Brown Shoes

Posted: May 21, 2007 in Bureauacracy, Discrimination, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Hopes

The late comedian, George Gobel, once quipped:

"Did you ever feel like the whole world was a black tuxedo and you were a brown pair of shoes?"

Being homeless is just like that.  

In the time I’ve been homeless I’ve certainly felt out of place in quite a few circumstances. And, come this Wednesday morning I have this strange inkling that I’m going to feel like that again.

Suckerfish director, José Lemus, informed me that there is going to be a get together with some local area homeless group or committee at the library at 10:00 AM. I’ve never heard of them, but then again, I’ve never heard of a lot of things.

In any event, he told me that this group asked if they could show Suckerfish. Since this group has something to do with homelessness, he and his wife, Mary Garcia-Lemus – who was the documentary film’s producer – agreed to show the film. Both of them are going to be in attendance and Jose asked me if I would show up as well. Since I think highly of both José and Mary, I agreed.

I’ve been having second thoughts about it however. It isn’t that I’m afraid or nervous about showing up, but I’m willing to wager that I’m most likely going to be the only homeless person there – and as a result I know that I’m probably going to end up feeling like a scuffed up pair of brown shoes amongst a sea of black tuxedos.

While I don’t expect everyone there to be dressed to the nines, nor do I expect that they will be the "high and mighty" of this community, they will certainly be people who have a solid roof over their heads every night, and they might be the people who have some say (or are trying to have some say) about the homeless situation in this city. Then, although I can’t be sure about it, I think that a few of the people who operate the homeless shelter and the day center may also attend.

I don’t have anything against any of them, mind you, but neither do I have a great deal of respect for them. I’ve seen the way the homeless are treated and I personally find their methods lacking in basic human compassion. It seems to me that the methodology they utilize when dealing with the homeless who use their services is obsolete. It certainly could be made more effective if they were willing to adapt to the times and the types of people who are homeless. In many ways, the very individuals who are supposed to help them, treat the homeless as though they were cattle being sent off to slaughter. Mostly it’s because they talk at the homeless instead of talking with the homeless.

I’d like to think that when these people started their jobs with the homeless support service organizations that they believed they were going to make a difference in someone’s life, but somewhere along the line they seem to have lost sight of what and why they started working there in the first place.

In contrast, José and Mary – when they put together Suckerfish – did it out of a genuine desire to know the "whys and wherefores" behind homelessness and what the homeless in our nations’ communities undergo on a daily basis. I have to admire that because they did with money out of their own pockets. That takes a lot of conviction – and character.

So what do I expect to come out of this? Do I expect some great surge of aid for the homeless? Do I believe that, at the very least, some of the homeless will actually be helped in a constructive way by the meeting on Wednesday? Sadly, no.

After everything is said and done, there may be some type of "fact finding" committee that comes out of it, or some study that will come out of local taxpayer dollars. It may be that someone will see the homeless in a different light and perhaps think that the situation should be handled differently from the way it is currently being handled, but in the end…

…The homeless will continue to be a "brown pair of shoes."

But then again who knows. Someone may get a fire lit under their behinds and decide to do actually do something that will turn out to be a way of effectively helping the homeless in our community.

That’s what I’d like to see happen.

I guess I’ll attend after all. Someone has to keep an eye out for what’s in the best interest of the local homeless – even if it’s just me… another homeless person.

If nothing else, it will give me something else to write about on Thursday morning.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Just you? I think we’ve shown in history it can take just one person, one voice. I commend your bravery in baring your soul and emotions. People need to understand how difficult it is for you to share this much. I am very proud of your “voice” Michael and hope that you continue to share and educate our community.

    Someone with 15+ years experience-working with the “houseless”

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