Friday, December 31, 2010

See, I've Learned Something Today...

I don't often admit to feeling unsure of myself, but over the past couple months I have felt that way. I haven't felt like I've really learned anything, and I've been unsure of any difference in the world around me. Although I do still have some insecurities, I'm feeling a lot better about myself right now. I've just learned that I do have answers to some pretty hard questions.

I just found out about a contest Wal-Mart has started on facebook. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about the contest, but here's the basic idea, as I understand it. The company has made a fan page for every metropolitan area in the United States. "Liking" the page will act as a vote for the area, and by today, December 31st, which ever area gets the most "Likes" wins and Wal-Mart will donate 1.5 million dollars to help feed the hungry in that area. I applaud Wal-Mart for this.

I've said already, that there is plenty of food in the US and that there should be no one going hungry. I feel the money could be better spent on improving living conditions for the needy, but that's not what I'm writing about.

I found myself in a conversation over a very dear friends facebook status today about things like this. His status said, "I would imagine just donating money to charities or buying dinner for a homeless person is actually more beneficial than clicking "Like" on a Facebook link... almost as good as changing your profile pic to save kids from child abuse..." He was making a point that although it's very good that corporations to help out in their community, we, as individuals, should really do more than we do.


I put in my two sense like I always do, especially when it's the subject of poverty, and was eventually asked the question, "What organization? Or how would you get the money to those who actually need it? Who decides who "actually" needs it?"

The question came up because I said that it worried me that a lot less than the full 1.5 million would make it to the people who need it. It's a really good question and my answer took some thought. This is what I answered:

That's the hard part. Most states have pretty good assistance programs for individuals. In a lot of cases it's used well and does it's job of getting people off the streets. But in a lot of cities rents are higher than what people are given.

As far as an organization that does the best, it would change from city to city. I wish the organizations would work together more than they do. The one that shows up the most is Union Gospel Mission, but the programs from city to city aren't the same and they're all run independently so "prices and participation" vary, basically they just share a name.

As far as who actually needs it. Right now I'd worry more about families than individuals. The economic downturn has forced a lot of people out of their homes who have always been hard workers. My personal opinion is that these are the people who need help most right now. I've run into a lot of people who are looking for work all the time, or work part time at McDonald's or something and simply don't make nearly enough to support themselves, let alone a family.

I hope that helped a little. The sad answer is that donating to local charities and shelters is the best that the average person can give. And if you're in a city that has a homeless newspaper, (Salt Lake does) buy one when you see a guy selling it. Half the money goes to the person and the other half goes to help them continue printing. It's one of the best ways to get money to someone who is really trying to better their life, and the articles are really informative and eye opening.

After I had written that, a lot of my insecurities vanished. It showed me that I have learned a lot, and hopefully the things I have to say will help make some change.

I don't really get into most holidays, but it seems fitting that this happened on New Year's Eve. Hopefully, I can take this new found self esteem with me into 2011 and the last half of my time on the streets, and with it, keep making all the difference I can. So, thank you Roger, for being an awesome friend all the time and for bringing up a valid point. And thank you Julianna, for asking probably one of the best questions I've ever been asked. And thank YOU for reading what I have to say. I hope the new year brings you health, safety, and happiness.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Videos?

Well not live action videos, but videos just the same. I made two videos on xtranormal to advertise the blog. If you haven't seen them, check them out! I hope you like them!

This first video I made while trying to figure out how to use the program. They remind me of LEGOS.



This second one is cartoon versions of two of my best friends talking about me and the blog. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed making them.


Not What I Expected

Yesterday I went to learn about Buddhism. There was a free class at the library at 5:30 and I had nowhere to be until about 6:45. I figured the class couldn't last more than an hour, right?

Wrong.

6:30 came and went and I was still sitting there and, honestly, not really learning anything about Buddhism. I'm not good at leaving early in situations such as this, and so there I sat. Finally, at about 7:05 the guy in charge of the "class" had enough technical difficulties with his computer and recorder (he doing an audio recording of everything he was saying) that I had a chance to say that I really needed to go.

And so I left late and, therefore, arrived late at the shelter I've been staying at. When I got there they were full. They told me to go and get some food and they'd make arrangements somewhere else for me. By the time I got there they were about out of food. They gave me what they could. It wasn't much, but at least it was something.

I stay in a winter shelter. It's a program called the "San Francisco Interfaith Winter Shelter" It lasts from November until February and it's designed to make sure that more people are off the streets in the dead of winter. So it's not a regular shelter that's open year round and has it's own building. Let me tell you something about the regular San Francisco shelters. They all use the same computer systems. The first time you stay at one, you have to give them your information so they know who's there. Once you've done that, you are in everybody's system and checking into a shelter is really easy. I haven't stayed in a regular shelter here. Therefore, I'm "off the grid". This made things difficult last night.

These people are awesome, by the way.
When they called in to make reservations at other shelters for us, it became very apparent that they had no idea who I was. So, I was sent to a shelter a couple miles away where I could get on the "grid".

When I got there, there was a cart fashioned from two bicycles on the side of the street. It was two bikes about two feet apart with a whole frame welded around it. It was fitted with a big propane tank and two burners; one in front and one in back. They were serving spaghetti, garlic bread, corn and baked beans to anyone who was hungry, and I was still hungry. Jackpot!

I ate, it was awesome, and then I looked at the line into the shelter, it was long. I'm from Minnesota, I can handle 40 degrees, and so I walked into the dark of the city and towards my car, which is ridiculously close to where I usually sleep.

On the way there, I knew I was planning on not sleeping in a shelter, but I wasn't sure if I'd end up in my car for the night of under the stars. The idea of being curled up in a car wasn't sitting well with me, so when I got to it I decided to get a couple blankets and find a place to lay down for the night.

I remembered that on my second day in San Francisco a homeless man told me that the police patrol parks and if they find you sleeping there, you might get arrested. I don't want to get arrested. He said that if you want to sleep uninterrupted, church property is where it's at. So, again, off into the dark of the city I went, this time, searching for a church.

Long story short, I found a place under some palm trees to sleep, and woke up promptly at 5:30AM, which is exactly when the shelters wake up us bums. I've become far too used to waking up that early.

To answer your question before you ask it. Yes, I stayed warm, I already said, "I'm from Minnesota, I can handle 40 degrees". I never noticed the temperature all night. I'm tough.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

St. Boniface

Monday through Friday from 6AM until Noon, if you are in San Francisco with nowhere to go then I know a place for you. St. Boniface Church on Golden Gate Avenue between Leavenworth Street and Jones Street offers shelter to anyone in need of it with out fail. It's a haven for the homeless who are sent out on to the streets in the wee hours of the morning.

