So this weekend I got a chance to be homeless for 48 hours and be guided around by my street shepard Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves and Fishes. I know I have a ton of nerds and geeks that read this blog so I thought I would throw up a Homeless/Street Retreat FAQ since so many of you have questions.
1) Where do you live? “Live” is a interesting word for the working poor and homeless. Mostly we walked. From downtown Austin to Threadgills to listen to music over the fence. From 5th street we caught a bus to Sunken Gardens and Barton Springs. The best part of that? You can’t tell the homeless from the hippies at Barton Springs! You live where you are. Whether that’s in an alley behind Fox7 or sleeping in a parking lot behind the old county courthouse. At night we slept under the stars on a parking lot.
2) Where do you eat? If you have your wits about you, you can always find a meal here in Austin. The problem is that all the meals are provided by churches and non profits. Where the heck is the city of Austin or the State of Texas in this? Big time Fail on that. These are people not animals. The trick is to know where to be and when. Such and such church at 8:30am breakfast and 5:30pm at Woolridge park for Mobile Loaves and Fishes trucks, etc. We picked this up by talking to other homeless people on the streets. Also if you go outside Veggie Heaven and hold one finger up they will bring you a meal. I love them even more now.
3) Where do you get water or use the bathroom? This was the “easy” part for us. Second floor of Whole Foods. Cold water and ice. Also the Public Library, HEB by the bathrooms, most buildings at UT. Same goes for Bathrooms. Want to take a shower? Find a river or use the sink in a bathroom.
4) What do you own? Homeless people and the working poor have some interesting stuff. Cell Phones. Ipods. Old broken laptops. Shoes. Shirts. Shopping Carts. Cardboard to sleep on (like I did). Watches. It all depends. That like asking what I own versus what the readers of this blog own. It all depends. The thing that brings them together is that they are poor and don’t have houses/apts of their own.
5) How do you get money? You panhandle, do odd jobs, hang with the day workers. Asking complete strangers for money was not hard for me. I am a trained actor. I simply put myself into a character and had at it. BUT the rejection was hard. The way people look at you, treat you, simply loathe you for asking was something I have never experienced. It made me sick to my stomach to be treated that way. DON’T EVER IGNORE ANOTHER HOMELESS BROTHER AND SISTER AGAIN. If you are in your car give them a pair of socks. Or that crappy old high tech/startup.com AMD/DELL shirt you got for free. Don’t have money? Don’t want to give them money? Tell them that. Just don’t ignore another human being.
6) Were they nice to you? The simple answer is yes. They were very inclusive and friendly. We talked to a ton of people who had been their from a year to a week. People who weren’t all there to people who choose to live life like this. It was an amazing eye opening experience.
7) How can I help? STAY TUNED. In the meantime check out this sustainable plan for getting the Homeless lifted off the streets and into a better life. It’s worth your time. Habitat on Wheels.