PASSING OUT COPIES OF THE BOOK TO THE PEOPLE WHO ARE IN IT:
It’s been a long time since I’ve made any entry in this blog, but I wanted to make an entry today, for two different reasons.
First, I wanted to tell you what it was like last Saturday Morning, when I took the first copies of the book over to the free breakfast at the Seventh Day Adventist Church. My plan was to give a copy of the book to each one of the homeless people who were interviewed in the book. Many of them had told me how badly they wanted to see their stories printed in a book.
So, at first, I was really looking forward to bringing copies of the book to the homeless people who were in the book. But when the day came to actually do it, I found myself experiencing a bit of dread. What if the homeless people didn’t like what I had written? What if all of the people that I’d written about in the book had moved on, and I couldn’t find any of my old friends? It had been several months since I’d been over to visit the free breakfast, because I’d been busy with editing the book, and working on other projects.
So, when I got out of my car in the church parking lot with a box full of the books, I was so nervous that I had to take a deep breath before walking across the lot to go inside.
But as I walked across the lot, to my surprise and delight, I saw one of my old homeless friends coming toward the entrance from the opposite direction.
It was Cornelius. He is one of the kindest and friendliest homeless men I met. He’s a disabled veteran who got into trouble with the law, and is therefore trapped here in Auburn by the terms of his parole.
He is also a pretty good poet. I included one of his poems in the book. I couldn’t wait to show him his poem in print.
I walked inside the big dining area with Cornelius, and immediately I felt welcome.
After shaking hands with a few of my old homeless friends, and telling them that the book had finally arrived, I sat down with Cornelius, and showed him his poem in the book.
Cornelius was so touched that he almost cried.
"This means that all of the time that I’ve spent here in Auburn has not been just wasted time," Cornelius says. "I’m going to keep this in a special place. And when I show it to the members of my family, they will know that all of the time that I’ve had to spend here in the Auburn area has not been wasted."
Cornelius also tells me that he is amazed that he happens to be at the free breakfast on the day that I show up with the book, because he hasn’t visited the free breakfast for about a year.
Cornelius catches me up with some of the local homeless news. He tells me that Rick Deshon is back in jail, and that there is a new criminal charge against him.
The well-known local homeless man whose street name was "Doc" (his story was not included in the book, at his request) died of cirrhosis of the liver.
He says that Storm and Richard are still around, but they moved to the other side of town.
The next person I see is Monda. I have a special, soft spot in my heart for her. It’s wonderful to get to see her again, and to know that she is all right.
The last time that I saw her, she had a shaved head. But now, she has let her hair grow out. Longer hair makes her look softer, and more feminine. I’m glad to see her looking that way. She used to look so tough all the time.
When I give her a copy of the book, she cries. She sees her photo on the front cover. When she hugs me, she holds onto me for a long time.
While holding Monda in my arms, something in my heart just melts. All of the work that I put in on this book had been worth it. All work has been paid in full in that moment.
During the next hour, I find about a dozen of the homeless people who are in the book. They are so excited to get a copy of the book, and to see their own stories.
Their happiness put more joy in my heart than I can describe.
I see Gary, the one-armed Alligator Man, and give him a copy of the book. It surprises me to see how deeply he is moved by seeing his story in the book.
He also tells me one story that I didn’t know.
He says that on the day that I did his interview, he had been trying to figure out some way to hitchhike up to Sugar Bowl, because they were having a job fair that day. The $20 that I gave him for his interview fee helped him to make it up to Sugar Bowl. He got a job and a place to stay for the ski season. He enjoyed working there so much that he is re-applying for a job there again this season.
Later, I see Gerine (also known as Michael). She is the young lady who appears in the book in three different places: "Michael’s Promise," "God Things, Part One," and "God Things, Part Two." This young lady really touched my heart.
I still hold on to the hope that someday, Gerine will turn her life around... that she will enroll in Sierra College, and pursue the dream that she told me about in her interview.
