The Evidence of Things Not Seen
The stereotypical homeless person can be seen in various media throughout the world. The image we Americans typically see is the scruffy man in dirty clothing standing on the street corner with a handmade cardboard sign (which typically reads not "Will Work For Food", but "Hungry, Homeless, God Bless", or some variant of such.) hitting passersby up for spare change.
Or the broken down woman long past her prime shuffling along pushing a battered shopping cart full of various and sundry knickknacks.
Or the drunken/stoned man with the aroma of booze/urine/sweat/tobacco who strikes up a conversation in such a way that five seconds in you know he's going to beg for money.
Or perhaps the man with scraggly facial stubble asleep in the library or bus station, head propped on his hand.
Sorry to bust your perceptions, but I fit none of those categories.
Up until February 9, I was just like anyone reading this: an average guy, looking to provide for his kids the best way he could in a world that, frankly, not only didn't give a damn but that would just as soon had seen me and my family dead.
As you will note from my missives, I'm quite articulate. No evidence of mental illness*, and thank God, still healthy enough to run for a bus if I have to without undue physical strain.** I've enough moxie to know what I need to do and when I need to do it, and I've enough testicular fortitude to do anything -- anything -- to see to the welfare of my kids. I've never smoked, abused drugs or alcohol, and keep myself relatively clean. Unless you know me personally, and know what I'm going through, you'd never guess that I no longer have a home to call my own. The only time you will see me standing on a street corner is if I'm waiting to cross. You won't see me broadcasting my plight with a stupid little cardboard sign. And I never, ever ask strangers for change, the time, or anything else. To the contrary, I seem to get hit up several times a week.
I spend a large part of my day typically either working or loking for better work. I've read, understood and enjoyed Shakepeare and Chaucer. As you can see, I'm relatively handy with a computer. I've enough awareness to realize that if I don't make lots of noise thorough the blogosphere, no one is going to give up that perception of the guy with the cardboard sign.
In short, I ain't your father's homeless.
It is true, albeit sad, that many homeless are the detritus resulting from too much alcohol, drug use, or disease through unprotected sex. And a shockingly high number are indeed mentally ill. However, it can be just as easily stated that many homeless are the result of sour finances or an economy in a China-induced death spiral or a bad divorce or a vindictive rich guy with more bucks than compassion.
I hope my little contribution to the blogosphere will help people understand that although I and many others are in the sorry state of not having their own roof over their head, we are no less human, no less dignified, no less capable, no less deserving of respect.
No less American.
*Other than occasional attacks from The Beast, but we'll deal with him in good time.
**In fact, one night I did something I thought myself completely incapable of. It was critical that I had to be somewhere 2.5 miles away in 30 minutes, so I started walking fast, breaking into a run whenever I had breath to do so. I ended up doing a 12-minute mile. Not too shabby for a 240-pound man in his forties.