Whether you need some more sleep, to get out of the cold, or just want a place to rest for a few minutes, St. Boniface has got you covered. I've been told that it is the only church in the United States that opens it's doors in this way to give homeless people the shelter they need. Although I can't back up this claim by any means, I can definitely say that is is the only one I've come across during my travels. For a great many mornings it has been an excellent sanctuary for me. I've absolutely been blessed by the kindness and love shown by this church whether I've spent a few minutes resting my feet or a few hours sleeping in one of their pews.

I'm so inspired by the amount of support I'm shown by each of you everyday. It means a great deal to me, and sometimes your support is what keeps me going when life totally sucks and I'm lonely, cold, wet, tired, dirty, and really just wishing for a pizza and some fancy chocolate. Thank you so much for that. I truly cannot find the words to sufficiently express my gratitude.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Help Me Continue!

Some of you have noticed the donate button to your right. It has become quite hard to juggle trying to find work, working the few temporary jobs I’ve gotten, making it to shelters so I can get out of the cold at night, and having time to write it all down. So I’m asking for donations if you can.

This is a decision that has not been made lightly and I’ve made a few rules to go along with it.

Rule #1: 
I will continue to look for work and try to make as much money as I can to help the cause just as I have been doing.

Rule #2:
The money is for transportation and other necessities. I will not be using it to eat. I will not be buying things for me. It is only to get me from one place to another.

Rule #3: 
Anything that is left over at the end of this expedition will be donated to a homeless shelter or other homeless relief organization of my choosing. It will be a place that helped me along the way where I felt very welcome and safe.

I hope that this is a way that the people, who have read the things I’ve written, and shown so much enthusiasm along the way, can help me to continue doing what has become so important to so many of us.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Humor

I was sitting at breakfast this morning with an interesting man. He was cracking jokes and happily talking the whole time. A lot of his jokes were funny, but I don't always laugh on the outside; also I was tired. I'm not sure if he was trying to crack me or if that's just him, but he kept going. I wasn't upset at all, he was really entertaining.

Then it happened. He told a story that is right up my alley. I'll try to tell it right.

He has arthritis and a big heart, which I guess is bad. I was always told it's good to have a big heart, but I guess not literally. He had a doctor a few years ago who was Oriental, from New York, and gay. These are the things he told me about his doctor. One visit he asked the doctor about a certain pain medication for his arthritis. The doctor quickly said, "I wouldn't put that in my body." This man looked at his doctor and said, "Well, you put things in your body that I definitely wouldn't put in mine!"

Maybe it's funny. Maybe it's offensive. Maybe it's neither, but at 6:30 this morning I thought it was hilarious. I started laughing a lot and he said, "There, I got you."

I took out my notebook and started writing and he said, "You're writing that in your journal aren't you."

"That, I do not want to forget" I replied.

As I was writing he said some wonderful things. He said that he's probably going to die soon and he's made it his mission in life to bring joy to people and make as many people laugh as he can. There are a lot of people in really bad situations in life and if you can give them that little bit of joy, then you've given them everything.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pardon the Pun

There's one group of people I've pretty much ignored as far as who I have written about, and that would be those obvious mental illness. In a way I've been avoiding this subject on purpose. It's a stereotype that most homeless people are mentally ill. In reality the amount of blatant mental illness has been quite a bit less than I originally thought.

With that said, mental illness among the homeless is still prevalent enough that I see it everyday. It kind of makes me sad. I see these people everyday that really can't take care of themselves let alone work a job that will pay enough to survive who for no fault of their own are forced to live on the streets. I can't believe that the government doesn't take care of these people. I really feel that people who have mental illness bad enough so that they are stuck on the streets because they can't take care of themselves should be taken care of by family. And if that's not possible then the government needs to step in and make sure they have a place to live  and are given access to the medications and psychiatric care they require. Living on the streets, these people are, in many cases, potentially dangerous to themselves and the people around them.

There's a man I see everyday who is constantly talking to someone who isn't there. It's actually really unnerving. This man is insanely mad (Pardon the Pun) at whoever he's talking to. Sometimes I really feel like he's just going to flip out and someone could easily get hurt.

There was a guy in Portland who I'm still not sure about. I'm almost positive that he was using the crazy homeless guy stereotype to his advantage. It was actually really funny to see this phenomenon in action. When ever he was in areas where there was less people with money, he seemed completely normal, but  upon crossing into the areas where there are business's and shopping areas, he seemed completely crazy. He'd walk around yelling strange things to people and then, like clockwork, he'd walk up to and into the shelter, and again, he's a normal guy. So, I'll let you make up your mind about what was going on there.

So there are people with mental illness in the homeless community, but not nearly as many as you'd think, or possibly, as many as some people might want you to think.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Elvis Meets Pacific

Much to my surprise, I have found myself in the beautiful San Francisco for about two and a half weeks now. It's amazing to me that the last two weeks have gone by so fast. What surprises me more, however is that I haven't really talked about anything in the city in this blog. No one knows what's happening in Sean Donner's life right now. There's two ways to look at this fact.

One: as an honest to gosh travesty! 
I bet there's at least one person in the world who right now is thinking, "If I had one wish, it would be to know what Sean Donner is doing these days. He hasn't really said anything about his life in quite some time, and that makes me worried." To that person I say, "I'll tell you in just a second."

Two: as a dream come true.  
I bet there's at least one person in the world who right now is thinking, "If I had one wish, it would be that Sean Donner would just stop writing about being homeless, and go on with life quietly like the rest of us. He just makes me so mad!" To that person I say, "That really hurts. If you want me to go away, then just stop reading. See if I care." Then two seconds later I would whisper, "Please don't stop reading."

I'm hoping that most of the people think it's an honest to gosh travesty. And so, to my loyal readers, people who read sometimes, those of you who are just discovering my adventure, and those of you who are in group two and only read because I ask so nicely that you do, here's a little bit about life homeless in San Francisco.

I  last wrote about what I was doing here on December 8th. It was the day after I arrived in the Bay Area, as it's sometimes called, and so I really had very little to say about living your life homeless in San Francisco. It's now the 22nd of December and I've said nothing of how my interview went or anything else about how things are going.

First of all, I promptly did not get the job. They took one look at my lack of California address and said probably not. So I have continued on with my job search and have so far come up empty.

On December 8th there was what's called Project Homeless Connect. It takes place every few months. It's a program that gives the homeless of the area a chance to get health care, dental care, housing opportunities, glasses, and a lot of other things of that nature. I, of course, went to at least check it out. In the process of seeing what it's all about had a dental check up. I hadn't been to the dentist in an embarrassingly long time for which I was scolded by the dentist. The good news is I have no cavities and my teeth are now freshly cleaned!

