i want to write about something more basic and more inherent in people in general. truth. the truth is embedded in all of us...somewhere. i think we are born with the talent to tell the truth. we learn to lie. we are embedded with goodness from birth. we learn about evil and we learn about rudeness and we learn about the other bad things as we grow. just because you become homeless doesn't mean you suddenly forget those things or are unaware of those things. and you certainly don't suddenly forget to discern those things. i want to address this entry to social workers in particular, but also to anyone who works in any agency or organization that deals with the homeless and the poor. i'm not being critical of you. i'm being direct with you.
i have had to stay in the mission a few times. i may have to again at some point. if i do, i would appreciate you not treating me like i'm a drug addict or an alcoholic. not all of us are you know. please don't speak to me or act toward me like i am. i am not going to cause you one second of trouble while i'm there, so please do not speak to me like i just walked out of cell block d. i am respectful to you every second i'm in your building. i follow your rules. i am grateful for the job you do. i am grateful you are there when i need to or have to use your services. i respect you. please respect me. please do not give me a motivational lecture. i'm homeless. i'm broke. i'm tired. how much more motivation do you think you could possibly give me?
when i go to social services, dhss, welfare or whatever name you choose to call it, please do not condescend to me. i am homeless...nothing more. i have a college degree. i am fully capable of understanding anything you tell me or any sort of information you would like for me to read. please do not look down or at the wall when you are speaking to me. i am five feet from you. please look me in the eye when you talk to me...i'll know if you are because i am looking you in the eye. please do not act like you are in a hurry to deal with me. i have been waiting for two hours, patiently, without complaining, to see you. please do not act as if you have only two minutes to deal with me. please do not finish with me until you are indeed finished. please complete what i came in to see you about before i leave. i know there are other people waiting, i know you are tired. i know you are overloaded. i know you are underpaid. but still....i am your job. please do not tell me something unless you are sure it's true. do not tell me some recurring answer just to give me an answer. i'd prefer an ...i don't know...to some other answer that may not be correct. if you give me a time frame on something i inquired about, please be sure that is indeed the time frame. if i call back in two days because you're time frame wasn't correct and i find out that the task i inquired about wasn't even started, i'll know you didn't tell me the truth. my confidence in you will be gone. i trust you. please don't betray that trust, i need to be able to trust you.
when i go into a restaurant, please smile at me as you would any other customer. i will order, eat, and pay just as they would. i will smile at you and may return tomorrow. please do not hurry me out the door or be impatient. be pleasant, polite and speak to me as you would any patron. by the way....i know your boss. i have known him for years. i haven't always been homeless. you don't know that, but when you're dealing with the homeless there's probably alot you don't know.
when i pass you on the street, if i say good morning, please say something. i don't care what, but just say something. i'm just saying good morning. i always have. don't look down when you say it either. i'm looking right at you. you don't have to embarrassed or afraid. i'm going to keep walking. i don't know you, you might ask me for money. ok...you probably won't, but say hello. a smile couldn't hurt either.
when you're dealing with the homeless, in whatever capacity, whether it be business, personal, coincidental or out of concern, please remember...you are not dealing with a homeless person. you are dealing with a person. we are not unintelligent. we are not anti-social. we are not dangerous. we are not that much different than you are. we have the same expectations, the same sense of moral standards, the same sense of politeness and the same sense of right and wrong, we are equipped with the same set of emotions and capabilities that you are. our paths just separated somewhere along the way and we're taking the long way home. do unto the homeless as you would have them do unto you...or something like that.
all in all, just remember this....i am homeless. that means i don't have a home. it doesn't mean anything else. it doesn't come with a warning label. it doesn't come with side effects. it's not contagious. i don't bite. it doesn't mean i have diminished capacity in any area. well...my feet hurt....but that's all.
oh yeah...one more thing...if you are a politician or some sort of advocate for the homeless...i need to tell you something. we know that you have no clue what you're dealing with. we know that you may deep down want to come up with a solution for homelessness, but we also know you don't know how or where to start. we know that alot of what you say is for public posturing and awareness. please remember that we're already aware. we know we're homeless. who else needs to know?
see you around town