But sadly, when I see her this time, she looks to be in worse physical condition than the last time that I saw her.
Still, God has a way of reminding us that He is always around, and that through Him, all things are possible.
When the free breakfast was over, I was driving out of the church parking lot. I looked up the hill above the parking lot. There was Gerine, sitting on a large rock. The book was open on her lap. She was reading it.
Maybe, if she read "Michael’s Promise." Maybe, if she read "God Things, Parts One and Two," she would finally get it about her own importance. Maybe God would use the book to change her life.
At the very least, those stories would touch her heart.
Thank You, God. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.
I am so grateful for being a part of writing this book. I am so grateful that You chose to use me in this way. I am so grateful that You showed me bits of Your face, and bits of Your heart, in the faces and the hearts of these homeless people.
A NOTE ABOUT THE BOOK:
Secondly, I wanted to let you know that the hard-print version of the book has finally arrived. It’s for sale through my office for $29.95, and all of the profits from the sales will go to four of the best local charities that help the homeless. Unless, of course, the book makes a lot of money, in which case the lion’s share of the money will be used to build a homeless shelter. If you’d like to purchase a copy, call me at 530-889-2777. Or, if you live in the Auburn area, just drop by my office at 161 Palm Avenue, Suite 1, Auburn, California.
Eventually, the hard-print version of the book will also be available through Amazon.com. But first, I want to sell as many copies of the book as possible through direct sales. That way, the book sales raise a lot more money for the charities (because Amazon takes such a huge cut of the sale price), and also, if the book sells a lot of copies locally, it might promote more support for the construction of a local homeless shelter.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
This post is just to let all of you know that the book UNTIL THEY HAVE FACES - 110 Interviews with the Homeless People of Auburn, California, is now available as an ebook at most places that sell ebooks, such as Amazon Kindle. The cost of the ebook is $9.95. All profits from the sale of the book will be used to help the homeless. So, please tell your friends about this blog, and about the book.
The hard print book is still not out yet. But it should be out fairly soon, and when it is available for sale, I will post another blog to let you know.
The hard print book is still not out yet. But it should be out fairly soon, and when it is available for sale, I will post another blog to let you know.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
|KELLEY JONES - "I believe in everyone."|
A MAN WITH A UNIQUE VIEW OF RECYCLING
They had their possessions packed into three or four plastic garbage bags, packed into a shopping cart from the Target Store across the street.
Kelley is 39 years old. He is a licensed building contractor. His business was destroyed by the downturn in the economy.
He and his wife have been homeless for about fourteen months now. When they first became homeless, they were living in Key West, Florida. They just recently moved to the Auburn area.
Before coming to Auburn, they had been living in the Grass Valley area. They left Grass Valley when they became disappointed with the way that homeless people were treated in the Grass Valley area.
"There is a church up in the Grass Valley area that just received a million dollar government grant to help homeless people," Kelley says. "And yet, on Christmas Eve, a homeless man died of exposure, right behind the Grass Valley Post Office.
"I think that if I was the federal government, and I had just given out a grant of a million dollars to help take care of homeless people, but a homeless man dies of exposure right behind the U.S. Post Office, I’d be a little bit upset about that," Kelley says.
I ask Kelley what is the hardest part about being homeless for him.
"Taking care of my wife," he says. "First and foremost, and from many different standpoints.
"For example, I cannot go into a shelter where we will be separated, with the men sent to one part of the shelter, and the women sent to a different part.
"This morning, we got up, and it was a fight just to get up. It was cold. Every day is a struggle. Each day, we have to struggle to find a place to get a shower, to get something to eat, and to find shelter.
"The other day, we walked into MacDonald’s to get something to eat, and it was humiliating. People gave us dirty looks because of the way that we looked.
"I wanted to go into MacDonald’s and get my wife some french fries. Because, you know... she wanted her french fries," Kelley grins for a moment.
