Tuesday, December 9, 2014

20 Things a Person Experiencing Homelessness Might Do With a Cellphone

There is a rather disturbing letter to the editor on the Dallas Morning News site. You can find it here: http://letterstotheeditorblog.dallasnews.com/2014/12/homeless-people-with-cellphones.html/, and here is the letter in whole:

Homeless people with cellphones?

Re: “Unlikely visitor slithers into The Stewpot,” Wednesday news story.

What a nice story in the Metro section Wednesday about the Stewpot Homeless Resource Center sponsoring a drive for coats or sleeping bags, and feeding the homeless in a selfless way.

However, I also looked carefully at the accompanying picture, and noticed that the homeless man was taking a close-up picture of the python with his cellphone. Hmm. Homeless people with cellphones. Am I missing something here?

Peter Archbold, Richardson

I was happy to see that online, the commenters almost universally took this individual to task. I am sure that if I asked any one of our grantees what the letter writer is missing, they could come up with things I can’t think of. Another tack might be, and I am just spit-balling here, to attend the Alliance Homeless Forum this Friday at 10.30am at the Dallas Public Library’s Central Branch, and ask one of the attendees, what they could do or do with a cell phone.

However, let’s just say that one would exercise simple empathy, which Webster defines as, “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this”. Would that not be enough, to come up with an answer to the above rhetorical question?!

Perhaps the problem starts with defining these people as, “the homeless.” Perhaps, if one recognized that these are people, who among all of their characteristics and life experiences, are currently experiencing homelessness, one could empathize?! Seriously, have we not learned, in the American South of all places, that treating people as the “other” dehumanizes us too?!

So, just for the sake of this exercise, let’s see how many reasons, in no particular order, I can come up with, without consulting the experts, speaking to an actual person experiencing homelessness, or doing any research. (I will stop when I reach 20, OK?)

I might do any or all of these, with a cell phone, were I experiencing homelessness:

     1)     Talk to loved ones, who care about me, and about whom I care;

2)     Talk to potential employers about jobs;

3)     Talk to the Texas Workforce Commission, so I can get unemployment benefits;

4)     Document an accident or a crime;

5)     Call 911 to report an accident or a crime;

6)     Talk to CitySquare, who can help me find housing;

7)     Talk to The Bridge, so I can find if I can stay there tonight;

8)     Call the Salvation Army to find out where I can get a meal;

9)     Make an appointment to see a doctor at one of the Parkland HOMES mobile clinics;

10) Find out results of medical tests;

11) Talk to the VA about benefits I earned, while protecting the rights of people to write letters to newspapers about why I shouldn’t be able to have a cell phone;

12) Find out where I might get a used suit for a job interview;

13) Find out where I can store my belongings;

14) Call Texas Health and Human Services to arrange for medical insurance for my children;

15) Find out from AIDS Services, if they can help me get a refill for my anti-viral drugs;

16) Call the Resource Center to find out if there is an LGBT youth support group I can join, since, at just 16 years old, my parents threw me out of the house, after I came out last week;

17) Call Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, to find out how I can get a restraining order against my husband, who is continuing to stalk me;

18) Call the Vogel Alcove to tell them I am running five minutes late, since my boss at my minimum wage job changed the schedule on me at the last minute, and threatened to fire me, if I left at the time he had originally told me I could;

19) Call Pat at the Stewpot to thank her and tell her how much I enjoy selling the Streetzine;

20) Text a small donation to the Dallas Public Library, because I love the fact that they treat me with dignity, and host the Alliance Homeless Forum every month, where I can share concerns with people who value my point of view.
That, Mr. Archbold, is what you are missing.

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