Friday, October 30, 2009

Straight out of a story

Sometimes I feel like Anne Frank, other times like Huck Finn. Than there are days "One flew over the cuckoos nest", and the next "Catcher in the Rye."
Homelessness was never taught at Gooch Elementary or at T.C. Marsh Junior High. Nor did I learn anything at W.T. White High School about such current day physical, mental and economic devastation. Yes, there was "The grapes of wrath" but wasn't that eons ago. Didn't we put policies into place so something of that nature would never happen again? Families and individuals living in their vehicles, makeshift tents and shelters made of scraps. Isn't this something that happened in America almost 80 years ago? Science has advanced. Medicine has advanced. Economics has advanced. But what about humanity itself?
I wonder if the dark chapter of homelessness in America will ever be something we just read about in a book as oppose to seeing human suffering everyday on our streets?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My dread.

I tossed and turned most of the night. The once beloved holiday season is on the doorsteps and now today all I can feel is dread. Why? I know soon I will start to hear or read one of the most quoted statements when concerning our poor and homeless. "You will always have the poor among you." While this place isn't the proper forum to discuss my theology as to why Jesus recounted what God had stated in the Old Testament, I have to ask, "How many lives must suffer to justify or quantify this statement?" Would one person suffering not be enough? And to what level must one be in? Does a person have to be living under some bridge and getting their daily nourishment out of a dumpster or is it just enough for an elderly person not having enough income to afford both medications and paying their heating bill this winter? Do we need two people in this situation to fulfill the statement? How about 1 million or 1 billion? Is 2.5 billion lives enough as we have today in our world?
When will we reach enough needless human suffering to be enough; so we will no longer use our faith as a justification but instead a reason to change our community and even the world?
I look forward to the day I no longer dread this time of the year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is there any help? Is there human rights for the less fortunate?

Affordable? U.N. Puts a Questioning Eye on New York’s Housing
By Mike Reicher
Michael Premo
Raquel Rolnik, United Nations special rapporteur, meets New Yorkers at a town hall meeting on Thursday.Everybody knows New York City is an expensive place to live. But the United Nations wants to know if affordable housing is so tough to come by that it actually violates human rights. The United Nations has assigned an official, “a special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing,” to check the city’s affordable housing. The rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, is to tour the city for the next three days with housing advocates and city officials to “hear the voices of those who are suffering on the ground,” she said.The United Nations Human Rights Council appoints a rapporteur, or independent experts, to investigate human rights conditions around the world. In the case of Ms. Rolnik, a professor of urban planning at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, her “mission” is to tour New York City and six other places in the United States and to report back to the United Nations General Assembly about housing rights violations and advances. After that, “We send off letters to governments to ask, ‘Is this true? What’s going on?’ and to please intervene,” she said.Housing advocates will be taking Ms. Rolnik to the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn to see the results of the government’s use of eminent domain to seize property; to the New York City Housing Authority’s Grant Houses in Harlem to see how public housing residents live; and to the Bronx to meet residents whose landlords are in foreclosure.At a town hall meeting last night in Morningside Heights, residents wept and shouted at Ms. Rolnik. They complained about deteriorating public housing, the lack of housing subsidies for AIDS patients, landlord harassment and many other issues, large and small.She told them: “I am representing the right of adequate housing as a human right.”One advocate and resident of public housing, Agnes Rivera, wept after telling Ms. Rolnik that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg “doesn’t care about the poor.” Rob Robinson from Picture the Homeless, a local advocacy group, embraced Ms. Rivera and gazed toward the special rapporteur. Later, Ms. Rolnik hugged a resident herself.“Affordable housing here is not that affordable,” said Ms. Rolnik, who studied urban history as a New York University doctoral student in the 1980s. Her eyes lit up when talking about inclusionary zoning and other city housing policies. New York is unusual, she pointed out, because it has a city-level obligation to ensure that homeless people have shelter. Now it should make affordable housing a priority, she said.Ms. Rolnik was appointed as special rapporteur by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. This is her first official mission.After her tour of New York City, she will survey the housing situations in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Washington, a South Dakota Indian reservation, and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Her report to the General Assembly is planned for March.Across the United States, residents may tell her the same stories as those of New Yorkers — of mortgage scams, too many luxury condos and the stigma associated with public housing.“We have no one to help us,” said Delores Earley, 73, who said her landlord has been trying to push her out of her Harlem rent-stabilized apartment for 20 years. “Somebody has got to know.”

Rain, Rain, Go away.