But then, his face turns serious. "But I had to stand there at the counter and be humiliated, because I only had one dollar left in my pocket, and the french fries cost a dollar and seventeen cents. I couldn’t get my wife her french fries, because I didn’t have seventeen cents."
Kelley rambles a bit, at times. He talks fast. And sometimes, it’s hard to follow.
"If you took away all the drug and alcohol abuse problems," Kelley says.
"It’s ten degrees out here at night, and it’s only 30 degrees during the day.
"If you asked me to take a breatholizer test, well, I’m sorry, but when it’s this cold, and I have to sleep outside, I’m going to the liquor store.
"People look down on me, and keep asking me why I don’t just get to work, and pull myself out of gutter of being homeless. Well, the reason why I can’t get myself out of the gutter is because I’m stuck down here in the rut of being homeless.
"As a Country, we’re going overseas, and helping people over there. So, why not here?
"We have all this metal, and glass that we recycle. So, we go down the streets, and we go out into the woods, and we pick up all of the trash, and we recycle it.
"But... when we do that, we leave behind the most important thing. We pick up the metal and the glass and we recycle that. But, why can’t we recycle people?
"I got my teeth knocked out on Christmas Eve, while we were down in Sacramento. We got into a bad situation with two of the biggest guys that I have ever seen.
"We spent the night, that night, at the Auburn Bus Station. Then, we got invited to a Christmas Dinner at the Baptist Church. That was really nice. They gave us some new coats. And we got to spend a night at the Elmwood Motel."
For some people, getting the opportunity to spend just one night at the Elmwood Motel is a luxury.
If you don’t know where the Elmwood Motel is, you should go by there some time, and see whether or not you would want to spend a night there.
Kelley says that he would like to be a part of putting together a multi-county, regional homeless shelter. He believes that for a homeless shelter to be effective, it has to have resources like showers, laundry facilities, rehab programs, and government assistance all in one place. Because it’s so hard for homeless people to get around.
"Don’t complain that a man stinks, when he has no place to take a shower," Kelley says.
"Don’t complain that a man has dirty clothes, when he has no place to wash them."
If Kelley had a magic wand, so that he could be or do absolutely anything, what would he be or do?
Before Kelley can answer that question, a Placer County Deputy Sheriff pulls up in his patrol car. He gets out to talk to the four or five homeless people who are lingering at the end of the Ross Building. He starts at the other end of the sidewalk, and works his way toward us.
The presence of the Deputy makes me a bit nervous, but there’s nothing that I can do about it.
I ask Kelley if he needs to leave the area.
Kelley says no. The officer knows them, and knows that they aren’t doing anything wrong by being there.
When the deputy gets to us, he asks Kelley what we are doing. The young deputy is groomed and dressed very sharply. He looks to me to be younger than my own sons.
Kelley explains to the officer that we are doing an interview for a book.
The officer is very polite. But it’s not because I’m there. It is just this officer’s natural way of being.
This officer is so polite to Kelley that it touches my heart.
The deputy doesn’t have to be that polite, as I soon realize.
He probably could have arrested Kelley, if he had wanted too.
The officer tells Kelley that Kelley has to return the shopping cart (which was packed with Kelley’s possessions) to the Target Store across the street.
Kelley promises the officer that he will return the shopping cart right away. He also tells the officer that it’s upsetting to him that someone has left some litter on the ground, and Kelley promises that he will pick up all of the litter in the area before he leaves.
The young deputy is satisfied with that response.
Before the deputy leaves, I tell him that we understand that he has a job to do, and that we appreciate the work that he does.
He smiles, and nods to me. When he looks at me with appreciation and compassion in his eyes, it almost brings tears to my eyes.
I don’t know all of the reasons why it affects me so deeply.
One reason is because the deputy seems so young, but also so well trained, and so compassionate.
Another reason is because I have already seen way too much suffering on this morning.
Little Nicky - the drug-addicted young homeless girl who suffered sexual abuse as a child, showed up at the church this morning. She arrived too late to get the free breakfast. She appeared to be strung out on something, and really upset.