I have been sleeping and eating breakfast and dinner at a winter shelter held at different churches around the area. There are quite a few shelters in San Francisco that are open all year, but I chose the winter shelter for one reason, it's easy. As long as I get there around 6PM I've got a place to sleep. If I need to do something else one night I can just come back the next day and I still have a place to sleep. There are some places here that offer what's called a 90 Day Bed, which is exactly what it sounds like. Once you are given a bed you have that same bed for three months. The down side is that you have very little flexibility for the freedom every person wants and needs. You have to be there every day at certain times to check in. If you miss one check in during the first week of your stay, you will lose your bed. If you miss too many after that first week you, likewise, will lose your bed. This is, obviously, so that they don't turn people away and end up having empty beds.

There are also obvious up sides to this system. Access to a daily shower, a real bed as opposed to a mat on the floor of a church just to name a few.

I've become acquainted with the city and feel like I have a pretty good grip on were the things I need are. Like always, I found myself lost in a labyrinth of buildings for about a week.

You may remember that I mentioned like three months ago that I have with me a tiny bust of Elvis Presley. He is my travel companion. On our way to San Francisco we stopped at a beach to look out at the ocean. This is what happened.















At this point Elvis was very unhappy with Pacific and suggested we get back on the road.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How People React?

I was recently asked how people react when they find out I'm homeless by choice. I tell people all the time what I'm doing and I get a few different responses. Here they are in no particular order.

The fast and easy way for me to explain what I'm doing is, "I'm traveling around the western states, living homeless, and writing about it".

Most of the people I talk to who aren't homeless think it's a really interesting idea. Many of them, however don't ask much about it. Out of the people who do ask about it, most of them get really excited about it and have a kind of long conversation with me about it all. This last Sunday I had one such conversation with a man. Like most other people in this group he asked me about how I came up with the idea. I don't remember if I've ever really written the whole story on this topic in this format, but I'll spare you for now. This man also was interested in what I've experienced thus far. Many of the things I said are already written here, so I will not be redundant. I've never had any kind of blatantly negative feedback about what I'm doing. People have always been either positive about my choice or they've been completely indifferent. So from complete strangers indifference has been about the most negative reaction I've gotten.

As far as the people I talk to who are homeless, they usually get really excited about everything I'm doing. They like to tell me about the different services that are available or things that need to be done better for people in our situation. A few times people I see often have been standing in a food line with me while it's cold or raining and turn to me and say, "Why did you choose to be homeless again?" I think that's kind of funny.

So those are the most common responses I hear when people find out what I'm doing and that I chose to be homeless. Thanks for the questions! Keep them coming and I'll keep answering them. Keep reading; it means much more than you can imagine. It makes the cold days, rain, loneliness, long cold nights, discomfort and waiting in lines for food, a bed, or a shower so much more bearable.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who's Homeless?

I've been doing a lot of exploring lately. I explore a lot when ever I get to a new city, but I feel like I've been exploring San Francisco more than the other cities. As other cities, depending on where you are you may or may not notice the homeless population. That is the noticeable homeless population. We (myself included when I was planning this expedition) have an idea in our head of what a homeless person should look, smell, and act like. Our civilization tends to try to hide any problem or less desirable aspect of our population and poverty and homelessness is definitely one of those things we sweep under the rug. It's easy in any city to find the areas that are "homeless friendly" and those that aren't. Just follow the tourists. This is not to say that there won't be any homeless people where there's tourists. There are just much less. The panhandlers and musicians will be in those places, but honestly, how many of them are really homeless? It's hard to know for sure.

Back to my point, when I started this project I had an idea of what a homeless person looks like and so I said, "I will not shave or cut my hair while I'm away." And as a result, I've got crazy man hair and an out of control beard. Just like a good homeless man, right? The reality is, no. As I sit and eat at whatever shelter I'm in and look around I see more clean cut men than wild mountain man looking men. My beard and wild hair are a vast minority among my peers. Is this a good bye to my hair. No. I made a commitment, and I intend to keep it. I'm just trying to set things straight.

I've talked to more homeless people in San Francisco than anywhere else who have a cell phone, a computer, a portable DVD player, and things like that that we don't think about when we think of homeless people. You can't look at a person and decide that they are not homeless because their clothes are nice, they have a pleasing hairdo or oder. I shower much less now than when I had a home, but I'm not dirty. In fact, I was talking to someone I worked with in Portland, for those 4 days I worked who showers about as often as I do, and he has a home and a steady job, and doesn't look at all dirty, and he doesn't stink. We tend to think homeless and gross at the same time. Is it because the people we can tell are homeless are urine soaked or just threw up on themselves? Probably.

It's time we take the stereotype of what a homeless person is and why they're homeless and be educated about it. The fact of the matter is that right now in America there are more homeless people than ever. These are people who used to be our neighbors who, because of the current economy in the United States, have become victims of downsizing. They aren't lazy and out of work. In fact, many of them do work. Think for a moment of where you would go if you suddenly lost your job. Do you have the safety net of a large enough savings to last you three months? Six months? A year? Now consider that the only job you can find pays much less than you're used to. Would you be able to keep your house? Would you have enough to have an apartment; even a small one? Now consider (if it's not your reality) that you have children to take care of, too. In most cities you can't find a two bedroom apartment for less than $800 a month. Now consider that the only job you can find is at a fast food restaurant. Speaking from experience, you'll be lucky to make enough to cover rent.

Yes, there are government programs to help you, but the more you make the less you get and it's still possibly not enough to make ends meet. So, now I ask you, "Where would you be living if this were your reality?"

The homeless people in America aren't all drug or alcohol addicts. They are not all just too lazy to work. They are not just degenerates. Many of them are just like you.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Spider's Bane

A few days ago I asked people on Facebook to ask me any questions they have about my life living homeless in the major cities of the American west. I said that I would answer them in this forum. Almost immediately, I received two very good questions; one about whether or not I'm going hungry, and the other about the places I sleep. Then I was asked a question by someone who has known me longer than I've known me, and I've honestly contemplated whether or not I should answer this question (which was asked jokingly... mostly)

So here's the question: Do you have Sting with you?

I began this blog by letting everyone know that I'm a fan of the Lord of the Rings, by quoting Bilbo Baggins, but I didn't come clean about the extent of my nerdy-ness or as I say it "collector". I have three replica swords from the Lord of the Rings movies. Narsil, the sword of the Witch King, and of course Sting the sword used by Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, not at the same time of course. And so to answer the question quickly. No, I didn't bring a sword with me.

You see, to be carrying a sword around, even if it stays locked in a car is both silly and a liability. Even a small sword like Sting takes up unnecessary space. In my living situation, space is very limited. I only have things that are necessary to my life at this moment. For this reason, and that I would be completely devastated if I were to lose Sting or any of the other "collector's items" I have.