The moisture creeps into everything. Clothing, shoes, sleeping gear and even into your bones. There is nothing more damaging to us homeless than a cold continuous rain. It saps your hope as you sit minute by minute watching, waiting for the moment it is safe to travel out. Can't watch T.V., surf the Internet, doodle around the house and one can only sleep so much. Rain gives life but takes so much away when your homeless. Cold rain brings a whole new meaning to "cabin fever". Nothing much to do but sit in your desperation and think about how you got to this point. Wonder why and what great sin against humanity did you commit to be convicted and sentenced to a life of despair. To a life in which you are no longer branded as a person, but instead you are now defined as "homeless", which according to perception, unworthy to be treated with dignity. Unworthy to be a neighbor. Unworthy to sit in any pew. Unworthy to be seen.
Go away rain. You take away as much as you give when your homeless.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Time to move once again

The sharp banging on the windshield happened at 2:30 AM this morning. I knew in the back of my mind what was to come as I crawled out of my warm sleeping bag. Throwing on some extra clothes to ward off the chill, I peered through the window and sure enough it was the police.
Opening the door, a manager from the Flying J Truck Stop notified me that; "Homesteading was not allowed. We must ask you to leave now."
I am thankful for the short time there. Truck stops offer conveniences such as showers. This is the 3rd move so far. A game of cat and mouse. With the holiday seasons around the corner, typically the hunt for us immorally flawed human beings begin. It is the season of the "police sweeps". You may wonder why the Grinch always comes to visit the least fortunate at this time every year, but it's easy to understand when homelessness around the country gets most of its' media attention during the holiday seasons. Hide the homeless, drive them out, lock them up, whatever it takes to make the City look good before the publics' eye. That is a City Manager mandate!
I don't blame the officers, although a few enjoy bullying the homeless around. Most though are truly remarkable people following unremarkable orders.
Out on the streets, moving and moving again is the norm. For me its easier this time around. Start the van and go. I'll find a new place as always, hopefully away from the eyes which seek to track and hunt me down for the sake of a City's reputation.
As for my friends, I must warn them of what is coming. The Grinch has come back to Dallas.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good day to see the silver lining

Today is the start of a new beginning.
Press release:
Yesterday the United Nations released a media advisory about the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing’s First Mission to the U.S. The Special Rapporteur, Ms. Raquel Rolnik, arrives in the U.S. tomorrow.
“I will collect first-hand information on the status of realization of the right to adequate housing in the US, with particular emphasis on social housing, the foreclosure crisis and homelessness,” said Ms Rolnik. “The United States has been implementing a variety of programs and policies towards providing adequate housing for everyone. I want to look at their functioning and impact from a human rights perspective.”
You can visit and blog at
It is the first time that I know of, that an outside entity will get a birds-eye view of what is happening with housing and homelessness in the U.S.
Not that I have faith that much will be made of this moment, except that maybe there will be a ground-roots effect across the nation. It is only this way I believe that social change will come and address the anguish of poverty.
One thing I can say about living in my van; while it might not be adequate housing, it does allow me to keep my self dignity and liberty. It allows me to act human as oppose to being treated as something less.
Today is a good day regardless, because there is a chance of a silver lining.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The clock moves at a snails pace when your homeless. The one thing to look forward too, is the time to sleep away the reality of this life.
I have been homeless on and off since 1992. Always fighting the battle of Major Depressive disorder and crohn's disease. I like food but hate to eat. Ironic but very common with those who live with crohns. I don't know what's worse, the chronic diarrhea, bleeding, abdominal pains or vomiting. I did my best to hide all these effects from my employers with great success, but eventually the wear and tear overcomes you. In June of last year I had 18" of intestine removed due to blockage. Quality of life certainly did not improve.
It's hell being homeless and healthy. There are no words to describe being homeless and sick.
I can certainly understand why people self-medicate and try to wash away the physical and mental pains. I'm blessed that I would rather deal with it than to seek short term repreive.
Nights are becoming harder and the situation is settleing in. The battle of hope is on the horizon.
Today is the 3 month anniversary of my Disability appilcation. Only 19 more months to go.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not just another Sunday

All day long I had one thing going through my mind. It was some years back when a gentleman came up to me at a holiday party and asked me if I thought he had done enough to go to heaven.
The man, a friend of my father, was given the bad news of cancer. His time was limited. He had gone to church faithfully, made a lot of money and took care of his family, but the fear of the future weighed heavily on him. It was the same fear I had seen from one of my homeless friends. Roy Percer was a Vietnam Veteran and somewhere along the road became a fixture in the homeless population in N.E. Dallas. The first time I saw Roy, he was sitting down in the medium at Lovers and Greenville Ave. Wrapped in a blanket and barefooted, he chumped down on a hotdog someone had purchased for him. Later in the day it would be chased down with some cheap Cisco wine.
About 2 months before he passed, Roy was given a Bible. There were many nights we sat up and discussed all that it contained. He excepted Jesus before he died. He also had the exact same fear of the future as the other man. The exact same look on his face.
On the brink of the holidays, before the "feel good stories" are ran in the media, I am reminded what Jesus told his disciples when they were whinning about who would be first in heaven and what their position would be. The first would be last and the last would be first. To me personally, this moment is in my top three.
When Jesus was crucified, He fulfilled this statement. Not a disciple, not a family member, best friend, rich man, religious person or even king but a convicted thief was the first to spend a day in paradise with Jesus. A person condenmed by society. The last person anyone would've chosen.
While mainstream society might criminalize and disdain the homeless, it is most likely many of them will stand in front of the line when the time comes. Don't be surprised.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Cycle