She told us that her nine-year-old daughter had just been shot and killed.
She was worried that the girl’s father would not allow Nicky to come into the Catholic Church in Richmond where the little girl’s memorial service was to be held, because Nicky had nothing to wear but the muddy jeans that she had on.
There is a tall, angelic woman named Kendall who runs the homeless outreach program at the church. I watched, as Kendall took little Nicky into her arms, and assured her that the church would find some better clothes for Nicky to wear to her daughter’s funeral.
Kendall is so tall, and Nicky is so tiny that when Kendall hugs Nicky, it looks like a mother hugging her ten-year-old daughter.
There are very few people that I have ever seen, in all my life, who have a bigger heart, or more compassion, than this tall woman named Kendall.
There are very few people that I have ever seen who have suffered more than this tiny woman named Nicky.
More about Nicky at some other time.
The deputy who was talking to Kelley gets back into his patrol car and drives away.
Kelley and I get back to our interview.
If Kelley had a magic wand, "I would be the CEO of "Love Works." That’s a charitable shelter for the homeless that I know could be built.
"We’re going to learn how to love again," Kelley says.
"I should be dead by now, given everything that I’ve been through.
"So I’d like to be a part of helping other homeless people.
"I could be good at it, too.
"I believe in everyone.
"Even if you are a really bad person... you know what, I still believe in you.
I ask Kelley if he has a message for the world.
"Jeremiah 29:11," he answers. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Kelley tells me that he has led Bible Studies in the past.
I ask Kelley what he believes makes him special and unique in the world.
"I don’t know," he says. But then, he says, "I do know. That God has intended my life to be a tool for His greater purpose."
This is the one-hundred-and-fifteenth in a series of articles about Auburn-area homeless, written by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.
It’s also my one-hundredth interview with an Auburn-area homeless person. My plan is to take these one-hundred interviews and make them into a book, and to use all of the profits from the book to help the homeless.
Ideally, the profits from the book would generate enough money to build a homeless shelter. But even if the book never generated one cent of profits, there would be another good reason for publishing the book: so many of the homeless people whom I’ve interviewed, and whom I’ve come to love, have told me that they would really like to see themselves, and their stories, in a book. I feel a certain sense of duty to fulfill that wish for them, if I can.
But I’m not sure what is the best way to accomplish this.
So, I am asking for your advice.
First of all, I doubt if I can find a commercial publisher for this book.
So, my initial thought is to self-publish this book.
But there’s a problem with self-publishing. This book requires the inclusion a lot of photographs. A book with a lot of photographs can be very expensive to self-publish.
I might be able to reduce that cost by using a print-on-demand publisher. But I don’t know much about the new print-on-demand processes. And also, it seems to me that the use of a print-on-demand publisher would make it more difficult to market the book as a fund-raiser to help the homeless.
Another possibility might be to skip the printed book completely, and just re-post all of the prior articles on this blogsite, hoping that I can make some money for the homeless by selling advertising on the blogsite.
But once again, this blogsite advertising business is all new and unknown territory for me.
If you have any thoughts on how I might print this book at an affordable price, and/or use these articles to generate the maximum possible amount of revenue for assisting the Auburn-area homeless, I would love to hear from you.
Happy New Year!
Love, and Many Blessings, Bob Litchfield
|CATRINA REYNOLDS - You might have seen her while you were Christmas Shopping.|
TO BE A YOUNG HOMELESS WOMAN AT CHRISTMAS TIME
She looked familiar to me too.
Then, when Catrina told me where she works, I remembered.
Catrina works part-time at the Dollar Store.
I remembered seeing her there, because she was clerk who was so exceptionally sweet to me. And she seems to be that way with everyone. She is a kind and sweet and caring person. Always alert, always looking for ways to be helpful to others.
Catrina is twenty-five years old. She has been homeless, off and on, for about three years.
