So many things . . . . here’s why . . .
I’ve spent quite a bit of time with homeless people lately. In fact, I’ve done something “stupid”, as many people like to tell me. (I’m getting sick of the warnings to be careful – of what, being human and acting like a decent human being?) I’ve gotten involved in their lives in a way that I have never done before. In fact, I have many new friends who I care about quite a bit. It is nerve wracking and frustrating and worrisome and it makes me even angrier about our “system” than I have ever been before. And I’m getting a bigger education than I ever expected.
Funny thing about getting involved with my new friends, and people don’t like it when I say this and argue with me, but it makes me feel like I can do more than I ever did as an elected official, or non-profit Executive Director, or blogger. Yes, one person at a time, the hard way and slowly. But at least I feel like I’m accomplishing something. And it is probably more rewarding.
It also makes me want to cry . . . because I am a former elected official and Executive Director of a non-profit and a blogger and although I have tried to call attention to the needs of homeless people and have tried to create programs to assist them and have tried to pass good policies, none of the work I have done is close to being enough. What I’m finding is all the things I have said and advocated for . . . I need to multiply times ten.
The homeless “system” is so absurd. And I am not ripping on the non-profits doing the work, they really need funding for their work that needs to be multiplied by ten. We need staff raises so that they can hire more qualified people to do the jobs (and I’m not faulting the people currently doing the jobs, but how long will they stay at these wages and lack of benefits), and we then need adequate resources for them to work with. And we need to provide services beyond just helping find housing . . . and we need to get rid of the attitude that this is a life-style “choice” or that we can’t make it “too easy” to be homeless, because it is anything but!
So, I’m going to share some things and observations about what I probably knew, but now I see every day, sometimes every hour. It seems that every little thing I do, I feel so grateful. Here’s a few of those things:
- I don’t have to worry about what the weather will be like when I get home, because I have a roof and walls to protect me from the rain and wind and other weather.
- I want it to rain so I don’t have to water my flowers, instead of not wanting it to rain so that I don’t risk everything I own get wet.
- I can afford to put more than $4 of gas in my car. In fact, I have a car.
- I have a refrigerator to put my insulin in.
- I can lock my doors at night and me and all my belongings will be safe.
- I have a bank account and can cash checks – when I earn money I can cash my pay check and keep all my money.
- I don’t have to worry about getting a job and then finding out it isn’t near a bus line and worry about having to give up that good paying job.
- I don’t have to wait in line to eat three times a day. Or not eat on holidays or weekends when there are limited places to eat.
- My mail comes to my house, not 3 or 4 different addresses I have used over the years. And it doesn’t get thrown out if I don’t pick it up in 30 days and I don’t get yelled at because my name isn’t on the list, even tho I do have mail there.
- My doctor (or nurse) listens to me when I have problems and doesn’t give me ridiculous prescriptions that are infeasible to take/follow.
- I have money for my co-pays for my prescriptions and don’t go without them for months at a time.
- If I need socks or underwear or a razor or can opener (to open cans of food from the pantry) or hearing aid batteries or reading glasses or a jump drive or a back pack (instead of a garbage bag) or a sleeping bag or . . . I just go to the store and buy it. Or find an extra one in my house just sitting there.
- I have a stove to cook my food on, instead of a grill or camp fire or (broken) propane cook stove.
- I have running water to wash my dishes, I don’t have to carry gallon jugs of water.
- I have a bathroom.
- I don’t have to justify bus tickets every time I need to go somewhere.
- I don’t have to try to find a place to sleep at night where I won’t be found by police or neighbors or parks staff (or worry about being stabbed or kicked in the head).
- I don’t have to show up by a certain time twice a week to take a shower or fore-go it.
- I don’t have to worry about not having enough money to pay my fines and get thrown in jail, and then have my belongings, including my computer get thrown out or sold for profit for the police or sheriff’s department.
- I am not disabled and unable to work but waiting for months to get SSI or SSDI and dealing with a couple initial denials before I can get a hearing to make my case and hopefully get disability payments.
- I have a phone that doesn’t shut off when my minutes are used up and then no one can get in touch with me . . . or me (sleeping alone in the woods) to get in touch with others.
- I don’t have to use food stamps, and risk getting cut off them when I don’t get my mail.
- I have a place to store my paperwork and keep it safe.
- I have a washer and dryer in my house and can do my laundry whenever I find the time. (Or Rob does!)
- I can charge my phone and computer without thought or risk of someone yelling at me.
- I don’t cry when I get a birthday cake because I haven’t had one in years. Or get disappointed when the police who said they would bring me one, don’t.
- I have an answer when someone asks me what my address is multiple times a day.
- I know where I can vote today and can vote without hassle (no need for a letter justifying where I live.)
- I don’t suffer from depression because of the impacts of the repeated frustration and hopelessness of being homeless.
- I’m not worried about dying in the cold this winter.
There’s more, so much more. And it is all so absurd you wouldn’t believe it. I really want to thank my new friends for educating me in new ways . . . and giving me the fuel I needed to keep doing everything else that I do, because that is important too. And I will do anything and everything I can to make sure my friends don’t die in the cold this winter.
Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media