Thursday, September 30, 2010
As a fellow activist and concerned citizen of Atlanta, I speak on behalf of some of the efforts Atlanta offers homeless individuals. Though the resources might be scare and on a smaller scale, the help is here. People like Sylvester do indeed have a large challenge at hand after serving time in prison. Their backgrounds are shot, their knowledge of society is not up to date and their lifestyle is not parallel with the vast majority of Atlanta's lifestyle. Re-entry into society after serving time is definitely a large reason people become homeless. Imagine being inside a building for several months, maybe years, at a time. What is changing in the world outside? What are you missing out on? There are some people who don’t even know what a cell phone is, what a computer is or what an ATM machine is. How are they supposed to just leave prison/jail and be expected to assimilate and conform? There is no humanly possible way of doing so. This cause is frowned upon by human kind: we are not a very forgiving race and we expect people who make a mistake to pay severe, sometimes inappropriate consequences. When they’ve done their time, their punishment might be over in the eyes of society, but to them, their stigmatized background will remain a lifetime of punishment.
I was homeless for about two weeks of my life when I was 11 years old, and even though I was in a hotel and not the streets, my lack of a stable home contributed to my depression. I echo Sylvester’s thought about suicide. It’s difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel when the world is spinning around you and all you are doing is watching helplessly, passively and sadly.
His calm, subdued and passionate eyes reassured me that he was genuine in his desire to belong in society with everyone else. He has been more than active in seeking employment but has hit all the roadblocks that everyone else leaving prison have. It’s unfortunate that in America people are judged by those kinds of things. Whatever happened to having a second chance? Even a third or a fourth chance ought to be merited depending on circumstances. I’ve got to say that some blame lies in Sylvester, but mostly, society. Closing doors to a fellow human out of preconceived judgments is a fault in American culture and ought to be resurrected before we kill off our own kind.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Excellent role model!
EMINEM I know I'm a liar if she ever tries to fuckin' leave again
I'ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire
RIHANNA Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
Well that's all right because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
Well that's all right because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie
Really encouraging to those women who actually do get abused because of some twisted relationship where they feel that staying in one is better than being alone.
This song is absolutely not far from what happens in our community. Why Rihanna would opt to be a part of this song is worrying to me. She suffered from domestic violence recently and now she wants to publicly and nationally proclaim that it's okay because the relationship is worth more? Am I missing a piece of the pie here?
Friday, July 2, 2010
Does everyone have a fighting chance?
Should everyone aspire to live the ‘American dream’?
Who says we can all take care of ourselves?
Can we all really all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps?
Rather than point a finger at a specific demographic, I’ll just say that there are some groups of people who think all these things are wonderful and true. Some people think that everyone can do anything they set their minds to. In a sense, this is partially true. When it comes to important issues, however, some of us DO need an extra boost. Let’s talk- for example- SURPRISE! about homelessness.
Hypothetically (and based off several true situations) I just lost my job. I have no more income. After a long and unsuccessful search for employment, I got evicted because I can’t pay my rent. My savings are gone. My furniture is out on the street. I don’t have the financial means to put it in storage. I think the neighbors are going to steal it. I can’t really stop them. I’m beside myself. I don’t have a family that has the financial means to help me either. I have no where to go. I no longer have a home. Looks like I’ll be living out of my car until I figure this out. But wait, how can I continue to job hunt if I can’t shower and look professional? How can I buy food? All of this is hitting me so quickly. I hate that the tears run down my face without my consent. This defeat is unwelcomed and I want to shrivel up sometimes. My emotions are out of control. I don’t know how it got this bad this quickly. I had a good job. I don’t know what to do now. I’m alone. I guess I’ll park my car in this abandoned lot for a while. It’s so hot. I’m sweating, I’m hungry, I’m sad, and I’m worried. It’s unbearable.
Since when did it become okay to have over 600,000 homeless Americans PER night? Why does everyone ignore the issue as it continues to be more of a problem? Unfortunately, the face of homelessness is still depicted as that old and gross bum who haggles for money on the corner. That bum on the corner is just as much of man as the next man. Much like the story describes, homelessness is taking on a new face because of the recent economic downfall. Everyone needs a helping hand sooner or later. Maybe it won’t ever be in this context, but everyone will need help at some point in their lives. What the general consensus fails to realize is that simple preventative measures could have helped the person in that story.
