Tag Archives: homelessness

Philosophy Tuesday: Gratitude

gratitude-meme1-1024x768Most of us have more than we need. When you consider the basics (a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food on the table), pretty much any other material good is a “want” not a “need.”

I have observed over the years that those of us who are materially blessed always think we “need” more.  And people we know are struggling for the basics are just grateful for what they have. Recently, CRC supplied a formerly homeless woman with bedding, bath items and kitchenware for her new transitional home. How many of us take sheets for granted? She didn’t. She was deliriously happy.  She didn’t care what color they were or even if they fit her bed (which was an air mattress, by the way).

Last summer, we provided new backpacks to at-risk children returning the school. I happened to be at one of the schools receiving the backpacks, a school with a large population of homeless children. One of them came up to the teacher with his backpack in hand and asked if he could give it to another student who needed it more. Compare that to the hysterical midnight shoppers physically shoving each other out of the way to grab a bargain flat-screen TV at those big box retailers on Black Friday.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”
Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

A few nice things

We work with the Downtown Partnership’s homeless initiative, which is basically run by one guy named Adam Ries. This is one of the few programs I know about that’s totally win-win. The partnership represents downtown businesses, which have been plagued for years by chronically homeless people, primarily men, sleeping in doorways or doing their business in places where they shouldn’t. We’re a tourist town and that’s not what Aunt Sally and Uncle Bubba came from Shreveport to see.

So rather than sort of herd the homeless around, shooing them from one place to the next, the partnership hired Adam to get the most chronic offenders off the streets and into housing. And he’s having spectacular success, in part due to the fact that he’s passionate about his mission and he has a compassionate heart for the people he’s helping.

Before

The other day, he came to CRC on a particular mission that I had not foreseen. He told me about a man he’d helped get housing. The man had a couch and an old TV. But he rarely stayed in his apartment, preferring instead to visit his neighbors. Adam asked him why. The man said that his apartment was so sterile. It didn’t look like a home. Well, CRC is full of  new decorative items that make a house a home. And we loaded Adam up.

After

It’s not House Beautiful material, but it is those little touches that personalize a home. And everyone deserves nice things. This is an aspect of my job I have a hard time explaining – the effect of a few nice things on a person’s dignity and outlook on life. But I hear it over and over from our nonprofit partners. The granny who has no relatives but was gifted a birdhouse from CRC on her birthday. The young man who’d had a tough time in life but went to a job interview in new clothes and shoes from CRC. He got the job. And a homeless guy in a new apartment…with a few nice things.

The mean streets of Brentwood

I am sure the world has been breathlessly waiting for me to weigh in on The Contributor controversy. Wait no more.

The City of Brentwood has been trying to stop vendors from selling The Contributor, a newspaper focusing on the issue of homelessness, on medians or street corners in the city. It has cited an ordinance that prohibits anyone from selling anything in such a fashion. The ACLU has taken the city to court on behalf  of the Contributor.

Much has been made of the people of Brentwood and their supposed disdain of the homeless vendors and homeless people in general. And it is true that seeing a homeless person in Brentwood is a little jarring because of its unusual nature. However, I am a person of Brentwood. I have lived there for almost 18 years. And I think both sides have some valid points.

The same types of ordinances that would prevent Contributor vendors from selling newspapers also cover things like building facades (they must be brick) and lot sizes (except for rare occasions, they must one acre) and billboards (there are none except a couple that were grandfathered in). The idea of the founding fathers was that strict controls would be placed on Brentwood from the beginning to exclude anything that would sully the aesthetics of the place. Now, I won’t even go into the fact that the closest thing to a “downtown” is a strip shopping center which is hardly aesthetically pleasing. But you get the idea. Too restrictive for you? Don’t move to Brentwood. There are plenty of other nice places to live.

On the other side of the coin is the First Amendment. Pesky thing, that. If you’re not up on the First Amendment, part of it involves freedom of the press. The Contributor is a legitimate and well-read newspaper. The reason it is sold by vendors rather than in newspaper boxes is that it’s a better business model. The vendors buy each paper for a quarter and sell it for a dollar (sometimes more if the buyer tips). That money has gotten many vendors off the streets and into affordable housing, something Metro government has failed to do for years. Vendors must be well dressed, clean and respectful. There is no pan handling. They don’t need to – they have a good product to sell.

The vendors do not approach motorists. They wait until someone rolls down their window and sticks a dollar out, thereby signaling the vendor to approach. Many Contributor customers get to know their vendor and might bring him or her a bottle of water or a snack. They do not run between lanes of traffic, endangering themselves or others. So what is wrong with this picture? Nothing that I can see.

And why am I writing this on the CRC blog? Because many of those vendors who are now making a self-sufficient life have been the recipients of donations from CRC. I am personally thrilled to think we had some small part in getting them on their feet with the shampoo, soap, clothing and other items so they could be clean and well-shaven out there on those mean streets of Brentwood.

So I guess where I really come down on this is that these men and women trying to better their lives are somebody’s son, daughter, father or mother. Cut them some slack. It’s not so bad. Really.

Musings of a homeless girl

I came across this while I was searching for something else on the internet (isn’t that always the way?). I’m meeting with a group from the Homelessness Commission this afternoon, trying to find ways CRC can help them put homeless folks in housing.  This is an excerpt from a blog written by a 19-year-old homeless girl in England.  Not the stereotypical image of a homeless person, I think you’ll agree. Maybe there shouldn’t be a stereotype of someone who’s down on their luck, eh?

This may be an offensive post to some people who will probably think I have no idea what I’m talking about. But I would rather have cancer than be homeless.

I’m not saying that having cancer is easy or any sickness is good. So let me get that straight.

This whole experience that I’ve gone through has been the worst thing that has ever happened to me, the truth is I have no control whatsoever over my life.

Most homeless people or disadvantaged people have options in their lives. Even if you are sleeping on the street, you have the option to look for a job, to volunteer, to go on assisted living. I have none. I am a statistic that no one wants and an afterthought that has never been seen by society. I am neither here nor there but living in a world of uncertainty just barely hanging there.

But if I could trade my homelessness for someones sickness, I would take it. Not because I think cancer is less than homelessness but because my pain would be external and not internal.

I would be able to look forward to getting better or dying.  Either way there is an end.

I could go to a hospital and be in one place, I wouldn’t have to move around and beg people to let me stay in their house.

Even if I lay in pain I could control the pain with medication and lie in a bed for as long as I wanted. I don’t even have a bed to call my own.

Many times I wish I was someone else. When I have conversations with people I look at them thinking I wish I was you right now so you could take the thoughts I have about what I’m going to do next or the vast emptiness of where my happiness used to be. I wish you could take it so that I wouldn’t know the pain you are going through or the lies you tell every time some one asks what you are doing with your life.

I wish, I wish, I wish…

No matter how hard it will never come true. I just have to make the best of what I have.

Yours Always, Homeless Girl