So no, I didn't bring Sting with me. But, Anna, I did bring something else with me. Something much more precious.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sleep Means Sleeping

First things first. Thank you for the title, "I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody's Business".

Since leaving the comforts of an established and regular living arrangement (AKA an apartment) in July, I've slept in a lot of different places. In Minnesota I never found myself sleeping outside. Homeless life is easy when you are as mega popular as I am. I found it hard to be able to sleep in my car then. Friends would ask me where I was sleeping, and when I said in my car or I don't know, they would say something like, "my couch". I have one friend and former co-worker who would give me her apartment keys and have me sleep on her couch while she was working an overnight shift.

So on September 11th when I left Minnesota and the comforts of friends i had to figure things out for myself.  My friends reached much farther than I suspected and I found myself on a couch a few other places throughout my journeys. In Rapid City, Salt Lake City, and Seattle I found myself with familiar people and on a couch for at least a few of the nights.

In Rapid City most nights I spent curled up in the back seat of my car. I'd park in the Wal-Mart parking lot, move everything from the back seat to the front and put towels in the back windows of my car, and there I would slumber.

Salt Lake City (and the surrounding area) was pretty much the same deal. It was still warm out and so at Wal-Mart or a residential street I would find myself to end each day.

In Seattle I realized that I'd spent far too much money on gas from driving around those last two cities. I found a quiet Buddhist neighborhood and there my car stayed pretty much the whole time I was there. I would move it from place to place everyday, but it never moved more than a block from where it was the day before.

By this time, my knees were beginning to feel the affects of being curled up in a small space every night. So at the behest of my knees and an old friend wanting me to live the sort of homeless life he felt was the only way to be homeless, I went on search for a place to "camp" in Olympia, WA. I found one such place between a row of bushes and a Baptist church.

The thing with sleeping outside in a city is that it's not very safe and actually pretty illegal in most cities, so you have to hide. Let me explain something that most people don't think of about the safety issue. In Portland, I met a young man named Nick. Nick is from Vermont, and hasn't ever really had the best home life. His mom, kicked him out of the house when he was 16 years old, and for most of the last 4 years Nick has hitch hiked around the country. A few days before I met him, a friend and I started seeing a lot of homeless people with big open sores and just looking really beat up. When I met Nick, both of his eyes were black and his right hand was broken.

This is Nick's story. He woke up to three teenage boys beating him up and robbing him late at night in a park. He fought them off and was able to get back most of his things, but not without some pretty nasty injuries.

The moral of the story is that it's not usually the other homeless people that I have to hide from when it comes to sleeping outside, it's often kids who are probably intoxicated with too much time on their hands. So the trick is to sleep in darker parks where you're not likely to be found.

As winter creeps closer and the temperatures begin to drop, I've spent much less time outside or in my car, and more time in shelters.

Year round homeless shelters are making more space for people trying to escape the cold and more and more churches are opening their doors as "Winter Shelters". On top of these extra shelters, when the cold gets dangerous, Emergency Shelters are opened. I stayed in one such shelter a few days before Thanksgiving. It was a Red Cross run shelter inside of a church in East Portland. The night I was there, they housed just over 150 people and maybe about 25 dogs and I think 2 cats.

On the way down the coast from Portland to San Francisco, I spent one night camped in my tent on the shore of the Pacific Ocean. This brought with it a few fears. One: I had to camp in a place where no one would see me, the last thing I wanted was to get woken up in the middle of the night and either kicked off the beach or arrested. Two: I had to be higher than the tide.

The sand where I pitched my tent looked "wind blown" rather than "wave crashed" so I figured I was alright. And with prayers of staying dry I went to sleep. At about 4AM I woke up to strong winds and really loud ocean sounds, but I was dry so I went back to sleep. When I woke up in the morning the sand was wet as close as 10 feet (3 meters) away from my tent. I barely beat the tide, and all but one of the tent stakes was pulled out of the sand, but it was all worth it for the experience of sleeping by the ocean and waking up to such a beautiful view.

And so life goes on just has it has the past three months. In the winter, if the first shelter I go to is full, they will call around until they find a place for me to sleep safely. In the colder months there's always somewhere to go, to stay warm, dry and comfortable.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Going Hungry in America

I asked the world of Facebook to ask me questions about the way my life is and things that have happened to me since living a homeless life. Almost immediately I was asked if I've gone hungry yet.

The quick answer is: No.

Now let me explain myself.

America is still the land of plenty. That's part of the reason I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm not a Socialist. I full heartedly think that people should have to work or do something for the things they're given. However, there's really no reason anyone in America should go hungry. There's just so much money floating around.

I've noticed as I've been around a little bit, that people are generally giving. No one likes to see someone in a bad situation; hurting hungry of otherwise. At the same time, though, is that people are also greedy. I don't know how many of you have noticed this as well, but America obviously has plenty of food. So food is given to the poor in mass quantities. This is awesome!

Along with every other homeless person in the country, I eat your leftovers. A lot of the food we get at shelters is expired but still very edible, so stores donate it to the shelter, and then we eat it. Every town of any size at all has food services for the homeless and otherwise poor, and usually the food is really good.

So no, I haven't gone hungry at all. There's just no reason anyone in America should ever go without food.

I have eaten out of a garbage can once, however. It was just a few days ago. The night I got into San Francisco I asked a homeless guy wear I could get some food. He brought me to a dumpster outside a popular bakery. The dumpster was full of loaves of bread that had gotten cold. Bread is all that ever goes into the dumpster, so I took a loaf, and you know what? It was good.

In closing I think I should mention that I eat more now than I ever did before I became homeless, and I've actually gained a solid fifteen pounds.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Southward!

After a journey of two days, I arrived in San Francisco. I'm always happy to spend days traveling on my own. And this time I gave myself the gift of taking my time. In stead of taking I-5, which would be a little faster, I drove out to the coast and took Highway 101. I love that highway. It was a great trip down the coast, but as much fun as it was, I was really anxious to get to the next stop.

So at about 4PM on December 6th, I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco. I had been to San Francisco once before, but I didn't really spend anytime in the city. I spent the first few hours trying to figure out where everything is and familiarize myself with the area. That night, I ended up slightly breaking the law by sleeping in a park. As trivial as it sounds, it's an arrest-able offense. Yeah... I'm bad.