Let’s sit on that for a while and reconsider what we are doing to help out those in need in Atlanta. It’s our community. It’s where we do everything that matters. We are all a part of ONE big community. Those who want to claim that fending for yourself is always a practical option are uneducated. We all live here. No one is exempt from helping. It’s not hard. How come we don’t realize that lending a hand to our community patrons may make all the difference in their world? Let’s coexist. Let’s fight for others to be successful- because most of the time, they want to be successful too. Let’s contribute to a better city in whole. We can do it and we can do it together.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
When they are given an opportunity to receive shelter and comfort for a minimum of one night, how come they don’t accept? I mean, if I was sleeping on concrete I’d totally want a bed for at least one night with running water and other regular ‘needs’.
Well, it’s just not that simple, of course! The shelters in Atlanta (for men, at least) are so completely difficult to live in that sometimes the streets remain a significantly better option. That’s embarrassing, Atlanta. Take, for example, one of the major men’s shelters in Atlanta- Peachtree & Pine. Men can stay there as long as they like. However, every instance I have spoken with someone who stayed there, they have had nothing but regrets, complaints, and problems. One gentleman, whom may I add, is successfully contributing to society again, dealt with serious trauma while he stayed there. He almost died because of how unhealthy it was there. It is a breeding ground for disease, and it’s located right next to Georgia State University. This man, who so graciously shared his story with me, expanded on the conditions in the shelter. There was never any consistency in the resources provided, and the men there treat each other horribly. I shudder when I imagine someone so humbled living in a shelter like this. I mean, he was TWO HOURS away from DYING. People are DYING- because living conditions are THAT bad. No wonder more people would rather live on Peachtree Street. I would too. So what can be done to fix the problems?
I wish I could answer that. However, I do see some amazing contributions to resurrecting the situation. I have met some extraordinary people where I work and I am so touched by all the work they do to aid the homeless. For example, there is a resource fair where homeless people can get shelter, health check-ups, and connect with staffing agencies. They are given a lot of essential tools to get back on track. Unfortunately, not a whole lot of people take advantage of what’s being offered. However, those who do truly deserve every success they earn. Last week, I was interviewing all the homeless individuals coming in- evaluating what services they needed and anything else I could tell about them. All of them walk in and tell me they need housing. One of the questions I have to ask is whether or not they have an income (yes- some homeless people do indeed have an income!) and if they don’t if they are planning on getting one in order to secure housing. Most of them tell me no- they don’t want to work, they just want housing. However, one gentleman, sweet as could be, sat down and instantly told me he wants a job. He told me he doesn’t mind staying out on the streets until he could afford a place. I told him he was the first person who had EVER said that to me! He was surprised- because his logic was that income provided housing. Imagine….!!
Anyway, I hate how sad it is to watch these people cope with this ridiculous Atlanta heat. It truly brings tears to my eyes to imagine how horribly hot it is for them. Those who utilize the vast amount of resources Atlanta DOES have to offer are helping themselves in so many ways. Of course, it takes work from everyone involved, but it is possible to end homelessness. It will happen in my lifetime- I have such faith in every organization and agency in Atlanta- they are all so incredible.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Inside the building, there were several stations set up with agencies from all over the Atlanta area. The organizations offered transitional/permanent housing, mental and emotional health care, dental care, vision care, and staffing agency appointments. These were all free. All these resources are sometimes all that it takes for a person to get out of the situation they are in- if they so desire.
One of the men I dealt with was incredible. Upon first glance, my assumption would not be that he was homeless- of course I was wrong. The older gentleman had been homeless for about a month because he had lost his job, and in turn, his housing. It was unfortunate because he was a perfectly able and willing human being who had just come across a hard time. He has no drug or alcohol problems, and that was very apparent as well. He was able to secure housing, set up an appointment to receive job counseling, and he made an appointment with the dental people. Overall, I’d say he had a successful afternoon.
While everyone was packing up, he was still hanging around. I asked him how he felt about the day and he said, “You guys are lifesavers. I wouldn’t know what to do with out this being here. I am so relieved.” There was such sincerity and compassion in his voice. He seems like he will be able to get back in a comfortable situation, and aside from all the tools he had received to do so, he had a great attitude. From the beginning, he was pleasant and polite. He even brought a copy of his resume.
Now, this is a story that I do not personally come across frequently. It takes a lot of help and tangible resources for people to get out of homelessness, but it also requires a positive attitude and the desire to leave the streets and shelters. This is an instance in which ‘the system’ has proven successful, and these are always situations we want to hear about. There is nothing more gratifying than hearing someone express their appreciation.