Catrina followed the classic American pattern in becoming homeless. First, she lost her full-time job.
Then, she lost her car. Then, she was unable to pay her rent, and she lost her home.
"I went through a series of bad financial events," she says.
"Once you’re homeless, a lot of your friends, and even your relatives, start to look down on you. They judge you for not pulling yourself out of your homeless situation. And they don’t want to help. But they just don’t understand how difficult it is to pull yourself back out of homelessness, once you’ve fallen into it.
"No one should ever have to be homeless. Especially in the winter."
What’s the hardest part about being homeless for Catrina?
"I have a job," she says. "I work part-time at the Dollar Store. The hardest part is not always being able to get a shower. I have to somehow make myself look presentable enough to go to work, when I have been sleeping in a tent.
"I don’t want to lose my job, because my job is my only source of hope, at this time.
"Also, I have a dog. But, because I’m homeless, when I go to work, I have no safe place leave my dog.
"It’s also painful being judged, just because I’m homeless."
It was December the 29th when I interviewed Catrina. So, I asked her what it was like to be homeless at Christmas time.
"It’s really hard," she says. "I had no money. There was no Christmas Dinner. I ran out of cigarettes. It was cold. I had no family to be with.
"I broke down and cried several times.
"It was by far the worst Christmas I’ve ever had.
"It’s hard, when everyone else is celebrating, and I had nothing whatsoever to celebrate.
"I just wanted it to be over."
If Catrina had a magic wand, so that she could be or do absolutely anything, what would she be, or do?
"I would be a veterinarian," she says. "With a stable house, and a stable car, so that I’d be able to work."
I ask Catrina if she has a New Years resolution for 2013.
"Just to keep working. To keep making steps forward. And to get a car.
"People have so much more than what they need. And others don’t have enough. They really need to wake up. If they were in this situation, they would want someone to help them.
"I’m sure they would.
"This world is just too judgmental.
I ask Catrina if she has a message for the world (in addition to the powerful statement that she just made).
"I would say what I just said, and when people read this book, I want them to understand that what we need, all across this Country, are more shelters. We need more shelters for men. We need more shelters for women. AND we need more shelters for our animals.
"Our animals are our most-valued companions. We homeless people really need our animals. Most of the time, we homeless people take even better care of our animals than house pets. Because our animals are so important to us.
I ask Catrina what she believes makes her special and unique in the world.
"I’m smart," she says. "With the right education, I could definitely donate some good ideas to somebody."
Catrina is right. She is smart.
And she may not realize it yet, but she is already making significant contributions to others.
I saw her going out of her way to help other people at the Dollar Store... including me.
Besides that, just getting a chance to meet Catrina, and to see how determined she is to make a better life for herself, is a major contribution to my life. Catrina is an inspiration to me.
I ask Catrina if she has anything else that she wants people to know, before we conclude our interview.
"People make mistakes," she says. "You shouldn’t judge them forever by the mistakes that they’ve made in the past.
"Everyone deserves a second chance.
"Being homeless is really hard. I’ve been sleeping in a tent. Then, I have to get myself up, without being able to shower, and somehow make myself presentable enough to go to work. And then, I have to walk to work, even when it’s cold, or raining. It’s not easy."
I look at Catrina, and I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for her to go to work under those conditions.
And yet, she keeps on doing it.
She keeps on doing it.
And as I walk away, she wishes me luck with my book, and she calls me, "Darlin," in the same, sweet, simple way that she tends to refer to everyone.
This is the one-hundred-and-fourteenth in a series of articles about Auburn-area homeless people, written by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.
Just one more article to go, and I believe that I will have completed the one-hundredth interview. Happy New Year!
Monday, December 31, 2012
|TIM MARVIN - "I'm a free-born, natural man. I'm NOT a person."|
A MAN MADE HOMELESS BY THE HATED TRAFFIC LIGHT CAMERAS
Tim is single, has no children, and has never been married. He is 59 years old.