Day two was spent also looking around. I'm human just like you, and therefore I need to eat. I actually make it a habit to eat two or three times a day. So I spent some time locating missions and shelters so that I can continue in that way of life. All the money I made in Portland was spent on getting to San Francisco so it's time to find another job. I am going to an open interview this afternoon at the Wag Hotel. It's a hotel of sorts for dogs and cats while their masters are away for the holidays. I've worked in people hotels for a very long time and have always had animals around me. I like to have animals around and miss that since I've been on the road. So I'm really hoping I can get this job. It would be a seasonal job, lasting about a month. That's perfect for what I'm looking for. So wish me luck!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Roman Catholics and "Sisters"

Today started like every other day I’ve slept in the Portland Rescue Mission’s Winter Shelter. Wake up at 5:25, pull all my things together, put on my coat, and make my way outside. 39 degrees is startling so early in the morning, but let’s face it, I’ve felt much worse. I walk down the stairs to the Skidmore Fountain train stop; under the Burnside Bridge. Making sure that no trains are coming soon, I walk a few blocks to an area hidden by bridges and trees for a morning urination, (I could stand in line at the Mission, but I usually have to go pretty bad, and opt out) and back to the bridge to catch a train to downtown. Portland’s free rail zone stretches from 10th and Yamhill to the Lloyd Center, a mall. It spans a few miles, usually taking about 20 minutes to get from one side to the other. I ride it back and forth until 6:45 when I get off back at Skidmore fountain and climb the same stairs back to the Portland Rescue Mission, or PRM as I’ve come to call it.

The only difference is that today is the last time I’ll follow this morning routine in Portland, OR. It is with excitement for the future and some sorrow that I move on. I’ve been in Portland for 31 days, which is the longest I’ve stayed in any one place since leaving Mankato, Minnesota on September 11th. It is one of the most comfortable places to be homeless in America. There are plenty of services to help those in need. Places that give more than just a meal and a bed.

At the downtown Roman Catholic Church, also known as Red Door, there is a plethora of services for the impoverished. Once a month, you are able to go to their basement clothing “store”. Nice donated clothing lines the walls of a room where you are able to go and sort through and pick out the clothing that best suits your needs. On the second floor, toiletries, winter hats, gloves, scarves, and socks are available for those who are in need of those things. They also have snacks, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, games, guitars and newspapers. They have a lot of other services there, too. During the first full week of December they have photographers come in to take professional pictures of anyone who would like them. Every Friday afternoon they play a movie. They are in the middle of a Harry Potter marathon that will end with a trip to the theater to see the latest movie.
 
There are many other things they do there ranging from foot care to hair cuts, but my personal favorite is the art room. Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday morning their art room is open for anyone who needs a creative outlet. As a result I have a pair of pants that are littered with different colors of paint, not to mention the hand print of a friend.

On Northwest Sixth Avenue and Davis Street there is a little cafĂ© just for the homeless and otherwise poor people of Portland called “Sisters of the Road”. It is a place that I heard a lot about on the streets but never visited until very recently. “Sisters” has a very strict respect rule. Respect everyone no matter your differences. They have three things on the menu every day. Every day they serve beans and rice with a big piece of corn bread. It’s actually really good and, as you can imagine, really filling. They also serve another entre, which is different everyday, and along with that, the same thing without meat for any vegetarians.

The first time you visit “Sisters” your meal is free. Every time after your first, it costs $1.25 for your entre and $.25 for a drink. The drinks include lemonade, milk, orange juice, coffee, tea, and, of course, water. Water is free. They also accept food stamps to pay for this meal. If you don’t have any money, don’t write off “Sisters”, they will be more than happy to have you bus tables as payment for a meal.

They also have a message board there. It consists of a few bulletin boards. If you’re trying to find someone or need to get a message to anyone, you can write a note and leave it on the board with the persons name on it. This is an awesome idea. Although much of the homeless people in America have a cell phone, there are some that don’t. This is a great way to get a message to someone you think or know will find their way to “Sisters of the Road”.

Although I’m very excited to move on with my journey and get out of the rain, Portland will always have a special place in my heart.

San Francisco, I’m on my way!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Little Bit of Humor

This morning I was eating breakfast at the Portland Rescue Mission when I saw a man wearing this coat. I found it hilarious and had to share it with all you lovely people.


Have I nice day!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Scatter Bits of Sunshine

Every Sunday in Portland there is an event to help the homeless and otherwise impoverished in Portland called Potluck in the Park. It's a meal served, not really in Potluck fashion, to whoever will come to it. Every week there is more food than needed and it's an amazingly happy time all around. Besides the food, they also give bouquets of flowers donated by near by stores. Most of these bouquets would otherwise be thrown away. My friend Kelly (pictured) and I had a great idea last night. After everyone had taken the flowers they wanted, we went in and took the rest. Why did we want these flowers? We didn't want them. We opened up all the bouquets and sorted out the flowers that were still nice. Once we had the "pick of the litter" we threw the rest away. Then we took to the streets.

We walked around the center of life and culture in downtown Portland; a place called Pioneer Square. Once there, we gave the flowers to Women, Young Ladies, and little girls who's paths we crossed. The responses we got were mixed. Some people looked worried, like we wanted something in return. Some people looked confused. I feel that most of them were genuinely happy about the experience. One girl said, "Thank you" then as we were walking away added, "You made my day". I was asked by a woman why we were doing it. With out a thought I said, "Because it's fun".

I saw a video recently of a man walking around giving people hugs. While watching it, I thought about how much fun it looked to just go around and scatter bits of sunshine like that, but, as the people that know me best know, I'm not at all okay with hugging random people. I get the feeling that there are a lot of other people in the world who, too, are not okay with hugging random people. So not to toot my own horn or anything, but I just think that my form of sunshine scattering is much better. It's just how I feel

I wish people would do random little things to scatter bits of sunshine around. It would make the world a better place. And I promise that if you do it, you'll quickly realize that it possibly makes you feel better than the people who's days your trying to brighten.

Don't believe me? 

Try it.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving and Homelessness

Thanksgiving is among the most wonderful times of the year for all of us. Family, gluttony, and being thankful for all that we have.

Question:

What if all that you have you can carry on your back? Are you still thankful?

Answer:

Yes!

Spending Thanksgiving on the streets was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. At least a couple times a week Someone will pull up to the Portland Rescue Mission and hand out food, but over the last few days there has been so much giving that I heard a man say, "This seems more like Christmas than Thanksgiving!" And he was right. The streets were filled with blankets, all kinds of winter clothes, gloves, hats, and more food than anyone can handle. I've had four Thanksgiving meals in the last two days, and I'll most likely be having at least one more.

Among the people giving, was Portland's Tzu Chi Buhddists from Taiwan. They opened their doors at 10:30 in the morning and gave warmth and a lot of winter necessities to anyone that would come. They have a great history of charitable donating starting about 50 years ago when 35 women decided to save 50 cents a day to give to people in need. As their numbers grew, so did the amount they were able to give. They provided us with new and used clothing, blankets made from recycled plasic bottles, scarfs, gloves, soap, toothpaste, tooth brushes, coats, ponchos, tarps, new back packs, and a lot of other things. They're work and sacrifice is greatly appreciated by everyone.