So, in hindsight, maybe the entire system in Atlanta isn’t failing. Aside from the specific man I had the pleasure of speaking with, there were plenty of people who took full advantage of all the organizations that were there. Of course, there are still people who need help, but those who came with the goal of getting out of their situation are one step closer to achieving that. It’s truly amazing.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
In essence, I have a blessed life. I have been given many opportunities and many resources to achieve the goals I set for myself. Indeed, I have used majority of the tools I’ve been given to create a success story out of myself. Keep reading!
Back in 1999, my father passed away- leaving my poor mother in charge of my sister and me. Needless to say, she struggled financially. I recall a garage sale in which I sold all of my belongings, right down to my entire trendy beanie baby collection. I was 11, and I was mad. Regardless, I moved on. My mother continued to struggle until she met a man whom she married. She thought her problems were solved- she had a man who could support her now. I chuckle at this.
So, turns out this new husband of hers was actually poorer than she was, with an even worse attitude. He tricked her into marrying him, I believe, and she was so vulnerable she fell for it. He mooched off of her while she worked for $9 an hour at the local YMCA. To top our situation, the man was abusive. He was an alcoholic, which always made his belligerence and anger shine through. He was nothing short of the dirtiest scum on the planet. One night, he locked my mother, my sister, and me in the basement of our shared house. I, being 16, had my cell phone handy and ready to call the police. The police said there was nothing they could do and not to bother them again. My mother, my sister, and I all went to a hotel that evening- as we were scared for our lives.
Without boring my small and meager audience with anymore details of this wretched man- my mom eventually divorced him (though that situation was another story in itself). Alas, we were free. Still poor, but at least we were free. Being poor didn’t bother me, I had started working when I was 14 so I could ensure my lifestyle stayed normal. Living in a wealthy area with no money makes it hard to develop as a human being. Comparing myself to others in the ‘snobby’ area was no way to treat myself.
Anyway, low and behold, I’m all grown up now, with all this baggage and then some. Don’t think that this is it for me- this was a short synopsis of why I think the way I do- it by no means is a biography. I could turn my life into a best-selling novel if I had the time.
Watching my mother struggle while being single has made a huge impact on how I feel about ‘feminism’ and homelessness. The fact that someone as intelligent as my mother (bachelor’s and master’s degrees) still thinks she needs a man in her life boggles my turmoil-filled mind.
Women today are plagued with thoughts of deficiency if there is no man in their life. There are so many reasons for this, and I hate to watch intelligent, strong, and beautiful women settle for something they don’t actually want rather than be without a man. What if I never get married or have children? Well, for me, that means a lifetime of self exploration, self-bettering, and lots of lectures from my married friends about getting married.
I scoff at the thought of marriage and kids- sometimes. I’m still a woman.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Imagine living in a home where all you see is violence. All you know is pain, torture, tears, sadness, and depression. All you hear is screaming and curse words, and all you want to do is escape. This situation is not uncommon in our backyard, Atlanta. What’s worse is that it’s a large factor of why young women run away from home and turn to a life that they think is ultimately better for them. This new life I’m referring to is sex trafficking. I cannot personally empathize with the poor young women who are forced into this life, but I want to be able to help.
Why is it that young women in Atlanta don’t think they have any other option? What is going so wrong at home that they feel life would be better selling themselves? It drives me crazy to imagine how these girls must feel. I’m referring, of course, to a niche demographic- young teens that flee their homes out of necessity. Taking refuge in a hope house is where a lot of it can begin. Apparently, there is a hope house close to where I live. I have learned in the past couple of months that young girls come here because it’s a pseudo orphanage. They think they are going to escape, when in reality, they are going to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Uncles, who were formerly known as pimps, choose the women they want and start them instantly in their new ‘jobs’.
The girls are flattered. When they enter these homes, their confidence levels are so low, they are practically invisible. The girls have nothing else going for them, or so they think. They have never been taught how to have self-esteem or how to be successful. They have not been given the same opportunities that some people take for granted. With nothing holding them back, the teens can earn so much money. Money is power to the girls, and it’s addicting and easy to earn. Why should they ever want to stop?
I need some questions answered. Why is the government not addressing the issue? Why is Atlanta climbing the charts for highest ranked sex trafficking city? Why are these government-provided hope houses a shopping experience for pimps? I just keep learning about these flawed systems Atlanta uses and wondering if we are alone in these practices.