It is December 29, 2012 when I ask Tim how long he has been homeless.
He answers that yesterday was his first day of being homeless, this time.
Tim has a 1988 Chevy Van that he uses to travel around to different construction jobs where he works. At times, he also lives in that van. But now, there is a big problem with Tim’s van.
Last Summer, while Tim was traveling to Lake County to work on a construction job there, he apparently got hit with a traffic ticket from one of those new (and I argue un-Constitutional) traffic light cameras in Yuba County.
Tim claims that he never received any notice that he had been given the traffic light ticket.
It’s understandable that Tim never got any notice of the traffic ticket, given Tim’s wandering lifestyle.
But now, Tim has received notice from the California Department of Motor Vehicles that his driver’s license has been suspended because of his failure to take care of the Yuba County traffic light ticket.
Tim calls the suspension of his driver’s license without any prior notice a "Travesty of Justice."
Now, for the first time in his life, Tim is forced to accept government assistance, in the form of food stamps, because he no longer has a means of transportation to get to work.
At the time that Tim’s driver’s license was suspended because of an unpaid traffic light ticket, he had a completely clean DMV record.
Because Tim can’t get to work, he has ended up jobless, and homeless.
When I ask Tim what he is going to do next, he answers, "I don’t know."
"It’s difficult, because the ticket was all the way down in Yuba County.
"I avoided being homeless for a while by staying with my relatives. I’d spend a few days sleeping on the couch at one relative’s house, and then, I’d spend a few days at another relative’s house. But eventually, I wore out my welcome with all of my relatives. So, now, I’m homeless.
"I talked to a lawyer about getting the traffic light ticket cleared up. But the lawyer wanted $400 to do that. I don’t have that kind of money.
"I thought about trying to do the legal work myself, and to represent myself in court. But... the courts don’t have any respect for people who try to represent themselves.
"I would like to find an attorney who could get this case dismissed, and get my license back, so that I can work again."
I look at Tim, and I have to shake my head.
I will try to find a lawyer who can help him with his unpaid traffic light ticket in Yuba County, but I don’t know many lawyers in Yuba County.
In the mean time, here is one more example of a man who has been rendered homeless by corrupt California laws and incompetent or corrupt California legislators and judges.
All it would take to put an end, once and for all, to these hated traffic light camera tickets, and the way that they are being used to gouge additional money from citizens for local governments and their private enterprise camera partners, would be for one judge to call these traffic light cameras what they really are...which is an unconstitutional.
Charging an American Citizen with a crime without giving that citizen the right to confront and examine his accuser in court is a violation of one of our most basis and most important Constitutional rights.
And yet, for whatever mysterious reason, we lack the judges with the Constitutional competence...or, the courage... to simply call these damned traffic light cameras what they really are.
So now, Big Brother really is watching.
And now that we have allowed our government to institute this form of Big Brother watching, it will grow into all other areas of our lives like an aggressive cancer.
As for Tim’s loss of his license, and his resulting joblessness and homelessness, Tim says, "I’m not so angry about it, as much as I’m just in shock.
"I’ve parked my van at my sister’s house, so that I don’t lose it to being impounded. And I’m out on the street.
"It’s difficult for me to get around, and to get anything done, because I can’t get a free bus pass. And the buses around here don’t run very well anyway. I have to walk about ten miles a day just to do the things that I need to get done every day."
If Tim had a magic wand, so that he could be or do absolutely anything, what would he be, or be doing?
"I have this dream that I’ve had for many years," Tim says. "I’d find a piece of land in Nepal that had a hot springs on it, and that also had a view of the Himalayas. There, I’d build an orphanage, and a retreat center where people could come to find inner peace and healing.
"I’m good at designing and building homes. So, I have all of the skills it would take to build an orphanage and a retreat center.
"My lifestyle of being single has permitted me to do a lot of traveling, and to learn a lot of different construction skills.
"I don’t consider myself unemployed. I work for a living. I just can’t get to any work right now."