I was asked to say what I'm thankful for yesterday. It's one of those traditions that I'm not too excited about every year, but this year I decided to go along with it. I have a lot to be thankful for, I was able to make some money so I can continue down the road, I'm thankful for everything that was given to me yesterday, for the friends I've made since leaving, and for those I left behind. I'm thankful for my family for the loving support they give me, even though many of them just might wonder about my sanity. And to finish it up, if you're reading this, I'm especially thankful for you!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Looking Back

Occasionally, I look back on my life to see where I've been and how it got me here. Recently I've found myself thinking back to the events of July 25, 2010. It was the day I moved out of my apartment and set in motion everything that would bring me where I am now. That day I wrote an entry in this blog and called it Home Sweet Home. At that time I had no idea what I was getting myself into and, although I rarely admitted it, I knew it. I did know that what I was doing was important. That if I didn't do it I'd regret it for a very long time. I didn't know if I'd like it. Now I know that at the same time I love it and hate it. I love what I'm doing. I love the adventure. I love that what I've decided to do with my life means something. I love that people care about what I'm doing. I love so many things about this path I've chosen. But I don't like being homeless. I don't like that some people find themselves living this way, often by no fault of their own. What bothers me most is that there are families all over America living in cars or shelters, because of a poor economy. Not because of drug abuse. Not because of alcohol. Not because of mental disability. But because the economy of the United States of America is in a rough patch.

I have an acquaintance here in Portland, Oregon that I met about a week ago. He's about my age and homeless. He moved here from the Midwest just a few months ago, worked and lived in an apartment. About three weeks ago he lost his job. Two weeks ago he lost his apartment and suddenly was standing in line at soup kitchens trying to get something to eat. He's working through his troubles and trying to find a way to stand on his own two feet. He's applied and interviewed for a few jobs, and got himself into the Blanchet House in downtown Portland.

They have a program where they give you a bed in one of their bedrooms. You share a room with one or two people, so it's relatively private. Once in their program, you're given a few days probational period to make sure you will fit well with the other people there and that you're serious about becoming self-sufficient. Their program lasts four months. For the first two months you are paying your dues to the Blanchet House. You help serve meals and clean up around the building. You are then given the next two months to find a job and a place to live. That's how he explained it to me.

I think that's an amazing program, and kudos to him for working his way back up where he belongs. People like that are why I do what I do. They are the fuel that keeps me going when it's cold and raining and I haven't seen the sun in weeks and can't remember what it looks like.

If Sean Donner on July 25th knew what things Sean Donner on November 17th would experience and know, he would have been so happy to be making the decisions he made that lead him here today. He also would have known to save just a little more money so he would be able to make it to sunnier places a little faster. That's mostly a joke because, where I am now isn't that bad, and this is all part of the process.

Portland Rescue Mission

Each night before dinner at the Portland Rescue Mission a lottery takes place. Not a lottery to win any obscene amount of money, but a lottery to win a bed for the night. Before you can be eligible for this lottery you need to have a Tuberculosis test done. To get this test done you can go across the street to the Salvation Army. They do the tests on Tuesdays and Fridays between 1:15 and 3:15 in the afternoon. I went in last Friday and got the shot. Then, on Tuesday afternoon I went to have it checked.


Once you are diagnosed Tuberculosis free, you are given a TB card. Armed with proof that you are in fact free from Tuberculosis you can enter the lottery. Each person who would like to stay at the mission is given a number. Last night my number was 38. Every night there is a different lottery and so, every night you get a different number.

Then, the winning numbers are randomly selected by a computer and posted for the world to see. Last night I was among the 50 lucky people to get a bed. For those who don't win there is an additional way to be inside at the Portland Rescue Mission in the winter months. They have 75 mats that they lay out in the chapel, and so there is a second lottery for those at 8:30.

At about 8PM you are able to check in with your winning lottery number. At check in you show your slip with the winning number on it and, unless they already know you, your TB card so they can get your name. You are then assigned a bed numbered 1-50 and sent down stairs.

Once you're on the bottom floor you are able to take a shower, get a change of clothes, or just get ready for bed. I was assigned to bed 41. On each bed there is a pillow and a milk crate containing a blanket, a sheet, and a pillow case. I promptly made my bed and spent about 40 minutes reading one of my favorite books, My Custom Van by Michael Ian Black. At about 9PM it's lights out.

I fell asleep pretty quickly, although, I didn't stay that way. The beds are small and close together, so every time someone coughed, I woke up. I had a cotton blanket that was crocheted. It was like sleeping under a doily.

The Portland Rescue Mission works entirely off of donations and they do the very best they can with what they have. I don't want anyone to think I'm ungrateful or complaining about anything they do. In truth I see them among the top of all the shelters in Portland, a city that is among the leaders of cities that are friendly to the under privileged.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where next?

I don't know for sure.

The great thing about Portland is how easy it is to be homeless here. Like every other city I've been to there's plenty of opportunities to eat three times a day, it's pretty easy to get a free mat for the night, and to top it all off, I got tested for tuberculosis for free! By the way... I tested negative. Negative is good in this situation.

If it weren't for all the rain and the clouds and the rain and the drizzle and the rain Portland would be perfect. Although it's wet, there's always plenty of places to go and get out of the rain. A lot of people hang out under the Burnside bridge at the Skidmore Fountains. The Central Library here is beautiful and like all other libraries you can spend the whole day here and no one cares. They also have easy public transportation that has a pretty good sized free zone, and outside of the free zone is still very inexpensive. Plus trains are fun to ride.

I've had a hard time finding work while I've been here. I spent a few hours panhandling and made a little money that way, but not enough to move on down the road. I've recently started taking online market research surveys that promise to pay, but I don't know it they really do. I've also signed up to take part in focus groups that pay cash on the spot.
If nothing looks better by the middle of the week, I've decided I'm going to head out of town. I was told that I might have better luck finding work in smaller towns simply because there's not nearly as many people also looking.

So there you are Portland, get awesome fast or I'm out! That's not a threat... it's a promise. In all seriousness, Portland is a great city, and for people who are down on their luck who want to work their way back to self-sufficiency, there are plenty of programs to help you do just that in Portland, OR.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Amazing People

I went out panhandling a few nights. This is one of the signs I made. It's a strange experience asking everyone you see for a dollar or whatever they can give. I'm not writing to tell you about how I asked tons of people for money.

