Ever since I spoke at the mayor’s office the other day, things have been a little weird. And by weird, I mean like, weird looks at stores and such. I generally do go shopping in my pj’s, but so does everyone else in this town. I never get more than a quick glance if I’m in my pj’s, but really, it’s winter, and it’s something that I only do in the winter; my coat covers me entirely.
I went to take care of my business the other day, and at several establishments, this was the response when I walked in, “Hey…I saw you on TV…”.
It’s a little surreal. I swear my voice was all shaky and nervous sounding but I was told that I sounded confident and strong. I wanted to drive my message home, “There is a direct correlation between homelessness and substance abuse, coinciding with the what’s known as the co-morbid factor, or, a preexisting condition of mental illness, which makes recognizing and defining mental illness challenging while trying to separate it from substance abuse.” Throw homelessness into the mix and you have several mirrored factors that entangle one another.
I noticed when I got up behind the podium, that none of the speakers before me had mentioned substance abuse where homelessness is concerned. There was talk of funding naturally, and while funding is crucial to change, so is targeting the source of the problem, which in many (if not most) cases, is substance abuse.
I announced that I’ve resided at a homeless shelter 13 times in my life (years ago), and was able to later build a website for my city’s homeless community without one penny to rub together with another. My message wasn’t about funding. I did that without any money at all.
I also mentioned that I would like to see homeless people helping other homeless people. Get up off your butt and work with the kids- be a good influence- plant good seeds in them that they’ll be able to take with them throughout their lives! When I was homeless, I taught the children how to play the guitar and the piano. I had arts and craft projects in the day room and taught them how to draw and make paper balloons. Later, when the shelter had no piano, I was able to have one donated from a church. I also donated copies of my children’s book, Peanut Butter Soup, to the kids there. I wanted to impress upon them that homelessness doesn’t have to mean hopelessness. You can’t sit and do nothing and expect your life to change. Oftentimes, it’s not the homelessness that is even the worst of the situation, it’s the mindset that accompanies it. Some homeless people are very bitter- they think the world owes them something and they have a chip on their shoulders. Believe me, I’m an expert in the area of homelessness and I’ve learned a great deal from people while living in the shelters.
Many homeless people are full blown junkies, and you better believe they’ll buy their dope before they even consider saving up for a place of their own. Giving a homeless person a house seems like the solution, but their substance abuse issues need to be addressed in tandem, otherwise, they’ll never gain the necessary tools they’ll need to rebuild their lives.
I mentioned in the meeting that unless a person goes outside of him or herself and actually does something for somebody else, there’s almost no way that they’ll ever be able to help themselves. When you do something good for someone else, your goals change. It’s not about “you” any more. Many people don’t have the drive to set goals for themselves and follow through. When you choose to do something good for somebody else, that goes into overdrive, and on top of that, you feel needed. Just because someone is homeless, doesn’t mean that they can’t volunteer at a home for the elderly, or go to a Boys and Girls club and be a mentor. You don’t have to have a home to be active in the community! I know what I’m talking about because I speak from experience. I’ve been able to get more done in my life without a penny in my pocket that I ever did when I had money in the bank.
After my speech, several news men came up and asked me my name. I later found out that I was on several tv stations and quoted in an article. My kids get a kick out of it, but it made my day when my daughter said, “Mom, I’m really proud of you.”
That’s the best feeling in the world. 🙂
So, to all of the people who’ve been giving me strange looks in the grocery store, yes, I am that woman you saw on TV, and yes, these are my pajamas!