PROBLEMS DESCRIBED GETTING OFF THE STREETS—ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE
Date: Summer, 2000
Site: Grand Ave. Mall
Demographics: African American/m/between 40 and 50
I became homeless in 1998 when I started using crack cocaine. Before that I had a good job at [name]. I had a good work record and got good evaluations and had been there for 4 years. I had a girlfriend and a 12 year old daughter that I saw a lot and was paying child support. But I got in with this bad crowd and they got me to try crack. Ever since then I had the habit. Today I’m sick. I got HIV and no hope. I got HIV from needles.
I live mainly under bridges in the summertime and go to the Mission in the winter. They preach to you and the crowds there ain’t good. They all walk the path in the morning to St. James, then the Breach, then leave there at 4:00 and go eat at St. Ben’s, then drink some beer somewhere and then off the Mission unless you are too drunk—then you gotta sleep outside and hope the police don’t pick you up.
I still do drugs when I get enough money from panhandling or sex. It’s the habit. I want to get myself pulled together, but I got no hope anymore. Even if I did get clean, I still got the disease. So I figure I will try and see my daughter as often as I can so she’ll have good memories of me, then I’ll be dead. I been reading a lot about the after life at the library and I just hope that God forgives me for not doing a better job with my life.
PROBLEMS GETTING OFF THE STREETS: LACKING PERMANENT EMPLOYMENT
Date: Winter, 2003
Site: Public library
Demographics: African American/m/60-70
I don’t know if this is worth your five bucks or not. I’m homeless by choice. I ain’t looking for a job and I ain’t looking for a handout (except I will take your money because you asked me to do something for it). Is that good enough?
[NO, YOU NEED TO SAY THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH YOU BECAME HOMELESS AND HOW YOU HAVE LIVED SINCE YOU WERE HOMELESS]
I been homeless for the greater part of 20 years. I tried before, I really did. There were no low-skill jobs that paid anything, so I tried to get training. But these programs go too fast, or they think you already know a lot you don’t—like these folks that train you on machines or on computers. They gotta go slow enough for people at my level that never did none of this before. I ended up just dropping out. I worked hard when I worked and was never late or absent—unless I was really sick. But I didn’t have the skills they was looking for and it all just moved too fast for me. Everything was moving too fast. By the time I learned how to do something, like work a security check machine, then they changed the technology and started you all over again. I was too stressed.
One day I just couldn’t keep up, so I left. Then I just took what I needed from my apartment and moved into an abandoned house. Now I get some social security. I got some when I was 63. That’s enough to pay for some food. I can go over to these centers and take a shower and wash my clothes. I got the library and I love to read. I like my life. Just not in the winter because then I have to go to the shelters and they’re dangerous places. Once they let in some fire bug and all he did was try and set the place on fire while I was there. I go to the free meals and sometimes I have enough money to get a room for the night on my own or to go to a restaurant. Otherwise I like my life.
PROBLEMS GETTING OFF THE STREETS: MENTAL ILLNESS
Date: Spring, 2003
Site: St. Ben’s Meal site
Demographics: European American--white/f/48
I been homeless for, since I was pursued by the cats in my friend’s back yard. They came after me. They say they ain’t there, but they are there. I see them when I go to the shelter and they let them go at night and they come after me. People save them up for when I come in so I don’t go no more to the shelter. I go to the lake and then I look for them. It was my neighborhood—full of cats and rats. And the rats is the ones that did the chasing, cause the landlord filled them up. The cats is mostly gray and boys and one is a young girl but the landlord knew how to shape them and they comes after me.
[ARE YOU ON ANY MEDS?] The meds is a trick. A doctor put me in this place and made me take the meds, and he poisoned me. They say the cats are gone, but they lying and saying they aren’t there. There’s this gray dappled horse. I used to know him before I was homeless.
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