At the end of the first night something happened that you probably wouldn't expect. I man walked up and asked me if I wanted a burger. I never turn down food. I can't always know for sure when my next meal will be. So he bought me a burger and it was really good. He bought two burgers. One for him and one for me. We were eating our burgers together and talking about photography and those sorts of things when another homeless man walked up to me and started talking. I don't remember exactly what it was he was saying, but he pulled out the money he had made that night and gave me twenty-five cents.

The guy I was eating with was blown away. It gave me the chance to tell him that no one is more helpful to each other than homeless people. This is just another example.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mike calls himself the village idiot

I ran into a man yesterday sitting on the corner of 10th and Burnside in Portland, OR. I sat with him and talked for about an hour. It was an unseasonably nice day in the Pacific Northwest so it was nice to enjoy warmth and sun for a change. He asked me what I'm doing, and I told him. I went into detail about some of the things I've noticed from city to city, and he talked a lot.

I'm looking for some quick work and I asked him if he knows anywhere I can go to get some temporary employment. He told me a few places in the area to try. He said he doesn't go to them anymore, not because they don't find you work, but because he doesn't mind his lifestyle. He likes being able to sit there and tell people jokes as they wait at a crosswalk. He told me all he wants to do is make people smile, and I think I can live with that.

He calls himself the Village Idiot and says that he's famous because everywhere he goes people know who he is. He said, "If I take too long crossing the street people yell, 'Hey idiot get out of the road!'"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Open Letter to Olympia, WA

Today at about 1 in the afternoon I left Olympia, WA. I truly hope my life brings me back to visit that fine city again. There are few places that I've felt so welcome by complete strangers who are now friends. I was welcomed out of the rain into the Union Gospel Mission on a day that I was about to give up on the city and leave for Portland. The rain cleared quite literally, and I was able to see Olympia almost as if I had new eyes. Here's some pictures of the city and some of my new friends.

Working Hard?


The Mission staff and volunteers work together to keep the building clean

Just a few of the people who make it work

"Service" Dogs in McDonald's


This is for Jeremiah Donner. Olympia is painted


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Olympia, WA

I only planned on staying in Olympia for a couple days. I was first planning on leaving Monday, November 1st, then I stayed and decided I would stay until Tuesday. It's Tuesday night now and I'm still in Olympia. I think I'll stay awhile longer.


I've been spending a lot of time at the Union Gospel Mission. The staff is much more friendly than anywhere else I've been. I had my laundry washed for me and got to take a shower at the mission. Most places only open their doors at meal times, but at Union Gospel you're welcome most of the day.

I also stopped at the Thurston County Food Bank. Each family is allowed to get food at the Food Bank 12 times a year and they ask that you don't come more than one time in a week. I went in, told them who I was and my living situation and they Hooked me up! That's with a capital "H". They have people all along the way to help you with anything you might need. I can't cook, so they sent me to a special area they have with food that doesn't need preparation. They also gave me information about their other services for the homeless and low-income families in the area. They are actually the people who sent me to the Union Gospel Mission.

Last night it didn't rain so I slept outside. I brought a sleeping bag to a place I found a couple days ago. It's between a row of bushes and a church. There's a space there that's about two feet wide. It's the perfect place. It's completely hidden from the sidewalk and street.

Despite it's rocky start, Olympia is turning out to be my favorite place I've been so far.

Today this blog reached I milestone. This blog has now been visited over 3,000 times in the three and a half months of it's existence. Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to read about my travels and experiences. You guys are great! I never thought it would get so much exposure. You have no idea what it means to me. Thank you.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

One more thing about Seattle

Just like Salt Lake City, Seattle has a homeless newspaper called Real Change. I met one of the street vendors for Real Change; his name is John.

John has worked in a lot of different positions in his life. He has been a window washer for houses, offices, and skyscrapers, a welder, and a ton of other trades through out his life. He is diabetic, has ADD, emphysema, and a hernia from twisting wrong while holding a ladder. He in foster home after foster home from the time he was 15 months until he was 17 years old. He has a 4th grade education. When he took the GED test he scored an average of 48 out of 50 on each part of it. He has crossed the country twice by hopping trains and once by hitch hiking.

He is now 60 years old and homeless. The thing that amazes me about John is that despite not having enough to have a home and other things we take for granted, John pays $20 a month to sponsors a 4 year old girl in the Philippians. He told me he just wants to make sure that everyone can get more of an education than he was able to get.  

Hanging out with Lars...

I left Seattle on Thursday morning. I didn't get too far though. I took a detour that ended me in Bremerton, WA. I went to the water and walked around the marina and wanted to go swimming (not in that water). I looked in the water and saw a bunch of Jellyfish. I would move there. Bremerton, however, was not my destination for the day. I drove south. I now find myself in Olympia,WA. I arrived at about 4PM and soon after found myself sitting in the mall watching the world series. It was, of course, raining and dark and I decided it would be best to get out of the rain. As I sat in a chair watching the game in a cable display or something along those lines, an old man sat in the chair next to me. I moved to the far side of my chair. I don't like people in my bubble.

I ignored him and went on enjoying what, at the time, was a close game. He started talking to me about sports and what not. It's what guys talk about in that situation. I don't know you; you don't know me and there's a baseball game on. That's completely normal.

After a while he asked where I lived. I told him I'm from MN and I'm spending a few months traveling hanging out with homeless people and writing about it. (I'm very open about what I do) So we started talking about homelessness and all that jazz. He told me about a bunch of guys he had let stay in his house for a few days. He has an extra bedroom that they've stayed in. He asked me if I wanted to stay there to get out of the rain. I'm not one to turn down a warm place to sleep so I went with him.

The first thing I saw when I walked into his house was a poster from BOP magazine of Ryan Sheckler from Life of Ryan. When I walked further into the house I noticed that there was not one picture of a girl on the walls. Instead they were littered with pictures cut out of magazines of boys. Jonas Brothers, on the wall; Prince William, a bunch of guys I've never heard of, and of course, Leo! That's right, Leonardo DiCaprio. And not Shutter Island awesome Leonardo DiCaprio, Titanic Leo. I thought that was extremely strange. No. That's not the right choice of words... I thought it was F-ed up. We stopped by the grocery store on the way to his house so I made myself some of the food he got and sat on the other side of the room from him and watched his TV. At last I said I was tired and went to the extra bedroom and locked myself in.

I left as soon as I could get away. See it got weirder the next morning when he asked if I would pleasure him for $30. First of all, No. Second of all, $30? Really it's going to take a lot more than that for me to pleasure anyone who's over 55.

Oh his name isn't Lars.


To put it plainly, Olympia has been very interesting so far.

Keep reading, life's getting fun.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seattle's State of Emergency

This is the Declaration of a State of Emergency written by the homeless of Seattle. I think it speaks for itself. It's very well written and to the point. Please give it your time.


