Will Work 4 Food
There’s more to being homeless than not having a home. If your eyes glaze over when you look at a crowd of “the homeless” then you might be missing the important details that set apart who we really are – not what we are. Admitting it is the first step they say. The real problem is that there are so many problems. If you took the time to ask us why they are homeless or what we need to stop being homeless you’d get the same number of answers as people you ask. Homeless – need a home, right? Well, actually need a job so we can pay the rent, right? Oh, well it is kinda hard to get a job if you don’t have an address or phone number for the application. And then there is the issue of showering and dressing for the day to day job. Why don’t we just wash our clothes at Plowshares you ask? Well, because there are 10x more need than washers available on any given day. If you don’t have a car you won’t be first in line to wash clothes or shower.
Don’t forget that many of us end up here because we’ve got issues with drugs, addiction or alcohol – but there are also those who drink because we don’t know how else to deal with the soul numbing loneliness and alienation on the street. A life of victimization and violence put more than a few of us on the street so giving us a job or home won’t help us deal with the next asshole that we trust who leaves us broke and beaten.
So many of us have a record – criminal or not – and it’s easy to see why a good job is not on the horizon. If you sat down for lunch with us and asked about our professions or education you might be shocked to know that we’ve got master mechanics, appliance repair techs, teachers, artists, plumbers, carpenters and more than a few master’s degrees floating around here.
Did you know that there exists a whole social strata among those who live on the street? We’ve got those that hang at bumbie park and the others at the Wal-Mart parking lot. You’ve got the panhandlers and the parking lot crew on one end of town and on the other you’ve got the multitudes that hang at the Memorial Garden at the Ukiah Community Center. There are the ones that live on the tracks and never stay in the shelter and then still others who live in their cars and camp on the river. We’ve got “drunks”, “druggies” and “tweaks” and then there’s the “12-steppers” and “tea-totallers” avoiding the “addicts” so they can keep clean enough to get into transitional housing. There are the crazy and mentally-ill and then there’s the insane.
And we all bleed, shiver and shake in the cold and get drenched in the rain - the same as you.
Some you might assume to be homeless in our crowd actually have a room they rent or a shack in the woods and yet they come together with the rest of us. It’s not a home that makes them end their homelessness. On the other hand more than a few of us living on the street will argue that we are NOT homeless, but rather without the burdens of a home. For some it’s a way of life that is without the constraints of stability – for those burdens weight so heavy on our broken shoulders it’s easier to let that all go.
For those of you that seek to end homelessness- I’ll pray for you. Your job is just too big. On the other hand those of you seeking to help those of us in need can step right up if you’re willing to listen, suspend judgment and know that we each have a different path to stability. This doesn’t fit in a nice program or treatment plan, but it can work – one person at a time.
Stan M. –
Stan is a local resident who has been both housed and homeless enough times to write a great book.