Do other cities have the same problems?
I certainly hate the thought of any 12-year old selling herself for a couple hundred dollars to a creepy old man. His wrinkly and festering body is using a tiny, undeveloped girls body.
Heaven forbid any girl chooses to leave willingly. Her life would be a life of fear if she ever escaped. Her uncle would find her. He would have his way with her and force her back. It’s a dead end situation for some girls, and some women never have the chance to escape.
This specific situation is one among many in the sex trafficking world. There’s no way I could say it’s the worst possible scenario, because any form of human trafficking is offensive, ludicrous, sick, perverted, and malicious. There is no good way; there is no right way. It’s all wrong.
I’m embarrassed for the city of Atlanta for becoming a huge factor in this dirty industry. I’m embarrassed to call this beautiful city my home sometimes.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
I sit back and relax, because I know I have everything others want.
Let me lay it down for you:
I am 21, an undergraduate student (with a rocking GPA), and I am perfectly content with how the world turns. Nope, no real complaints (for today, anyway).
I have a part-time job in a restaurant, a professional AND paid internship, an amazing dog, three wonderful room mates, and a plethora of supportive and caring friends. To top it all off, I have a family who will take care of me if I needed it. I really have nothing to complain about, right?
It took me so long to be able to accomplish everything I have done to this point.
I feel like working my way from literally the bottom (poor, unemployed, and lonely) to the top has served my character in amazing ways. I think all this adds to my credibility.
Let's get started, for real.
How come people can not help others more? Don't get me wrong, there are so many people who do more good things for others than themselves. As selfless as those people are, there are just as many selfish people. Let's see Atlanta, we are considered one of the worst cities for the homeless population, and we have some of the highest amounts of homeless women and children.
Who's to blame?
I would like to plaster the streets and skies with messages that will encourage people to donate, volunteer or something that might benefit someone other than themselves. For those of you who already do good, I know the people who have been helped could not be more appreciative.
Anyway, how pathetic is it to ignore a homeless person on the streets?
Do you think you're better?
Do you think you know more?
Do you think they did it to themselves?
Do you think they're all crack heads?
Do you think they want to be there?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, I'd like you to exit this blog post- because you are an uneducated fool.
Homeless people can not be categorized or stereotyped. It's just as bad as being racist or sexist. Most homeless people can not control their situation once they're in it.I've met a handful of them who have never touched a drug in their lives, but have merely fallen into some bad luck. It's tragic to watch a grown man cry because he lost his job and consequently, his home too. Fred (name change for confidentiality purposes) described some of the worst things my ears have ever heard. He talked of how cold he was some nights, how he couldn't feel his hands or feet. His lips were actually blue when I met him. He was sleeping in Atlanta when we had snow, and he was not inside. His strength to make it through each day was dwindling, until he got help.
I just can't ramble enough about how wretched it is to overlook the homeless population. I can say that the majority of the people in Atlanta who are homeless don't actually want to be. They just can't get out of it because of how poor the system is.
It was brought to my attention recently that some homeless people who stay in shelters can't even get a job. Some shelters enforce curfews, which prevents someone from working past 7 p.m. sometimes. How can we expect a homeless man to become self-sufficient if he has no means of getting a job??
Something is failing in the Atlanta system, and we have to figure out what to do about it.
I also would like to comment on an article written by a male journalist for the AJC. It was about sex trafficking. Unfortunately, Atlanta ranked in the top 10 for human trafficking. Instead of truly writing from a non-biased perspective, this author put a pretty sexist twist on it. The title instantly takes the blame and places it on the children and young women involved by calling them prostitutes. Does anyone associate the word prostitute with anything good? Or guilt-free? Or healthy? Or innocent? NO! How about: Sex trafficking is still a major factor in Atlanta. Probably something more riveting than that, but certainly not placing blame on female victims by calling them prostitutes. Thanks, Steve from the AJC for sharing your sexist views with Atlanta. If you were a real journalist, you’d do some more/better research. Maybe you could start a mini-series, similar to the one about crack cocaine use in Atlanta- written in 1998. Shine a light on the HUGE problem Atlanta faces rather than taking away the spirit of the situation.
There is a huge correlation between sex trafficking and homeless women and children. No surprise there, though.
Alas, it's time for a change. But I sigh at this thought, because it's something that I can't do alone, nor want to. I want everyone to make a difference. It's hard when no one cares.