I ask Tim if he has a message for the world.
He answers, "I guess I’d say something of inspiration that sets everybody right. I don’t know what that is. I guess I’d say, follow the message of Jesus."
"I have a great hunger for knowledge. I’ve been called a walking encyclopedia, at times.
"I have walked with paupers, and kings, and with Hollywood movie stars.
"I’ve also spent weeks sleeping alone in the woods.
"I would tell everyone to love knowledge, and to seek knowledge. For without knowledge, you and your people will perish.
"I meet a lot of younger men, these days, who say, ‘I know what I know. And that’s all I need to know.’
"That’s not a very healthy attitude toward learning. That kind of an attitude toward learning will cost those young men dearly."
I ask Tim what he believes makes him special and unique in the world.
"I am the first-born child, of the first-born child, of the first-born child for six generations," Tim says. "I am a free-born man of the soil.
"I am NOT a person. You know why? Because a person, by law, is a corporation. And a corporation can be taxed. But a natural-born man cannot be taxed.
"When Wesley Snipes went before the federal court for failure to pay his taxes, the federal judge asked him just one question. The judge asked him, ‘Are you a person?’
"If Wesley Snipes would have answered no, then he would have gotten off. But as soon as Snipes answered that he was a person, then the court nailed him for all of those back taxes."
Interesting legal theory that Tim has.
It’s not a legal theory that I was taught in law school.
But then again, I guess it makes about as much sense as allowing a camera to charge an American Citizen with a crime without giving that citizen any right to confront and examine his accuser in court.
It certainly makes as much sense as suspending a citizen’s driver’s license without first making any proof that the citizen was ever given any notice of the traffic light camera ticket in the first place.
But hey, when it comes down to generating a little extra income for municipalities to keep government bureaucrats fully employed, an American Citizen’s Constitutional rights are just a minor formality, right?
Happy New Year... in the New America. Good luck. Happy Hiking.
This is the one-hundred-and-thirteenth in a series of articles written about Auburn-area homeless people by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
|MARK CHADWICK - Says being homeless is just a title.|
"THIS IS THE WARMEST CITY I’VE BEEN IN."
Mark Chadwick is interested that I’m writing a book. He says that he and his friend, Tim, are literal scholars.
I ask him if he means literary scholars, and he says yes.
I tell Mark that he sounds like he is highly educated, and I ask him if he has a college degree.
He says, "No. I’m auto-pedantic."
Mark Chadwick is forty-two years old. He has been homeless, this time, since 2009.
Prior to becoming homeless, Mark was doing contract work for the Department of Defense at Los Alamos.
He lost his job. Then, he lost his house.
"The housing bubble got me," he says. "That, and a little bit of cannabis."
Mark just recently came to the Auburn area, coming here from Austin, Texas. He intends to mine for gold here.
"This is not just a wild pipedream for me," he says. "I come from three generations of miners. I know how to mine."
I tell Mark that he is one of the last four interviews that I need to do to finish the 100 interviews for my book.
He grins. "As always, I’m just through the door."
He tells me that just before I showed up, offering a twenty-dollar interview fee, he and his friend, Tim, had been worrying about how they were going to get a little bit of expense money to help them make it through the next day or two.
What’s the hardest part about being homeless for Mark?
"Terror of being arrested," he answers. "Incarceration is terrifying to me. I fear the police."
I ask Mark if he has been arrested in the past.
"I’ve been arrested once or twice in the past," he says. "But it was for minor things, and I was usually in and out in a day. They have always been easy on me, because I kept my mouth shut."
My interview with Mark was on December 29th. So, I asked him what it was like to be out on the street during Christmas.
"Actually, it wasn’t too bad," he answers. "I was fed. I was clothed. People were relatively nice to me.
"This is the warmest city that I’ve been in during the past five years. And during those five years, I’ve traveled all over the country.
