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.


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



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.