Excerpt: Interview With A Homeless Author
Judah A Kessler
Unlike reporters and social justice warriors, I didn’t drive my BMW to the shelter, wearing Gucci shorts and Adidas sports shoes. I didn’t have a key to a near-by condo or my Amex card in my KennethCole wallet. I didn’t have some “Safe Space” to run to, if or when the situation got tough. The only option or alternative was to simply return to sitting under a tree, hidden in over-growth, in rain, wind and snow, “waiting for God”, as it were, hoping I’d not be discovered and probably arrested as a vagrant or trespasser.
This wasn’t some half-baked “Social Experiment” or an “independent study” toward a Social Worker degree. Nor was it some publicity stunt, aimed at the mindless Liberals who’d flock to my “cause” in a pathetic effort to be recognised for a pathetic excuse for some “Humanitarian effort”.
I wasn’t particularly silent about the situation. In fact, I was rather vociferous about it, on social media, blogs and the likes. Others knew ,not only about my Homelessness but some knew where I was going at the end of every day. And it was the absolute apathy that was most striking. They knew I was working a legitimate, tax-paying job, providing services to others during the day… only to slink off under a tree or back to a public shelter for the “Homeless” every night.
I’d see, frequently, some post on social media, where somebody would initiate a “crowd funding” effort for a particular person who was in a similar situation. I’d see headlines like “Town Rallies To Give Homeless Man A Car” or “Homeless Man Walks 10 Miles To Social Services Office” and I’d think:
“My tax-paying job affords me just about enough to keep me on public transport to get to and from work and according to the ‘protocol’ and ‘guide-lines’, pays me just enough to prohibit any further assistance.” I mean, I was even denied Medicaid… because I worked… legally and legitimately. I saved every penny, literally, that I possibly could, including the change I’d find on the sidewalks, in the gutters or in the grass in the park, toward getting out of the situation I was in. And I wasn’t walking 10 miles to “Social Services” for hand-outs.
I didn’t run, crying “Woe is me!” or demanding any sort of self-conceived “entitlement”. I took full responsibility for my situation and the remedy.
This was fact, life, existence.
But I’m no movie star, pop singer, TV news anchor. Helping me wouldn’t further anybody’s personal agenda nor raise them up politically or socially. I’m just a “Homeless person”, so I don’t know what I’m talking and writing about. And to argue that fact is futile because the present moment substantiates and proves it, clearly.
Am I “bitter” about it? Well, yes, yes I am. I’ve never looked to a time when this experience or the documentation would make me a Hemmingway, Salinger, Tolstoy, Kafka, Bieber or the likes. But I never expected to be so dismissed and ignored. I never anticipated the sheer, astounding apathy I’ve witnessed and experienced over the years.
There was a personal encounter with some-one who socialised with me, for coffee and lunch, etc., who knew that, at the end of our rendez-vous, I had a curfew to make for a plastic mattress on a metal-framed bed with 849 strangers… in a “Poor House”. Again, I was verbally accosted with accusations that I wasn’t doing enough, I wasn’t pulling my own weight, I wasn’t taking any personal responsibility for bettering a miserable situation, all the while being well-aware of the fact that I was holding a job of 70-80 hours per week in the service of others and going with-out food in order to accumulate enough to safely move on and out of what was, admittedly, a horror.
When the book was first published, there was a review on-line that blamed me and accused me of failing to take personal responsibility for my situation. The allegation was that I was attempting to blame others for my own failures. The wording of the posted review made it blatantly obvious that the “reviewer” hadn’t actually read the book and had some deep-rooted, personal vendetta to quell. It was psychotic at best.
Am I “bitter”? Oh yes, yes, yes indeed I am. But not just for me and my-self.
I look at the news these days and I see floods and wild fires taking people’s houses down and away. “Acts of Nature” or, in the case of what I think of as the excuse of the “more feeble of mind and character”, “Acts of God”, un-expected events that are very much the normal course of Creation ripping homes and properties of hundreds and thousands, essentially putting them neatly into the category of “Homeless”. I see so-called “refugees”, by the thousands, walking hundreds of miles, carrying every item of their world and life on their backs and in old bags. They’re “Homeless” now too. And the media and the world cry out for help and support and aid, and the lazy religious wail “Pray for….!”
BUT, one very horrifying commonality amongst them all is: They consciously choose to turn blind eyes, deaf ears and dead hearts toward the very Homeless in their own villages, towns and cities.
And “prayer”? Well, I KNOW people who receive an envelope containing a bit of rag wrapped in a computer-generated and printed note claiming “The enclosed cloth has been touched and blessed by….” (you name it), and “your faithful and generous gift will help continue….” some obscure effort allegedly taking place in some remote area of the globe that may or may not exist. And I KNOW, because I’ve seen, people who will, with-out hesitation, carefully place 5, 10, 20 or even more dollars into the “enclosed, postage paid, return envelope” and send it off!
I’ve SEEN the “Prayer Petal” from some allegedly super-natural rose bush, grown on “blessed ground where the locals have seen the apparition of our Holy Mother” or some spooky manifestation of a divine deity of their choice. And I’ve READ the propaganda stating that a “gift” of 10 dollars or more will ensure that the ground will remain holy and that “prayers” will be said for the well-being of the donor.
“Prayers”… a one-word post on popular social media, in response to a terminal illness, a tragic accident… “Prayers”.
Yet, these very same people will do nothing to assist the local Homeless because, well… for the most part, they choose to believe, because it excuses them from independent thought and action, the utter nonsense of media of all kinds and sorts that tells them:
The Homeless are mentally ill. The Homeless are emotionally unstable. The Homeless are drug or alcohol addicts. The Homeless are lazy and worthless. The Homeless are criminals.
Well, as I wrote my notes each and every evening, under the tree or on a park bench or as I laid on that metal-frame old bed, there were others around me, some working, others who had served in the military of these United States who saw me writing. Some would glance over my shoulder and glean what I’d written. Others would see the little sketches I doodled in the margins of my note-book. And whether they came from their own tree or bench, or their own old metal-framed shelter bed, more often than not they’d comment: “This isn’t just YOUR story! This is ALL OUR story! You can write! Promise me… promise US that you’ll do something with this, get it out there, let people know the truth.”
They were right, and so I promised, and have fulfilled my promise… half-way. I HAVE published the journal, un-edited and edited. And although I certainly could put the income from sales to perfectly good use for myself right now, to-date, all proceeds have gone BACK to the Homeless… most by being given directly to local Homeless people either in cash or food, an article of clothing or the likes. Or a gift to a shelter in need, anonymously or in the name of the person who purchased the book. I neither want nor need “receipts” and when you take a Homeless person to a diner, or even the local McD’s, a receipt is worthless, compared to the relief on the face of an other-wise starving person who may not have had a well-prepared, hot meal in a very long while. (Let’s not over-look the fact that, “Food Stamps” do NOT provide “hot” or “cooked” meals… so ask yourself: Where does some-one who hasn’t got a “home” or kitchen or microwave, COOK?”)
I’ve written and published an actual account, recorded daily, NOT from the perspective of a news reporter, some wack “Social Justice Warrior”. I didn’t drive my BMW to the local Homeless shelter and hid the keys to my condo in the pocket of my GapDocker, 60$ jeans. But because I’m not “celeb”, it’s perfectly acceptable to approach my account, and the experiences of the actually Homeless, with either cynicism or apathy.
Am I “bitter”? It doesn’t matter whether or not I am. What matters is… too many others are apathetic and “WHY?” is the question that begs an answer, the issue that demands action.