Learning about the homeless – February 25, 2009

For people reading this blog entry that have not read my previous entries on the homeless, I encourage you to read Homeless Project Background. It will give you some background on my project. Briefly, I have made a commitment to give $20 each week to a homeless person and minimally ask their name and where they are from.

Today I met Debra from Eureka, California. Debra is also Sheila whom I gave money to a few weeks back. Interesting that she changed her name when talking to me, but still was from the same hometown.

Debra was sitting next to my bike that I rode to Starbucks. She was holding a sign that said, “Pac Bell Breakup”, “Help”, “Birth Defects.” “Help” was in much bigger letters than the other two statements. I asked her about “Birth Defects.” She rambled about port districts and her family and the department of weights and measures. I am not a psychologist, but I can say that she was knowledgeable and stated many facts that I could verify, but her thoughts were not coherent.

One area we talked about was what she worried about. Clearly it was having money for food. She was OK with her clothing. She was OK wearing clothes for months at time. She had a tarp and a sleeping back so she was OK for sleeping. She said she could sleep in public between 9PM and 6AM, but had to be cleared out of her resting place by 6AM or get a ticket. I asked her about shelters. She said her problem is that she is not an alcoholic or drug user. When she goes to some of the shelters, she says they cater to the alcoholic/addict homeless. She is often told to come back later in the day, but by then the beds are filled up. She was not angry about this, just matter of fact. I don’t know what is fact or fiction here, but I want to make another point.

There are many types of homeless. I volunteered for a homeless charity many years ago that focused on homeless men in Pacific Beach. It was founded by a homeless lady who got off the street and wanted to repay the men who taught her how to survive. I just sat down with Laurin Pause, the Executive Director from the Community Resource Center . One of her focuses is on domestic violence victims. She tries to prevent the victim from becoming homeless. Debra from Eureka represents someone who is slightly mentally ill, but seems to be comfortable living on the street. She said this was her second stint on the streets, this one beginning in 1999. I would be so interested to see if she lives “off the land” from a dollar here and a dollar there. I wonder what she will use my twenty dollars for?

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