Paranoia vs Apathy

Suddenly , the pilot announces that we’ll be landing soon . Upon hearing the news , the fat man , the Asian woman , and I simultaneously squirm like mealworms and stretch in our seats . The fat man obnoxiously sneezes , landing a few sticky drops on the side of my neck . I cringe but don’t wipe them off right away . I’m distracted by the Asian woman who starts frantically digging in her oversized black purse , pulling out a handful of tissues and holding them up to cover her mouth and nostrils , as if allowing in another molecule of air will kill her instantly . Her eyes are wild and frightened . They bulge even further when the obese man sneezes again . I can’t help but snicker . If paranoia isn’t the opposite of apathy , I don’t know what is .

Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Homeless Payment Plan

The large building had multiple floors and housed multitudes of San Diego’s homeless. With so many homeless people all in one place, we lost our individuality and became numbers for their population statistics. They stopped focusing on individual families and instead focused on the population as a whole; which translated to them caring about all of us, but they didn’t care about any one of us.

Living at St. De Paul’s over the next month had its ups and down. My mom had to pay a high percentage of the low wages she made from her new security job to the shelter every paycheck. They said it would help us save up to move out. They said upon completion of the six-month program they give all the money back. The keywords were “upon completion,” meaning if we didn’t complete it, we did not get the money back. Giving up most of her paycheck left us with little money to do anything else besides wash clothes and put a few minutes on the family cell phone; which wasn’t new. We had gone without buying them before so it wasn’t an immediate problem.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Homeless Holidays

I hated holidays in shelters. The shelter atmosphere always seemed to drain every ounce of holiday spirit from me. Every holiday, we had to sit in a room full of strangers and put on fake smiles pretending to be happy. Thanksgiving had rolled around and the only thing I was thankful for was my mother was still alive. I was thankful for my legs too.

The good thing about Thanksgiving is food is usually more abundant. Not in our current shelter, though. We had to travel down to another sister shelter nearby along with other homeless families, stand outside like a herd of sheep, and wait for them to let us in as everybody drove past and stared at us. Standing there wasn’t ideal, but we didn’t have another choice.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Ghost of Poverty

I had no jacket, no sleeping bag, nothing—except the clothes on my frail body. Transparent to the naked eye, I moved as a ghost. When I walked, no one noticed me. Maybe because my clothes were dirty. Maybe because my shoes were from a donation box. Or maybe because I embodied poverty. Whatever the reason, it made me invisible to everyone around me, except when my silhouette flickered from panhandling, frightening people.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Fighting for an Education

I believed I could become more than what their statistics believed I could. I also knew, outside of my mom and sister, no one else believed I could beat the statistics. But there comes a time where you have to follow your heart, where you have to make your own decisions to better yourself, even if everyone else calls you crazy. I knew to Mr. Robertson and English, I sounded crazy, naïve . . . a little homeless boy trying to dream big. I was being overlooked. I knew there were other non-homeless students in better schools who were given an opportunity. Wanting the same opportunity shouldn’t be a crime. How could they expect me to look around at my life and just accept it, and just roll over and die? Why couldn’t I have more? I didn’t choose the life I lived. But I could choose to opt out for a better life for myself since I was the only one who had to live it…Most kids I knew were dropping out. I knew I would have to fight the public school system with everything I had if I wanted to come out college ready. If, and only if, living on the streets didn’t kill me first.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

Library Kids

We wandered to the downtown library where we had developed a sort of friendship or understanding with the librarians in the computer lab. We trekked to the library just about every day so eventually they started talking and interacting with us. I thought they knew we were homeless. The library is where a lot of homeless people go during the day to kill time or just to be inside for a change. We came to kill time. We had to linger around until my mom left work to pick us up and then find somewhere to park so we could sleep. We weren’t the only homeless kids who went there during the day. A group of us were there. I had lived in shelters with a lot of them before so we all knew each other and knew why each other were there. I talked to a few of them before I sat and did my homework. Completing homework had always been a fast way to kill time; it wasn’t difficult and it only helped me intellectually. Pooh and I sat across the table from each other, half doing homework and half talking.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

You Don’t Count

Three large vans slowly pulled up and they piled us all inside and then drove off in different directions. We rode in silence. The driver appeared more agitated than we were. He was young, probably twenty or twenty-one. I could tell he didn’t want to chauffeur us. His parents were probably forcing him. I unfortunately sat in the front seat next to him.

