For rich and for poor, end discrimination now

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In my past few articles I have written about the things I’ve learned since being put in the position of being homeless, such as the perseverance to not give up,the willingness to do whatever it takes to feed myself, clothe myself, and put myself on a path out of homelessness. When hard times come your way, it can feel like every time you take one step forward, someone else pushes you two or three feet back. I continue to ask our readers to remember this and try to put yourself in another person’s shoes. 

It has been really encouraging to hear people tell me the experiences I’ve shared are eye-opening. I’ve seen some people take more time to get to know me and others, and to help people. Thank you! Please keep it up. We’re still out here.

Homelessness can happen to anybody. Some may keep it hidden because they are holding onto their pride or shame. But, who has time for that? We shouldn’t be worrying about who knows what we’re struggling with. That time would be better spent letting others know how they can help us. 

The other side of that is that I don’t have time for other people’s judgments. Don’t criticize people experiencing homelessness. Don’t judge us. We’re not criminals – though too many officers I’ve come across on the street seem to think otherwise.

We’ve all got to look out for each other. That includes correcting false stereotypes you, your friends, or your family might have about someone in my shoes.

We all have our reasons as to why we ended up homeless! This is especially true of minorities in this country. Too many of us are in these situations. Most of us are doing whatever we can to survive and to support our loved ones -whether that means shining shoes, creating arts and crafts, or selling these newspapers.

Most politicians in the United States look at minorities as a threat to humans. They pretend to work towards equality while they perpetuate racism and oppression. Too many people in power want to lock people who look like me up and throw away the key. You’ve got cameras all over this city, but they’re mostly used to “keep an eye on” minorities who venture out of their ghetto areas to try and make a living.

As I’ve mentioned in my past articles, we are stuck on taking care of other countries, which means we forget about our own front and backyards! It’s so bad out here because homelessness still exists. You have men and women fighting over blocks and corners just to be able to panhandle for money to eat, get clothing, and use transportation. It’s like crabs in a barrel.

There is so much bias and discriminatory behavior out there to both men and women, to the point that when a minority goes to apply for a job in this city, you are defeated and dismissed before you walk in the door. Why must we keep asking for society to change? It’s almost as if the majority of people do not want to acknowledge that poverty and its effects exist.

I mentioned in a recent article how a Nando’s restaurant manager asked me to wash dishes for an afternoon as part of an “on-the-job interview.” I didn’t get the job, and I didn’t get paid. They treated me cruelly, with no remorse shown after the fact. I shine shoes near that location, and still to this day that manager has never apologized for leading me to think I had gotten the job. He just walks past me like ain’t nothing happened. Like I don’t exist.

I know most of you are tired of seeing people on the sidewalks, begging for money. You probably say to yourselves, “Wait, these people can work! Why aren’t they?” However, as long as we as a society continue to look past the systemic realities of homelessness and white supremacy, poor people, especially minorities, will remain locked in a cycle of oppression. Homelessness has not gone away over the past decades and will never go away until it is properly addressed.

Maybe you are thinking, “Things will get better if we just leave it alone, or for other people to solve.” But, it is that exact attitude that perpetuates the cycle. It is up to all of us to create change. This is what is going on in America. It’s brother against brother, sister against sister. Animosity, adversity, poverty, and neglect all reinforces this huge problem.

God help us all. And in the meantime, help each other! Each one teach one, and be blessed.

James Gartrell is an Artist/Vendor with Street Sense Media

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We believe ending homelessness begins with listening to the stories of those who have experienced it.