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Archive for August, 2008

It’s Friday again – our song this week is Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution,” again from LaDonna.  Millie, our nurse manager, wanted to share “Trying to Find My Place in the World,” but we couldn’t track it down on YouTube.  If anyone knows the artist for that piece, leave us a comment and I’ll post the song next week.

Meanwhile, “Revolution” is a fair description of day-to-day life for many low-income and homeless men and women who spend many a long hour waiting in line to secure benefits.  As a result of the recent economic downturn, cash-strapped agencies try to help a growing number of people with dwindling resources.  This can result in longer wait times for those who need help the most. 

For Respite clients who break the cycle of homelessness, being housed really is a revolution.  And it takes a personal revolution to work through issues of mental illness, addiction, and abuse.  That’s why we’re so proud of clients like Mike!

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As promised, here is another story of one of our clients.  With the help of Center for Respite Care staff, Mike healed, was able to confront the issues keeping him homeless, and found housing through our program, Respite Permanent Housing.  This is his story, in his own words.  If you’d like more stories about people like Mike or if you want to help those who are homeless and sick, email respitesupport at zoomtown.com today.

 

I never thought that homelessness would happen to me, let me start off by saying that.  When drugs took over my life I had no idea where it was going to take me.  It was just a joyride, just today, but you put that string of days, weeks, years together it adds up. 

 

Somebody introduced me to marijuana at age 16 and said I’d get the same effect as alcohol without the hangover.  I smoked marijuana for 35 years, did some pain pills and cocaine along the way; whatever was around, I’d do it. 

 

Little by little, addiction took me away from my family because all I had on my mind was the getting and using of drugs.  I kept a job as a mechanic for BP for 19 years, but when I was introduced to crack, it was over with.  I was stealing everything in site – money from my bank account, money from retirement, my kids’ games, toys, the pictures off the wall.  From the time I got up in the morning until the time I went to bed, crack was on my mind. 

 

I was evicted, started living on the street, starting stealing for my crack and ended up in and out of jails and rehab for the next five years.  I got out of jail and kept doing the same thing.  And each time it would take a little piece of me – my paycheck, then my bank account, then my retirement, then friends and relatives started alienating me and then it ended up in a divorce.  And there are a hundred things in-between all that. 

 

I spent five years floating around like a butterfly; wherever I landed, that’s where I laid my head.  After I got a blister on my foot and started to feel really sick, I checked myself into University Hospital.  When it was time for me to get released, they asked where I wanted to go and told me about the Center for Respite Care.

 

It’s hard for people that don’t have an addictive personality to understand.  I didn’t want to quit then; I’ve quit now because I’ve had enough. 

 

I had heard about Respite from another person, but I didn’t have any idea it was the way it is as far as helping people.  I thought it was just another option toward getting healed before I went back on the street, but I’ll tell you what: it’s a blessing in disguise that I ended up in the hospital because this place is a gift.  The staff at Respite is going to help me get an apartment, they fed me, they took care of my medical needs and just little things: razors, soap, a place to take a bath, a place to sleep.  

 

What’s on my mind now is that I risked losing the relationship with my two daughters.  They mean a lot to me.  I talk to them at least once a week and I know now that it’s on me – I have to show them I mean business.

 

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This is week two of my latest installment, songs that remind us of homelessness.  “Harry Hippy” is an old Bobby Womack song and is recommended by Kathy, our Housing Coordinator. 

This is a totally different style than “Mr. Wendal” and has a different message as well.  In our interpretation, Harry is a chronically homeless individual, one of the ones you can’t always reach.  We have some clients like Harry – sometimes we can help them, and sometimes they choose a different path.  Like Harry, they each sing their own song.

When someone choses an addiction or self-destructive habit over an outstretched hand, it raises so many questions; how did this person slip through the cracks?  What could we have done differently?  I think this song expresses some of that sense of loss and frustration. 

 

Coming next week . . .

Read the story of Mike T., a former mechanic and drug addict who found his way out of homelessness via Respite Permanent Housing – he’s moving into his new place tomorrow!  And although Mike isn’t a “Harry Hippy,” he used one of the same phrases that was used in the song when I interviewed him, “just floating around,” to describe homelessness.  His is truly a homeless success story.

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Wake up, Cincinnati – are you reading Streetvibes yet?  I’ve commented about Streetvibes frequently, but haven’t yet written about this great local newspaper in depth.  The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless publishes this paper that is part info and part advocacy and “provides relevant discussions of homelessness, poverty, and other related social justice issues.”  It also provides a source of income to vendors who earn seventy-five cents per paper.

I have a former client who first wrote and article for Streetvibes and today is my preferred vendor (and just found an apartment of her own) because she makes a special stop at the Respite.   Anyways, the news of the day is that the friendly folks at Streetvibes are blogging, so you can get more homeless news and Cincinnati-related social justice news directly from them as well!

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Welcome to my new Friday Feature: Songs that Remind Us of Homelessness.  Our housing counselor, LaDonna, shared this catchy song with me last week.  She’s been busy this week moving three new clients into housing, but found a few minutes to share “Mr. Wendal,” an Arrested Development piece that reminds her of our clients.

Don’t miss this song – it’s a blast from the past and a peek into the head of a great lady who works incredibly hard to get the homeless off the streets every day. 

LaDonna said she likes the song for its ideas (“Civilization, are we really civilized? Yes or no, who are we to judge?”) and the soul of it.  Also, “it gives some idea of homelessness to people who are clueless – the ability to look at one of these people and say this is a person, not just someone who lives on the street.” 

 I liked her idea so much, I’m doing a new song every week, so bookmark this site and check back!  I’ve already got a piece lined up for next week.

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