My teen joined the girl’s wrestling team, the first time she’s participated in a school sport but it didn’t occur to her that there were costs involved like the $20.00 for the shoes they wear and another $96.00 fee required by the school. She’s only been doing the sport for about 3 weeks now and yesterday she tried to hide the fact that she was crying about it. Every year she wants to join something, a sport or a music class but can’t because there is no money for it. The only thing she asked me for if I had the money, was a gift card to a book store.

My 7-year old didn’t ask for much either since the concept of why people celebrate holidays is still new to her. She knows we can’t tote toys around with us. What she wants is her own room.

In many ways, the holidays are a constant reminder to us of how far we have fallen. No matter how well intended the comments or well wishes are, I am still unemployed. We are still homeless. Why would I need another reminder of that?

The current economic crisis in the country I live in is the problem. We can all sit around and debate with politicians about it but what is actually getting done? The private sector cannot absorb or fix poverty on it’s own. The industrial elite caused the problem, the industrial elite must fix it instead of profiting on the blood, sweat and tears of the working class.

People spend money on gifts of “stuff” instead of using that money to get a homeless parent off the street during winter. There’s not enough shelters to provide sanctuary in freezing temperatures so those not able to find one…die. Suicide or drug addiction for our youth is the only way they see out of an already desperate life when their parents can’t find a job or provide stability.

Here is my challenge to self-proclaimed do-gooders. I challenge you to take the money you would ordinarily spend on “stuff” and donate it to a local shelter or safe house for battered women and abused children. Create a network that will provide safe and secure childcare for working parents who can’t keep a job if their kids have nowhere to go. Volunteer or create a soup kitchen if such places don’t exist in your town. Buy hand warmers or gear and bring it to tent cities to help ward off hypothermia and frostbite to its residents. If you are a lawyer, doctor or nurse, donate your time and services to those who otherwise could not afford to pay you. Educate yourself on the truth about homelessness and the people who landed there. I suspect that it the long term, it isn’t facts that will impress you, just what you will learn about yourself.

On a grand scale there is this to consider. If you refuse to invest your resources in feeding big businesses, they can’t feed politicians. What happens when the people invest in people? When the profit margin is affected, only then will policy makers listen….

Tired Eyes

I can’t cry anymore since

The trail my tears once travelled on

Has begun to disappear

 

Funny how the universe has a sense of irony

Playing tricks on hearts and minds by

Placing them on opposing sides

 

The gods of Chaos now reign supreme

Fathering the pains of uncertainty

Using the kings of industry

 

Twins from hell, Want and Poverty

Follow the sirens of false prosperity

Spreading seeds of broken dreams

 

Out of nightmares caused by the spawn of Greed

I see the beginnings of a new prophecy

Warriors born of necessity

 

Mother’s pain like shattered glass

Ghetto child feels lack of social economic class

Champions of coup-de-grace

 

This is the womb I was conceived in

Don’t know the tenderness of believed in

Because the prayers I was taught were deceiving

 

Daughters of mine a hard upbringing

Tough like diamond’s enduring beauty

See how they come up swinging

 

New day coming brought by those who

Paid the price for Wall Street fools and

They look just like me and you

 

Time to let my spirit rise so

Don’t pity me or patronize my

Tired eyes

Sometimes the beauty inside us

Becomes a twisted fatality

Blending hearts and minds into

Swirling blurs of lost identities

Fighting the good fight doesn’t mean

Losing your sight or your way

Just means while on the ground

You have time to look around

See us now or later doesn’t matter which

We are not what you think or thought

Too many of us existing

Only to subsist

In the wake of scarce necessities

The bystander can no longer afford

To look away from the tidal wave

Of untold poverty

Do-gooders beware of Loud Mouth’s wrath

The one who says he’s not so nice

Championing the homeless voice

By the name of Mark Horvath

When it comes to sandwiches and gospels

We’ve been stuffed till full

Thanks to hardly normal efforts

We Are Visible

A poem.