This Could be You

Eddie with his dog Willie

As our economy collapses around us, homelessness rises. We have a higher rate of homelessness in Arizona because of the weather. Old, young, disabled, veterans, mentally ill, and entire families are living on the streets.

People are dumping their animals in alarming numbers in this depression, yet homeless people manage to hang on to their dogs. I met this man today resting in the shade behind a building while his friend was going through a nearby dumpster. Every dumpster behind every supermarket has foragers who depend on them for their lives.

This man’s name is Eddie. I walked up to him and asked him how he was doing. OK, he said. I asked him if $5 was a fair trade for a photo of him and his dog, whose name is Willie Nelson. Sure, he said. I asked him if he had enough to eat. Sometimes. I asked him where he slept. Behind Walmart. I asked him if there were a group of them who sleep there. Yes. I spoke to him for a few more minutes and snapped a few pictures. I pet his beautiful dog and asked if the dog got enough to eat. Yeah, he said, Willie eats before I do.

I thanked him and shook his hand and wished him luck. I kissed Willie Nelson on the head and once again felt disgust for our government. A billion here, a billion there. Foreign aid packages, oil wars, bailouts. But keep cutting programs that keep our people alive, because who gives a shit about us spoiled, greedy Americans going into foreclosure and moving into our new homes behind Walmart. Fuck you, US government, all of you.

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31 responses to “This Could be You

  1. the word of me

    And the Republicans want to cut even more…Medicare, Social Security, WIC, Planned Parenthood. Basically they want to chop any kind of help to the poor.
    It’s so sad.

    • I hate them all, doesn’t matter what party. My life has gotten steadily worse since Obama took office. One week of military spending could jumpstart our economy, give loans to people to start businesses, feed and shelter thousands of people.

  2. Indigo Spider

    This kills me on so many levels. First, that homeless people often care more for their animals than people living in billion dollar homes. I barely get by and live in fear of losing my apartment every month but the biggest worry is what would happen to my cats? If I ever lived on the streets, how would I take care of my cats? Often they are the only reason I make it through another day, because I know I have to take care of them.

    Second, that someone has to find sustenance from a dumpster in this “richest country” is deplorable. It is disgusting that we can manage to find trillions of dollars to fight another war but can’t find money to provide basic necessities for our citizens? I’m sick to death of hearing that companies aren’t hiring because of the worry of what tax hikes they may be hit with and in the next sentence report their billion dollar profits and CEO bonuses. It seems there is no morality left in this country, no one cares about those of us struggling as long as they all make their profits in the latest oil war.

    The government, pfft, what a joke. People go into government so they can rake in the money from lobbyists then get cushy jobs in the “private” sector from all the backs they scratched. Our government is not “for the people” in any way, shape or form.

    • No our government is not for the people. Other people somewhere else maybe, but not our people. My friend with diabetes can’t afford insulin but her friend in Kazakhstan gets it free from a US foreign aid package. I was raised to be patriotic, but man I’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.

    • Hug those cats, Indigo, and love them. Mine get me thru the day too.
      Ann

  3. Debra, I stopped voting a year and a half ago. The last line in this blog says it all, I can’t think of a more eloquent expression for the situation. I am so glad you helped this man and his best friend out. And yes, this could indeed be me, except it would be one of my cats or maybe a couple of them, and yes, they would eat before me. A gut-wrenching post that needed to be written, and painful as it is, I thank you for it.

    • Thank you Ann. It could be me, you, or any of us. I’m pretty close to it right now. My partner has a disability and we’ve been trying to get him benefits for four years now. What we live on a month is pathetic and less than what wealthy people spend on lattes in a month. I don’t care about having a lot of money. I just want a job and enough money to get by. I’m an atheist but I don’t care anymore about what religion future presidents may be—there are issues much more critical to consider.

  4. Your anger is refreshing – I keep running into people who blame the jobless and the homeless for their situation. I find it hard to believe that people choose to be jobless and homeless. I have come too close to this myself, and I have an engineering degree and have always worked hard. Thnk you for seeing and caring.

    • Hi Janet, thank you. Those people need to look at the classified ads once in a while—all three inches of them. You can’t even get a job at Target or Walmart here. I’ve never been without a job since I was a teenager. Now I clean houses, do odd jobs, and freelance work but it’s getting harder and harder to find work. I work for about half of what I did when I started. Nobody except maybe some extreme fringe dwellers choose to be homeless. It’s a shitty life.

