Case Histories of the Homeless
AUTHOR: Reynolds, Leslie
PUBLISHER: Xlibris Corporation
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This book contains the words of Â fifty-two homeless persons, ranging in age from nine to seventy-four, and eleven of their care providers. Â They speak about their family history, the circumstances that led them to the street, how they survive, their likes and dislikes, and their relationship with God. Â
Leslie Reynolds has a Ph.D. in Counseling from Columbia Pacific, as well as a seminary degree from Regent College in Vancouver, B.C.. Â She was led to research and write this book when she was startled by her own eighteen-month experience of poverty. Â She wondered what others, without the strong support system she enjoyed, did in similar circumstances. So she headed for the streets with a tape-recorder to interview homeless individuals and those who provide them services. Â A portion of Chapter Two follows:
Before my awakening, I viewed the homeless as a category, a problem to be solved, instead of a group of real human beings with diverse backgrounds. Â When I’d see them on the street, did I stop and talk to them? Â Did I ask them about their lives? Â Did I commiserate with them about their current problems? Â Absolutely not! Â Most often I fixed my gaze straight ahead or turned away when approached by a panhandler. Â I glanced in the direction of the long lines at the soup kitchens or homeless shelters, often with disdain and disgust, “put off” by the condition of their clothes, their lifestyle and their apparent attitude. Â Would I invite one to my home for dinner? Â No! Â To my church, possibly, but only after he/she was screened by the director of the Interfaith Hospitality Network.
I never fathomed there were homeless teens. Â I never stopped to think of what happened to the runaways. Â When seen on the street, they are most often judged as drug addicts and juvenile delinquents--difficult children, disobedient. Â Who verifies the truth of that perception? Â Who looks more closely to see if they are the perpetrators or the victims? Â Or do they remain an invisible population? Â My state doesn’t allow people under the age of eighteen in shelters, unless accompanied by a responsible adult or their own children. Â This is a “family values” state, believing that all problems can be solved by strengthening the two-parent family. Â We can’t have unaccompanied children needing shelter. Â We have a system that deals with them–the punitive Juvenile Justice System and the Department of Family Services, which is under-funded by our legislature and was recently put under review for mismanagement. Â
I was enraged to find that children walk the streets daily, and what’s worse nightly, because there is no provision for them. Â Homeless Youth Resource Center opened in 1995 as a safe place where homeless teens could get food, donated second-hand clothing, and access to medical care. Â But the resource center’s hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Â The teens are on their own at night. Â What makes them prefer to break into abandoned buildings in five degree weather rather than go home? Â
Brad Simkins, director of the Resource Center, spoke of arriving at work one cold January morning, a time when my landlord gave the tenants keys to our laundry room to keep the homeless from sleeping in it’s warmth. Â It was five degrees outside with seven inches of new snow on the ground. Â A group of kids was waiting at the door to be let in, at 10 a.m. Â After they entered, one of the teens, acting particularly angry, stomped around, cussing and htting things. Thinking that he would soon get it out of his system, Brad let him alone for awhile. When it became apparent that the youth wasn´t going to let go, Brad finally said, "Terminator, what are you so upset about?"
The youth turned to him and looked him right in the eye, "When I woke up this morning, the shoes I was wearing were frozen to the ground."
That statement was like a bucket of ice water hurled into Brad´s
PUBLICATION DATE: 5/1/2001
CATEGORY: Social Science