Oct 02 2022

Reader: People Not Labels

Published by at 9:18 am under Poetry Chaikhana Misc.

This response from a Poetry Chaikhana reader is so full of wise observations and insight that I paused several times reading it.

With permission I am sharing it with you.

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Three years ago I was to leave my home due to financial reasons, but more deeply a soul calling to awaken more fully and find home within. I have lived in 5 different homes since then. The initial shock of being ” homeless” was one filled with fear and shame.

Ironically, one month after leaving my home and still in fear I was asked to be a chaplain for a Saturday noon meal program at a church which hosted an average of 75 persons facing homelessness and low income or poverty. It was the most incredible journey of my life to
be with them for 6 months and hear their stories and support them.

Your poem today recognizes the Mother. All in this world need the recognition and care that a mother can bring. Many young men with addictions shared their stories with me as I became a mother to them. They would stand up when they saw me enter the door, hold out their arms and give me a hug.They would also recognize the Light within me saying that there was something “different” about me.

I elected to attend a few workshops about homelessness and learned things that rapidly tore big holes in my preconceived ideas of “these people”.

I will mention a few items to answer your posted inquiry .

1. These are not homeless people. They are persons facing homelessness just as another may be facing addiction or cancer. Labeling just adds to the burden.

2. The number of persons attending each week was 75
and of various ages, race, religion, and professional backround. They all ate in peace and were respectful of staff and each other. A friend suggested that this was so because they had stopped their striving.

3. The faith of many of them would put most to embarrassment and shame.

4. Arrogance was missing and replaced with gratitude for what was.

5. Whatever food was left over they would ask to take back to their “neighbor”.

6. A shower with soap was a dream. Clean socks and warm coat, too. I invite you to watch videos on YouTube of persons facing homelessnes who are given a haircut and clean clothes. Self esteem skyrockets.

7. For women, being clean and looking pretty is a rare gift especially after 10 years of being on the street and possibly being raped along the way.

8. Rides to court appearances or medical appointments is needed for they have no transportation. Some do have surgery but are dumped on the street right afterwards by medical staff.

9. I met with one who was an artist and needed pencil and paper.

10. Some do not want to be touched because of prior severe abuse .

11. After this chaplain experience, I would keep brochures and information on city resources and shelters in an envelope to give to those standing on the corner. Some just arrive from other cities being just dropped off in a unfamiliar city. I always asked if they needed food or shelter.

12. Pray for them.

13. Get informed about the homeless population. Don’t assume you know whose there.
Many you can’t see.

14. Make a friend. I can tell you that I needed “family”. There can be a sense of isolation. Many street people do find family with other street people.

15. If you want to know what’s going on in your town, ask a street person. They know all.
Many are afraid to tell police what they see.

16. Many need help with shower, clothing and ID to go to a job interview. Stolen ID and backpacks are very common
In shelters. (So are bed bugs)

17. Some facing homelessness are mothers with children living in vehicles.
Children need help with homework. One church offered an after school program to help with homework. This offers healthy relationships too provided all helpers are screened. These children are often considered dumb or are assigned learning labels because they are homeless.
Not a good start to one’s life.

Remember that there are artists, writers, musicians and dancers among those you see on the street.

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One response so far

One Response to “Reader: People Not Labels”

  1. Chrison 02 Oct 2022 at 12:52 pm

    Wonderful story!

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