We met Jason one afternoon as we were walking downtown. Saying hello, we decided to stop and visit with him and his two friends - all three young adults were homeless. We quickly discovered their wit, charm and loving personalities, which were endearing and captivating - way beyond the initial impression one could have erroneously made based on outside appearances alone. Yes, it would have been easy to simply scurry past them and move forward with our day. We could have stuck with judging based solely on the 'cover of their books'. Yet, by stopping and giving attention and time, we now have experienced many, many wonderful 'chapters' with Jason and his friends.
What follows is Jason's thoughts and feelings on a simple question, "What is homelessness like?" We didn't know what to expect, but his intelligence, heart and passion flowed. This video encompasses 'one take'. There were no cuts, as they say in Hollywood, which is astonishing.
So, what is homelessness like? A long time ago, people had to survive. To focus on finding food, and shelter, you know, just getting by in life. When you are on the streets, that part of you comes out again - that instinct to survive, that will to survive. You will do anything, whatever it takes, whatever you have to do to survive. And then people treat you like you are dirt for it.
So why is it that it is hard for me to get the help I need sometimes? And a lot of it is your own personal problems too, I'm not gonna lie. I have my own issues to deal with. I got Asperger's Syndrome for one. On the streets, I've lost my I.D. and that can be one of the hardest forms of homelessness a man could possibly ever imagine...you can't get any services, you can't get any food stamps, can't get a job, can't get a shelter. God forbid you might have an STD, you might be old, or you might have Post-Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) or something! And the next thing you know you find yourself self-medicating yourself because there is nothing else that will medicate you because America asks you to cough up money just so you can get treated? In other countries, we don't have this problem! Why is it that I am on the streets because I can't get treated, or other people can't get treated?
And I don't even necessarily care about myself, I get along fine on the streets, eat three meals a day without even getting welfare! But what about the old lady? What about the old man? What about the...someone who has a mental issue? It's a lot harder for them. You know why it is a lot of these homeless people are drinking, smoking and doing drugs? It's out of self-medication! That's the damn truth! And unfortunately it's sad to see some of these people go on their downward spiral. I really love these people. I do. My heart goes out to them each and every single day. And yet, most are trapped inside of their own heads. I don't know what I can do to help them, you know?
I believe that the problem is not laws or regulations, it's people. It's a cultural problem. It really is. Why is it that we look away and say, "Oh my God, look how disgusting that is, some bum is digging in the dumpster, going through garbage!" Maybe that bum needed something to eat that night. But no, all most of us can do is look at him or her and say, "Dirty bum, that's disgusting. I don't want that in my backyard. Pfft! It doesn't matter if you want that in your backyard or not honey, we're still here. We still live. We still have souls, and they need to be fed. They need to pee. They need to sleep. And they need some place safe to sleep, where their things are not going to be stolen. Where their camps are not going to get burned down by cops, or something like that. Low and behold though, it feels as if there is no legal place to sleep. It doesn't matter what I do, every time I try to go to sleep, it's against the law. I could be in the middle of a rain forest and somehow I would still be trespassing. I am constantly on the run. I can kind of understand how people with PTSD homeless vets come from, you know? They know the enemy is watching them....and they are.
It's people, people are the problem, it's us. It starts with one. Hopefully my voice will matter, hopefully it will. But honestly, I could care less if it does, I am just speaking my mind. But...well...that's all I have to say for now.
Jason's story is part of the significant project "The Road I Call Home" which aims to bring new awareness, action, resources and love to the many, many special homeless people that call the road their home. It features over 50 individuals and includes an art exhibition of portraits, written stories, short-films and a planned future release of a corresponding coffee table art book. The project is in partnership with Gathering Friends for the Homeless. The unveiling of "The Road I Call Home" exhibition is set for Fall 2016.