"I’ve had a lot of short-term jobs as I traveled around. But the truth is that in my heart, I’ve felt homeless for the past fifteen years - every since we left New Mexico when I was seven years old."
If Mark had a magic wand, so that he could be or do absolutely anything, what would he be, or be doing?
"I’d be a miner somewhere... either out in the desert, on up in the high mountains."
I ask Mark if he has a message for the world.
"Yes," he says. "Wake up!
"You did it all to yourself. Now, learn.
"It’s not punishment. It’s just data.
"We never complain while we’re happy," Mark says. "Except for the spoiled ones. That’s why we call them spoiled.
"I just learned that. It took me a whole, long lifetime just to learn that much."
I ask Mark what he believes makes him special and unique in the world.
"I don’t want to say that I’m a messenger of God," Mark says, "But I am one of His messengers.
"I’ve done a lot of reading. I’ve learned a lot. If other people want to hear it, I give it to them.
"Anything that gives you pleasure comes at a price," he says.
"I’m not really homeless," Mark says. "I was born here. I’m going to live here. I’m going to die here. This is my home.
"The only thing about me and being homeless is the title. And there are plenty of my ancestors back in my family line who have lots of fancy titles. So, don’t try to tell me that a title means anything.
"It’s beautiful here," Mark says. "But you know, you don’t get to really see it until you have to stop and really look at it."
This is the one-hundred-and-twelfth in a series of articles about Auburn-area homeless people, written by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
|JASON FITZGERALD - Homeless, Car-less, Dog-less, and the victim of an unskilled photographer.|
A MAN WITHOUT HIS DOG
Jason Fitzgerald is twenty-three years old. He has been homeless for about a year.
"I was living with my parents," Jason says. "But things got a little too crowded. So, my mom asked me to leave. There were seven of us living in a single-wide mobile home. So, it was pretty crowded."But while I was growing up, there were seven of us living in a twenty-nine-foot fifth-wheel trailer. So, I was used to being crowded.
"We all got along pretty good."
I ask Jason what’s the hardest part about being homeless for him.
"Giving up my dog," he answers.
"I had my dog for about seven years. But he was just too old to live out here. So, I gave him to my mom. He’s living at my mom’s house now.
"I had my dog out here with me for the first four months. I still had a car at that time, and my dog slept mostly in my car.
"But then, the motor blew up. After that, I was on foot."
This is a pattern that I have seen with a lot of homeless people. First, they lose their job. Then, they lose their home. After that, at least they still have their car to sleep in, for a while.
But when their car breaks down, they cannot afford to pay for the repairs.
So then, they end up at the final and worst stage of being homeless, which is being on foot.
It seems to me that if we really wanted to help the poor and the homeless, we might set up some kind of program in which local volunteers... like maybe the auto mechanic shop at a local high school or college, made free or low-cost auto repairs for the needy.
I know of at least one Auburn auto repair shop where the mechanics already do free or low-cost auto repairs for needy people. They even restore, and then give away an old car to a needy person, from time to time.
But what they do is not a part of an organized program. It’s a thing that they can only afford to do from time to time, out of the goodness of their hearts.
Without some kind of organized program, no single auto repair shop could meet all of the needs of Auburn’s poor, while California’s economy is more broken than a car with a blown engine.
If Jason had a magic wand, so that he could be or do absolutely anything, what would he be, or do?
"I’d make people treat everybody the way that I’d want to be treated... and not steal from everybody."
I ask Jason if he has a message for the world.
"Life can be great, if you don’t weaken. Don’t let the bad things in your life get you down."
I ask Jason what he believes makes him special and unique in the world.
"I’m a problem solver. I can figure out a solution to just about anything... at the drop of a hat."
I ask Jason if there is anything else that he would like people to know.
"Don’t judge me if you don’t know me," Jason says. "There are two sides to every story."
This is the one-hundred-and-eleventh in a series of articles about Auburn-area homeless people, written by local attorney, author, and Sierra College Instructor Bob Litchfield.