*****************************************************************************************
Declaration of a State of Emergency in 2010
by and for Homeless People in Seattle & King County
Four years into Seattle/King County’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, our numbers are at an all time high.  Our shelters are overcrowded, noisy, at times infested with bed bugs, and often consist of little more than a mat on a floor.  We have no place to store our possessions, and so must carry them with us.  Pushed onto the street in the early morning hours, we are hidden from sight and forced to stay on the move. We are unwelcome in your public spaces, and are harassed by your police and private security when we stop to rest.
At least a third of us sleep outside, where we are subject to trespass and arrest.  Our belongings are routinely stolen and destroyed by government workers who are “just doing their jobs.” When we camp in cars, we are targeted for citations and our vehicles are towed and impounded.  When we come together to form safe, dignified communities, we are threatened with arrest and our supporters are bullied with threats and fines.
We die, on average, at 48 years of age.  Nine of us have died by suicide this year.
We are the working poor who have been set up to fail.  Our low wages, work insecurity, lack of healthcare, overcrowded and unaffordable housing, and unreliable transportation leave us vulnerable to economic disaster.
We are the expendable, the dehumanized, the written off, and the devalued.  We are the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the addicted.  We are the too poor, too uneducated, too old, and too unemployable to matter. We are the human wreckage of a broken system that denies its responsibility and blames us for our existence. 
IT SHOULDN’T BE LIKE THIS.  Homeless people deserve and are entitled to the same protections as our housed brothers and sisters:  a right to health and housing, freedom from violence and stereotyping, the ability to keep our families and loved ones together, and the tools to move ahead and thrive.
In 2010, worse will come.  King County, at the close of this year, reduced human services funding by 46%. Youth shelter funding was eliminated.  Food banks funding was slashed to zero at a time of record demand. The state budget crisis promises disaster. General Assistance for the Unemployable, the State Housing Trust Fund, drug treatment funding, and Basic Health Care are all to be eliminated. 
OUR STATE OF EMERGENCY MUST BE RECOGNIZED.  The Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness is a fraud. The true causes of homelessness – rent increases, gentrification, evictions, and the failure of the market to provide affordable housing – aren’t dealt with, measured, or touched.  For every unit of affordable housing produced under the plan, three to four have been lost to market forces.
Top leadership of the Plan has tokenized the participation of homeless people, and has fallen deaf to our pleas for safety, shelter, and community. The percentage of homeless people who are sheltered should be a plan benchmark. 
We can no longer wait for the expanded survival services we need today while our “leaders” promise housing in the future.
HELP US TO SURVIVE AND SOLVE HOMELESSNESS:
1.      EXPAND SURVIVAL SERVICES.   Since the Ten Year Plan began, homelessness has grown while emergency shelter supply has held steady and funding for day centers has declined.  Stop pretending and meet the need with clean, simple decent shelter.
2.      SUPPORT SELF-HELP HOMELESS GROUPS (like SHARE).  When we run our own shelters, we cost-effectively offer maximum dignity and community to residentsStable city funding will help us built community-wide solutions to meet the growing need.
3.      PROVIDE A PERMANENT SITE FOR NICKELSVILLE.  We need a site big enough for a non-moving eco village of up to 1,000.  There are over seventy sites in Seattle that will work and only one is needed.
4.      COMPLETE THE HOMELESS REMEMBRANCE PROJECT to honor people who have died while homeless.  The Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park and Leaves of Remembrance in sidewalks throughout the County will serve as reminders to us all that homeless lives have value.
5.      STOP THE CRIMINALIZATION.  Citations for trespass violations, panhandling, and sitting on sidewalks clog our courts and punish the poor with fines and jail time while denying us due process under law.
6.      EXPAND TREATMENT.  Drug and alcohol treatment services save lives and money.  Punitive policies undermine public health goals and deepen the misery and isolation that often underlies addiction.
7.      PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION.  As downtown gentrification has pushed more services outside the free ride zone, access to bus transportation has become a barrier to overcoming homelessness. Homeless people should receive free bus passes.
8.      SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING.  Strategies to cost-effectively increase supply must be prioritized over big-ticket infrastructure projects and sports arenas.  Encourage market solutions that don’t let excellent get in the way of good.  We need housing.  Now.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Listen to homeless people!  We call on our new leaders to govern with progressive values:  compassion, justice and common sense.  We call on our fellow citizens to act in solidarity with homeless people.  We call on voters to insist that human needs come before floating bridges, sport stadiums and arts.
This Declaration was written by people from, and is supported by the SHARE, WHEEL, Nickelsville and Real Change Communities.
REAL CHANGE is Seattle’s 15-year-old Street Newspaper and a cross-class Organizing Project to unite people in working for social justice.
WHEEL (Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League) is an organizing effort of homeless and formerly homeless women.
SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) is an organization of homeless and formerly homeless men and women working together to survive and solve homelessness.
NICKELSVILLE is presently a small organized encampment seeking to become an eco-village of up to 1,000 homeless men, women and families located on a permanent site with services.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

People Who Find You

Sitting in the Seattle Public Library, filling time with documentaries, and pondering the last week of my life. 

On, I think, Saturday, October 23rd the people in this picture came across me. I sat down in a park for a few minutes and they came walking up to me almost right away. They first asked if I'd like a turkey sandwich or something to drink. I took a sandwich. They stayed and talked to me for a few minutes. They didn't want anything from me. They didn't want me to come to a church. They wanted to make sure I was okay. When I told them I was traveling, they asked about where I was staying and if there was anything I needed. They asked if they could say a prayer with and for me and if there was anything I wanted them to specifically pray about. Prayers definitely can't hurt and I asked them to pray for my safety. They did, and went on their way. I watched them for a while as they at least tried to talk to each person in that park. Whatever your beliefs are, it is very impressive that someone would do that for people they don't know.

One of the things I vividly remember about the words they said in the prayer was that people would see me and they would want to be around me and know my needs.

On Sunday, I met a group of people who took me in, fed me and gave me a warm place to stay. They gave me a place to shower, wash my clothes and asked me to come back if I needed or wanted. Talking to them, I found that they have given people a place to stay other times too.

It's people like these that make me know that there's hope in the world. I have spent a lot of time hoping that there were people like this in the world. It's great to find that there are.

I recently checked to see how many people are reading the things I write. I was amazed to see that this blog has been looked at more than 2,500 times in 14 different countries. The number of hits have been increasing steadily with every month. This is so awesome to me. I've done a lot myself to spread the word and find people to read what I write and experience. I do know that the people reading this have been spreading the word possibly more than I do myself, and for that I thank you all. Please keep telling your family, friends, and the people you work with.