Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Monday, July 27, 2009

"If One of Us is Homeless, How Bout You?"

"How many people are homeless?

The number of homeless is difficult to ascertain because estimates vary depending on the methodology used. Numbers also vary substantially depending on whether a measurement is taken on a single night or is extrapolated to a given year...One approximation of the annual number of homeless in America is from a study done by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which estimates between 2.3 and 3.5 million people experience homelessness. According to a study released this month by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, an estimated 744,313 people experienced homelessness in one night in January 2005. Some 56 percent of them were living in shelters and transitional housing and, 44 percent were unsheltered.

Listen up. A few years back, The Daddy used to volunteer with a non-profit agency that fed and clothed the homeless in Minneapolis. It was a good thing to see people of various cultures (mostly Europeans, African Americans and Native Americans) working together to provide the homeless with coats, blankets, gloves, food and friendly conversation."

The uniqueness of this program was that the homeless didn't come to us; we went where they were known to gather. One such place was under a bridge near a school called DeLaSalle, a Catholic high school near downtown Minneapolis.

The Daddy and several others would go under this dark bridge and bring food, blankets and gloves (when we could guilt-trip some stores like Target or Marshalls to give them to us or sell them at half price).

Homeless Joe

On this particular Saturday evening, it was very cold. Some of the people huddled close to each other to stay warm. While passing out blankets, The Daddy came across Joe, a tall, good looking middle-aged guy with dirt on his face and various types of oily substance on his green army jacket (Grease from hamburgers maybe). He reminded me of a Cary Grant but wearing a five o'clock shadow, dirty jeans and muddied boots.

After warming up to a thick blanket and two cigarette, he told me his story. He came back from Vietnam to his farm in Ames, Iowa. He tried to run the farm for a few years but lost it to the bank and creditors and had been riding the rails ever since. He said he gets headaches and nightmares, but sometimes a drink gets rid of the headaches.

The Daddy liked this Joe dude. For one thing, he didn't give me some sob story to try and get money. In fact, he spoke with a low, even tone, and he understated his personal dilemma (Maybe he did so to cushion the blow from the loss of a big family farm to riding the railroad). That's why The Daddy came back the next night and brought him some thick mittens, dry socks, a sweater and cigarettes.

The Daddy tried to capture this midwesterner's understated tone and speech pattern in a poem called "If One of Us is Homeless, How Bout You?"

If One of Us Is Homeless
How Bout You?

I ain't saying some dry gloves wouldn't
Keep this old body warm.
This pair here is a might damp, a tad numb.

I ain't saying I've fallen on hard times since
I got back Nam and lost my farm, but
I guess me and the bank crossed wires, and I ran out of luck.
And now some other place just don't warm me up.

I'm searching like everybody else for a reason to believe, the
Courage to hope- to jump for good these screeching trains crying
Madness, miss-my-farm sadness above train tracks endless, cold
Boxcar trembling past damp cardboard beneath the bridges.

I'm needing the same as city people: a heavy coat around
My shoulders, warm gloves around my fingers, and Somebody to
Believe this ole rail rider ain't no drunk, no Stillwater prisoner but
An Ames, Iowa farmer who fell on hard luck.

I’m hoping city people will look past these muddied boots, torned
rags, this Goodwill bag and see an old farmer with dim-lit eyes but
still a dream or two.

I'm asking, "If one of us is homeless, how bout you?"

Do you know anyone that's homeless in your community?


Anonymous said...

I have known someone homeless, and fought against "seeing" this person through the filter of the "other." I developed a friendship, and employed him now and then doing odd jobs. It was maybe enabling, but I know we developed a bond based on our common humanity. It wasn't all good. He stayed a while in my garage, almost burning it down, and it got uncomfortable forcing him to get help. I'm sure I could have done a better job. But at least I treated him as a friend, and not the "other." The homeless are "us," under different circumstances of birth, chance, or our own judgments gone awry.
Thanks for drawing attention to this issue. There is no excuse for homelessness in a nation of such wealth. Verna

Anonymous said...

Now that's a good one.

MacDaddy said...

Verna: We need more like you.