  5. It’s the same story here in the UK, I have to consider myself very lucky that I have a roof over my head and that I get just about enough to live on and the luxury of net access. I couldn’t imagine what it is like for those out on the streets every night.
    Excellent post!

  6. I think you summed it up well. I’d most likely get renditioned the next time I leave my country if I wrote it like you did! But I sure feel the way you do.

  7. Great post–you did a great job of humanizing Eddie!
    We are thinking along the same lines–I did a post today on the same topic from a little different angle.

  8. One question this brings up (one of thousands): Is this man homeless, perhaps, because he couldn’t find housing that would accept his best friend? A friend who might actually grant him a bit more mobility, and is probably essential to his life?
    As a country, we are doing very badly for our unfortunates, and let’s face it, we are all potential unfortunates. Even if we didn’t wish to improve the lives of our sufferers out of altruistic motives, shouldn’t we want to help them out of self-defense?

    This is unfortunately a political issue: democrats (and republicans) poll badly when they state concern for those left behind (unless you’re referring to school-age children – then you poll well).
    Living in the northeast, homelessness results in dead bodies. Some states do well (ironically, it seems that if someone in the private sector can get rich off the the funds spent to fight homelessness, you don’t find it to be an issue (even if the costs are out of sight). I spent one summer as a daily volunteer to a homeless shelter in Rhode Island. Too many useful aspects to discuss here, but it is very useful to remember 2 things: 1) one size fits none. and 2) while throwing money at a problem has a very bad track record, throwing well-intentioned people at a problem does work well. Please Look up and see which president disbanded the group “VISTA”, Volunteers In Service To America. One may find that instructive, as well.

    • Hi Joel, good points. I was thinking that I would be a person who would choose homelessness rather than give up my “kids.” But, I can and do absolutely everything possible to not let that happen, because of them. I would do just about anything except harm or steal. But many people have problems that prevent them practicing the kind of survival I manage, and one size does not fit all is a good comparison. It amazes me that people still think of them as “bums,” and they should get their shit together and get a job. Right. As if.

      You’re right in saying that since misfortune can and does strike without regard to your station in life, that people shouldn’t be so smug and think that it can’t happen to them. I’ve read about men becoming homeless from high child support payments combined with low-paying jobs—there’s no way they can also afford housing too. Alcoholism, drugs, mental illness, shitty luck, the reasons no longer matter to me. If the economy (I hate that fucking word) has affected you deeply like it has me and millions of others, you learn to understand and fear the prospect. I don’t have answers, but when I read that we have spent 700 billion so far in military spending in 2011, (DOD chart) it’s hard not to be outraged. Maybe throwing money at the homeless directly isn’t helpful, but that money is desperately needed here.

      Research says that VISTA is still in service under the name AmeriCorps Vista, changed by Clinton. Is that not true that it is still in service, and that it is actually disbanded? I didn’t see that.

  9. There are a lot of Eddies out there, and Eddie’s best friend too. That the US fights wars by borrowing money, gives money to other governments (much of it wasted) while our homeless go without shelter and food, and wastes billion of dollars domestically by funding things paying farmers not to grow food is absurd. I have tried reasoning (via letters) with my own federal and state representatives but they don’t care. As long as we allow corporations to contribute $ to our political system and dictate legislation through lobbying there is not hope. 1% of this nations citizens control 99% of the wealth, that leaves the rest of us 99% to split up 1% of the money. I’m not a communist but this is nuts. Time to change the political system by only electing those that promise to change political contributions and lobbying access. If that means throwing everybody out so be it!

    With regard to Eddie and his dog, this is a testament to fine character which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for the bastards that represent us.

    Maybe Eddie should represent us all. I’d be a lot happier.

    • Thanks Wild Bill. The problem with knowing who to elect is they ALL promise change, but don’t deliver except to make the system steadily more corrupt. Their promises are dust in the wind, then when things get worse for our people they blame the person who was in office before them.

      That big staged spectacle of the government “shutting down” seems like a big scam to keep us in line. At the last minute, when it doesn’t shut down, we’re all supposed to breathe a sigh of relief. Phew! That was a close one! We should all rejoice now, so the government can go back to exactly what it was doing before!

      • I secretly kept hoping it would shut down so that everyone could see that much of Government is totally unnecessary. But then I remembered those on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc and realized they’d be the only ones that actually got hurt.