“Why don’t you just get a job?” He didn’t bother to look up at me. “And stop having other people take care of you. Wasting people’s time. I’m just saying.” I didn’t respond. If I said something he didn’t like, he could lie to his parents and get us kicked out. His voice permanently stained snobbish from a life of pampering. “The government just needs to come and round all of you up, and take y’all away. The cities would be so much safer and cleaner. People would be much happier.”

“We’re people, too.” I stared out of the window.

“You guys? You guys don’t count.”

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

International Sorry Day: Grandpa Learns his Native Tongue

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Paul tells me he’s learning the Tlingit language so he can believe the stories of his people, not just know the plots. When he was young, missionaries and the government prohibited Alaskan Natives from speaking their language and living traditionally. They often took Tlingit children from their homes and families, placing them in boarding schools as far away as Washington and Oregon. Now Paul is a grandfather and is committed to relearning a way of living that he says is not lost but rather hiding, just below the skin. He is proud of Duane and watches for a moment as his son helps his wife. “When I sing the old songs,” Paul says, “it’s like my chest is opened up and my heart is showing.” Paul’s words are poetry. I know because there is nothing I can say afterward. I just watch him resume his carving and try not to look too closely at the eye sockets of those dried fish.

If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende

Today is National Sorry Day in Australia – it seeks to repair events that also occured here in the United States

Katrina Refugees

The most interesting people I met were the Katrina “refugees.” Not so much the adults but the children. They were regular kids just like me, but no one else saw them as normal. To the world, we all were outcasts, me for living homeless, them for being refugees. Every day they woke up remembering everything they lost, including people they cared about. I saw the girls cry. I saw the boys cry.

“It just feels so bad,” Cornell said. He was my age but his physique far bigger. Whatever they fed to those kids down in Louisiana to get them so big, I wanted some. “One minute everything’s fine, the next everything’s gone. They’re calling us refugees like we’re AIDS babies from Africa. Or like were from Pakistan or wherever the Middle East is. I’m American!”

“Yeah, me too,” I said.

“My friends died in those waters, man. I lost everything. I don’t deserve this, bro. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.

American Style Starvation

The food might not have been pretty, but it kept us alive. Sustenance was the most important part because homeless people like us died daily, and nobody ever noticed or cared. Late at night, I tossed and turned. Hunger pains were like I had been shot in my abdomen, I gripped my belly in pure agony. I wanted to scream for God but the shelter would kick us out for breaking noise compliance. None of us were asleep, but we all remained quiet; we didn’t have any words to speak. I would have eaten a rat if I saw it. My mom told me to try to keep my mind off eating, but how could I when my stomach kept digesting itself? It gurgled louder than any other thought I could think. It prickled the inside of my stomach like a cactus scraping against me. The hunger so painful I couldn’t stand it, I couldn’t do anything but lie there and take it. I would have snuck out to find some food, but security caught the last family and they had to leave the next day. Not fair, but nobody cared about being fair to us. I just laid there depressed, thinking about how many other people in the world who were hungry. Bottom line, whether it is Africa or America, starving is starving.

My Way Home: Growing Up Homeless in America by Michael Gaulden

From the preface:

This memoir covers the latter part of my homeless journey, ranging from age fourteen to seventeen, predominately my high school years. The horror of my homelessness is what I call it. Allow me to take you down my path and to walk in my footsteps along my own hellacious underground railroad. If you are reading this in the midst of your own overwhelmingly challenging journey, it is you for whom I write….It is you whom I urge not to quit. I know your pain and through my pain, I wish to give you strength. For everyone else reading this, please understand my story is only one of millions of other homeless people.