Michael showed up at our site yesterday. We call him the "hillbilly Santa Claus" because he hardly ever wears shoes and looks alot like a mall Santa. He and his brother had been staying in a trailer the last 3 months but are back on the streets again. I spoke with Eric (20 year vet) and he'll be back to our site on Monday after a short visit to his family.
This is the cycle of homelessness that is only broken when income/support is greater than the cost of living. According to all reports, personal income has fallen for the first time in 18 years. Also, Seniors Citizens will not get a cost of living raise from the S.S.A. for the first time in 35 years. Meanwhile, the Fair Market Value for renters ($600 for a 1 bedroom apartment) has virtually remained the same.
Having any chance to end homelessness, Government must close the front door to homelessness while agencies can open the backdoor helping individuals out of homelessness. If our President calls us to National Volunteer Service, which I strongly believe in and have served in Americorp myself, than Government should to be held accountable to live up to its responsibilities. If the sanctity of human life does not guide government policy and process, than democracy and freedom is in jeopardy for all.
The death rate for our homeless stands at .008% yearly. Dallas County, this amounts to an average of 46 dead every year. In the U.S., reguardless of government claims, the amount is 20,000 deaths yearly, while homeless.
Death toll for this year stands at: 15,890

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cloudy with some sunshine ahead

First I wish to thank everyone for their overwhelming and generous response.
I was up in Boston some years ago for a conferance on homelessness. A homeless gentleman from New York came up to me and said something which struck a chord with me. He stated that he wasn't very intelligent, but that he did have a PHD in streetology.
Today, I believe I can make the same statement and certainly with experience can survive the inhumanity of homelessness better than most. That being said, I only ask for your prayers that I am given the courage to live homeless in the manner as my blog title suggest. That I'm given the courage to face status qou and challenge the inhumanity of homelessness. That suffering will not be in vain and that our Government will recognize that just because a person becomes disabled in America, that this is not a cause for social injustice and to be thrown out into streets, but instead an opportunity to excercise a moral commitment to assist and even protect the less fortunate and vulnerable.
Today over 722,000 people are either homeless or are facing homelessness for one reason and one reason only. These people became disabled.
Today was a cloudy day. Normally I would have been paid $32 to sit and drive cars for 2 hours but unfortunately it seems the Day Labor company is having some financial programs. Hopefully the $32 will be available tomarrow. For the last month I have learn to budget and survive on $64 per week. This takes care of my food, gas for my Van, cell phone and so on.
Homelessness always seems to have far more cloudy days than those filled with sunshine. It wears on a person hope and faith. Still, it is a profound realization for most that survival while homeless is far more dependent on God, than self. No door to lock, alarm to set, no refrig to get that midnight snack, no dreams. Just survive for the moment and hope maybe you will be able to get to the next moment. That is homeless daily grind.
I have been able to get into a social network with some other homeless. Eric is a 20 year veteran and served in both Gulf wars and in Afganistan. Then there is Steve, a former truck driver and today is trying to survive on his unemployment. More about them and others in my next blog.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To live with dignity and suffer with grace

It's been a while since I was homeless and after having a pace-maker implanted on July 2 along with the mirad of other medical issues (over $300,000 in med bills since 6/08) well, here I am again but this time going through a battle to get my Social Security Disability benefits.
You see, according to the Social Security Administration, over 722,000 individuals are in the appeal process after having been denied during the application process. The application process takes upwards to 6 months and than the appeal process again according to the Social Security Administration takes an average of 491 days thereafter. In otherwords, individuals who are unfortunate to suffer a disability have a 85% chance of being denied the first time around and after hiring a lawyer for the appeal process must wait a total of 22 months to receive benefits.
I don't know of many people with 22 months of savings to keep their housing and since the S.S.A. warns you not to work during the process, I now understand why there are over 300,000 disabled (chronic homeless) Americans without homes and are inhumanely degraded down to live on the streets of America.
After years of research and advocating, it never dawned on me that the root cause of "chronic homelessness" can be directly tied to the greatest socialistic program in our nation. A program designed to help both retirees and the least fortunate among us.
I am blessed this time around as I have a vehicle to live in. I am also able to get food and have not used any of my fellow Americans tax-dollars getting services while I wait. I am certain as my health continues to decline that the latter will change. I haven't completely lost my sense of security as I did the first time but a profound lost stirs everyday in my spirit. That is the opportunity to live with dignity and to suffer with grace. Homelessness does not afford either.