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.

Just because we’re homeless doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate things like poetry or any other artistic expression.

Tick Tock

Tick, tock, tick, tock, beats the rhythm of my clock

Living on borrowed time, living off a borrowed dime

Tick, tock, round and round, there she goes

Where she stops, nobody knows

Tick, tock, tick, tock, feel my heart going into shock

No such thing as stability in the face of poverty

Tick, tock, it is true, I live outside of you

Worn expressions coming through

Tick, tock, tick, tock, pretending not, pretending to be

Wondering just how much to bleed

Tick, tock, what do you know?

Sometimes it’s just all for show

Tick, tock, tick, tock, uncertain is as uncertain does

Anxiety flows in rivers of blood

Tick, tock, where to go, where to run

Darkness has eclipsed the sun

Tick, tock, tick, tock, watching now how much is lost

Calculate the human cost

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock

In love with community service.

I’m in love…that’s right I admit it. I’m in love with community service. One of my favorite causes is a tent city here in Seattle called Nickelsville. The residents call themselves Nickelodeons and they are a model tent city. They are self-governed and as they often say on their website, they are homeless not helpless. Many of the people I met here have jobs and families and are no different from you or I. There are rules here, such as no drugs or alcohol which is probably the reason families with children would join this roaming community.

In their efforts to become self-sufficient they have been working with the city of Seattle in the hopes of finding a permanent location for Nickelsville before adverse weather sets in. Even with recommendations from a citizens review panel and after 7 sites were suggested and narrowed down to one, Mayor Mike McGinn now says that no site will be found this winter.

Wherever they land, one thing is for sure and that is they will need to stay warm and dry. I know they need tarps and more tents as some are looking rather worn. The latest update on their site says that their new site will be available by noon tomorrow so I intend to show up before that to see what I can do. I know that once everything is unpacked and unloaded and the residents have a chance to settle in, boxes of hand warmers will be greatly appreciated along with food items and things like laundry detergent. I will post tomorrow’s activities with photos but I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to read this and for your contributions.

Please feel free to visit Nickelsville’s site at http://www.nickelsvilleseattle.org/

Ripples…..

Sometimes you are the catalyst that starts a chain reaction that goes out farther than you ever thought possible. On my blog I wrote about an 85-year old street performer I call Rab that many have written to at my request. His loneliness is his greatest sadness and his sadness moved me. Rab calls me often and many times he has mentioned his “spiritual son” who he misses and loves dearly. He wonders how his son is doing and if he’ll ever hear from him again.

While writing up petitions and posts for change.org a message popped up on my screen from wordpress.com then another direct email from a man who identified himself as Rab’s spiritual son. I gave him Rab’s phone number and encouraged him to please, please call as soon as possible. I called Rab and told him that yet another surprise would be coming to him over the phone. Of course, Rab asked if the person to be calling was someone he had spoken to before, I replied that he knew this person but I was not going to tell him any more than that because it would ruin the surprise.

I asked Rab later about his “surprise” and he couldn’t believe that the story I posted about him got to his spiritual son. Rab had not seen his son for over 7 years nor could he believe that his story was seen by so many. I mentioned to Rab that perhaps it would be a good idea to finally become acquainted with the internet because it is a new way to connect with other people and current events.  In return, Rab mentioned to me that he preferred to be called Rabbi. “Ok Rab, from now on its Rabbi”, I replied. I asked him about his surprise phone call and this is what the Rabbi said to me: “Oh, you have no idea! I was so thrilled to hear from him! I have known this boy since he was twelve years old and now he’s in his fifties! I had no idea that it was through you that he got my number. I was so thrilled to hear from him! We exchanged information with each other to keep in touch.” It is my hope that reconnecting with the people he loves the most will help soothe the loneliness the Rabbi lives through every day.

Most of the time I write for myself and if others enjoy reading what I write then I am honored. When I decided to put the Rabbi’s story “out there”, I didn’t know how many pairs of eyes would see it or how far his story would travel but some strange coincidence, his story reached the person it needed to. I have learned that when things seem hopeless or impossible, that’s the time when all things are possible because hope doesn’t mean much if there’s no action behind it. Sometimes little ripples on the surface grow into tidal waves across oceans.

Now if only he would stop asking me to marry him….:)

I look around me and see so many people in pain. Financially we’re all hurting and it’s hard to see brighter days when you don’t know where you’ll end up. Veterans of  a hard life have deeper wounds inside them than most people know about or want to know. I often wonder how they got like that and if it’s possible for those wounds to heal. It is heartbreaking to think that such individuals are forever damaged.

How often do we find ourselves driving down the road of self loathing on our way to a personalized hell we carry around inside of us? It is as though we are addicted to telling ourselves that there must be something wrong with us for not being who we think we ought to be and then projecting that thought process out onto other people.

Of course none of us are perfect and that’s the beauty of being human. If we were perfect I’d be bored out of my head! I like real life, the kind that sometimes burps or farts in public because you can’t hold it in any longer. Let me see you when you’re angry, scared, frustrated, uncertain and depressed. It grosses me out to see people with their fingers up their noses digging for gold while sitting in traffic because they think no one can see them but hey, it’s real! Watching old men in parks scratching their rear ends and not caring who sees them do it is beautiful because in their advanced years they learned that if it itches, scratch it!

Life is messy, raw and sometimes unforgiving however….it is also sexy, loving, nurturing, supportive and downright funny. It’s like that time that bird crap fell from heaven and landed on the shoulder of your brand new coat while taking a stroll downtown and in a haste to get it off you bump into that gal you’ve always wanted to talk to but didn’t think you could and now you’re apologizing and by way of apology you’re talking and then…..you’re sitting at a coffee bar having that conversation you’ve always wanted.

Then there’s those of us whose circumstances embarrass us to the point we don’t want anyone to know we exist so we shut folks out who could be the best friends we’ve ever had. Or maybe we’re afraid to let anyone get too close because getting close means dropping our guard and showing ourselves as we really are, demons and all. Fear of letting love in even though we need it the most is emotional suicide. What is the purpose of beating ourselves up?

If you choose my friendship then there are some things you need to know about me. I don’t judge and I expect nothing from you. If I can help you, I will. I accept you for who you are and will meet you “where you’re at”. You are not the person you were yesterday, and you will be different tomorrow, so will I nor will I hide who I am or what I’m about, that’s a waste of time. Ask me and I’ll tell you but be prepared to receive my questions in return. See me as I am and accept what you see or do us both a favor and walk away. It’s as simple as that!

To those of you who chose my friendship I commend you since once upon a time I used to beat myself up to the point I couldn’t recognize my own reflection but somehow, you saw through all that. It is through looking past the obvious and seeing the real me that taught me to do the same. You may be homeless, down and out but you’re not out for the count!

Thank you for the lessons in humility, acceptance and unconditional love.

Battlefields

The war inside wages doubt, fear and shame

Missiles on self-esteem and courage aimed

Darkness is an ally teaching

Blame

In the same hand lies declare and truce

Hearts and souls to be gained

Poisoned arrows produce

Pain

Conflicts reel imagined pallor

Innocent victim is the transgressor

Infection the belief of

Lesser

Shattered images self portraits fragile

Wounded climbing trenches bleeding

Self abuse the while

Needing

Acceptance’s healing lotions

Covers damages incidental

Medicine non judgmental

Notions

Casualties expected veterans few

Finds the reluctant hero you

Conquering self-made

Battlefields