I went back to the streets where my father had “lived,” and met a couple of new faces this afternoon. Randy has a 16-year-old son who is a sophomore in high school, and they have been “homeless” for about 3 years now. As I leaned against a wall, and listened to Randy describe their challenges living on the streets, we were interrupted by a couple of employees who told us that we couldn’t sit in front of their store. Randy paused and quietly looked at me. We chuckled at the irony of what had just occurred.
As Randy started to get up to move his belongings, his friend “Fox” came by and asked what was going on. From what I gathered, Fox’s wife had her belongings “swiped” and was taken to jail for sitting on the sidewalk with her bags.
So it began.
Randy, Fox, and I slowly started to push their shopping carts down to a “new” location just 50 feet away from the storefront. As we started to situate their belongings, Randy shared the challenges he experiences everyday because of this new law on sitting and lying down. Many of the homeless in the area had gotten their belongings taken away, and were not allowed to be in the parks or sidewalks. So, where are they? Basically, everyone is scattered all over the city and in every “nook and cranny” they can find. Randy said that it makes it incredibly difficult for him to even attempt at finding a job because his belongings would be gone, and he and his son would have to “start all over.”
So, Randy spends his weekdays staying close to his carts and waits for his son to get out of school. Then they take turns watching the carts so one person can get food or retrieve needed items.
From Randy’s experience, he explained that the tools given through state-funded programs are “forfeited to the city and county sweep.” In his own words: “Why do they help through the State, but then have the city take everything we just gained? Why teach us how to build a resume, give us phones for interviews, clothes, and then have the city just throw our stuff away?”
Fox also shared the same frustrations. Fox, a Chicago native, had opened up an unsuccessful business on Oahu. After about a year he lost his savings and found himself living out of a car, then on the streets. He was able to get a job again in the past couple of months, but has yet to make enough money to pay off his debts, afford rent, rent deposits, and utility bills.
I really appreciated their time, and willingness to share their stories with me. I had mentioned to them how I wanted to make a book of their stories, and they were really supportive and offered to help find others willing to share. It warmed my heart to go back to where my father use to “live,” and reach out to those who are still there. Looking forward to walking the streets again later this week.