Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 1: Hitting The Streets

Today I woke up extra early to try to get my mind right. It felt like my heart was about to burst as I waited for the first reporter to show up and videotape me talking about my project. I worried if I would be able to explain things well or if I would sound stupid. I worried about every little thing until he actually showed up and then I felt calm.

Christina, one of the editorial columnists for My Savvy Sisters stopped by to join me in meeting the next reporter. We met up with Laura Hansen, the director of the National Coalition to End Homelessness at the park and sat under a tree to take advantage of the shade. Laura brought Mary with her and I interviewed her after hearing how she completely transformed her life. Mary was homeless two years ago and is now a counselor for the homeless.

After meeting with Laura and speaking with Mary, Christina and I spoke with another reporter and then I was on my own.

I decided to go to the Homeless Voice Homeless Shelter, my partner in this project. The owner, Sean Canonie was not there but his staff introduced me in and started my intake process. The residents of the homeless shelter were so nice to me. We ate a dinner of hot dogs, beans, salad and cake with grape juice. After dinner a group of the residents and I watched my news report air on Channel 6. I was so relieved that they did a great piece on me. My message was understood! So grateful!

I would think that I would have been afraid but once I sat down to talk to the people here I felt comfortable. Most welcomed me in and gave me the inside scoop about how the place is run and what chores they have and the work they do.

As a new intake I had to clean up the cafeteria after the dinner was over. I cleaned off tables and swept the floor and then sat down to speak with the people on the patio that they call the Smoke Pit. Cigarettes are half off here and it seems that most people chain smoke and watch TV after work.

There is an even mixture of men and women of all ages. All races are represented here. You would think that being homeless would affect their spirits but they laugh and make jokes and fight and share cigarettes as though they are one family. I learned that they earn money by going out every morning to sell the Homeless Voice newspaper. The paper doesn't have a price, these people earn their wages by whatever donations people want to share. They get to keep 60% of the money they receive in donations. They usually work for 10 hours a day and are then picked back up and brought back to the shelter.

The men in particular paid especially close attention to my needs and I was grateful.

"Wow, you guys are so nice to me," I said to a guy named Rick.

"Why not? You're a woman with cleavage every guy is gonna be nice to you," Rick said. He made me laugh.

I heard many different comments from the residents. Generally, they told me that I am too pretty to be in here and that I don't look like I belong. One man was upset that I am here. He said I am exploiting the homeless for my personal gain and he doesn't feel comfortable with me around. The others told me not to listen to him and that everyone has haters.

There is a set time for showers, around 9pm and you can only take one a day, if you are a new resident. If you are a new resident you do not get a room of your own; you get a mat and sleep on the cafeteria floor. Once you are a stable resident you get to move into a room with a shower that you share with 5 other people.

These rooms aren't free. You pay by going out to sell the Homeless Voice newspapers or any income that you have that comes from the government are subsidized by the shelter if you are unable to work. A lot of the residents here are long term residents. A few women that I met reported that they had been here for more than 7 years. Reportedly, this is the shelter that will take in the homeless population that most other shelters won't take in due to repeated mental illness and drug problems.

What do I see?

I see a group of men and women who have hope for their lives and dream of one day getting out here. I see humans. I see brothers and sisters who, like me, couldn't make it work for some reason.

Well, its bedtime. I'm tired and I have to get some rest because tomorrow I have much research and traveling to do by bus and by foot and wake up is at 5am.



Hey cousin I just hope you find what your looking for and be safe God Bless.

I think what you are doing is... amazing. fearless. and enlightening. for me the viewer as well as yourself through personal experience. I see history in the making. Thanks for being an inspiration!

Tee I am so proud of you for doing such a selfless act. It really is inspiring to others. You may not fully understand the depth of what you are doing now, but is greatness in the making. I will keep you in my prayers as you embark on this journey! You are showing the power that lives in you!


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