        You are right about political promises. I have no honest answer other than to say we have to keep trying. Getting ethical, honest people in office that will not be corrupted is a tall order. I understand that. But is there an alternative other than anarchy to keeping up the good fight?

        We were pretty poor when I was a kid. My father was unemployed for years and years. My mother worked her finger to the bone to make things work. There was no real government help in those days. We were left to our own devices. But we did have land, and we did grow our own food, so that made a big difference. Now that I’m an adult I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I appreciate the lesser things in life, much like the wealthy appreciate the finer things in life. I think I’m better for it all, thanks to my Mom who kept it all together for us.

  10. Your compassion speaks to me through this post. If there was compassion such as yours throughout our culture, we wouldn’t need the government.

    The government can’t run a post office – Why would we count on them to help the impoverished? We need local compassion, whether inspired by religion or not. We need far less government. If the military spending came back to the citizens, the citizens would have enough to care for those who have hard luck, but there is not much care in our society, so we depend on an ineffective, bureaucratic, cold-hearted, wasteful government – The decline of civilization. No government can solve our current problems.

    • Thank you Carl. Wasteful corrupt government plus Facebook equals decline of civilization!

      Think of what that 700 billion (military spending in 2011) pumped into local programs could do for us. That’s a LOT of money. Our local homeless shelter here holds weekly yard sales to keep itself running, never knowing when they will be shut down. And I can’t even begin to discuss the animal shelters.

  11. What a photo. The expression – on both of their faces. Wow.

    The people on the streets in my city wear brand new Fubu sneakers and jeans. I’m sure they could be stolen, but it doesn’t matter. They position themselves in heavy foot traffic areas downtown during rush hour and ask for money. I can’t give money to someone wearing more expensive clothes than me. Then when I say, “Sorry,” and walk by, they call me “B*tch.” One of them got in my husband’s face to pick a fight after my husband told him he had no cash.

    I’m glad our street people don’t look like this man and his dog. I’ll accept insult and personal danger instead of having to witness true poverty.

    • Those aren’t homeless, those are bullies and con artists. Figures they’d be out there too. It’s easy to tell the difference. These people here never ask for anything.

  12. this is disturbing stuff; I think it’s great you gave the man five bucks for his photo — a fair exchange; it seems Australia is a much more compassionate society than America with a good , though not perfect. safety net. I like our us poets/writers focus on individuals to humanise the situation

  13. WOW, Debra! A powerful post. There are a few homeless vets that live not far from me. I visit them once or twice a month just to keep my head level. I do subscribe to the cliche – There, but for the grace of God, go I! I am only too aware of exactly how close I am to homelessness. I am grateful for what I have, but don’t cling too tightly to it. A safety net, indeed … well, a poorly managed safety net, that helps those who don’t NEED help and ignores those who do need help. It’s not government that needs to fix it, though … it’s us. I think it is our responsibility in one way or another … whether via the Red Cross or United Way or a local church or synagogue – whoever! Well … my ideas. Great pic, btw!

  14. But how Barb? How do we fix it when we’re hanging on by a thread ourselves? Give me some ideas to think about…and thanks.

  15. I have said this before andI will say it again – no matter who we are, we are all a paycheck away from taking your $5.00 and posing. My paycheck away might be 4 months and yours might be 4 weeks and his might be 4 days…but we are all almost there.
    I love your compassion for your ‘kids’. My kids give me great pleasure, too, and I could never leave them behind, ever.

  16. Thank you Char. I realize now that our government is obsessed with the Mideast and not listening to our people. I am angry. We are all living on the edge. I would sleep behind Walmart rather than see my dogs put in a shelter. The cats, however—that would be a problem.

  17. What makes me sick...

    Excellent post! Lived in the US for 30 years before returning to the UK. I agree with Trevor, I feel fortunate to have a roof over the heads of me and my cat. If I ever became homeless again (touch wood), there wouldn’t be a Walmart to sleep behind, but since Walmart probably is the parent company of half the major UK retailers, I could most likely sleep behind any ‘ol damn place!

  18. Are there many homeless in the UK? Bet they don’t let them sleep behind Harrods. Where in the US did you live?

    Sometimes I feel grateful, but it’s not really a consolation when you look at the rest of the world. Guess all we can do is carry on. Thanks for writing Dum Dum!

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