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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Job interview-2004

I found this on my computer. It was written in March of 2004. I’ve been in SLO for 10 years now. It seems like a life time ago when I first got here.

March 2004

I went on a job interview today in SLO. It was for a job working with the homeless at a shelter. As I was driving into the parking lot (the main office is in a complex that reminds me of the ever present industrial parks) I heard myself say “what the fuck are you doing back here Houry?” I parked and took a look at myself in the mirror and just wanted to drive away. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life taking on the role of “social worker at large”.

Every time I see this in me, it takes me back to a day last summer at Gaspar’s house. His housemate worked in a day-program for years and years, and one day said “that’s it, there’s got to something else out there”. So he quit and got a job in the normal world. And on this day, we were standing around and talking about a new position I got through UCSF, which had me spending time with homeless people with mental illnesses who were participating in a research study to interview them-basically getting paid to hang out and drink coffee with the homeless-loved it!! So he says to me that life hasn’t been the same since he left, the world outside seems bland, boring, almost non-existent. And then he compared it to heroin- it eats at your soul the longer your in it and you get out and detox, and now your clean and in the real world and you know it’s the right thing to do because the toxicity of the adrenalin is killing you, you don’t know how to be with other people who aren’t in that place. So you go on with your life but the cravings kick in sometimes and you need your fix but you fight as much as you can but you’ll go back because it’s in your blood now and that’s where you think you belong. We laughed about it but it’s how it feels for me. I hate it.

I went in and did the interview. It’s funny coming in from SF into a small town. They have no more than 5,000 homeless people in the county of SLO and people are panicking. I asked them how many shelters there were and they said 3. I hope I had a poker face on because I just couldn’t even imagine what the fear was.

So I left and on the way home, I got thinking about this one man I met last August-Stan. It was a bitch trying to find him in the city. I knew that he was diagnosed with depression and that he was on heavy doses of pain medication. He had temporarily lived in a residential hotel, which by the way, I wouldn’t put my worst enemy in-just down right disgusting.

We finally met at the corner of Powell and Market-he was the guy in the black leather Giants cap. I was nervous, almost didn’t do it but what the hell right? He was homeless and had been since he got to SF after his wife died from cancer. He had had a really disgusting accident with some sort of snow truck in the dead of winter (east coast thing-I couldn’t picture it in my head) just before she died and is on pain killers-so he is identified as a junky with depression-lovely. Seems they were each other’s lives and she had always wanted to live in SF. And so after she died, he figured he had nothing left so he had nothing to lose. So we did the interview and when we were done, it is customary for some of these guys to ask me for more money than they get from the study, so I was prepared for it. But this one didn’t, he asked me if I had to get to work and if not, it would be great if we could finish our coffee. So we talked and it was nice until he told me about his life and the one thing that I was told never to allow myself to do happened, I felt the pain of this man and just burst into tears. Times after that, whenever I was in the area I would look for him just to see if he was all right and if he wanted to grab some coffee. I never saw him again.

Anyway, I hope that if they call me about the job, I am able to just let them know I’m not ready for another fix.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Pauly

In 2010, National Geographic stated that San Luis Obispo is one of the happiest places to live. In 2011, Oprah Winfrey sent Jenny McCarthy out to SLO to do a segment about how it’s the happiest city in the US. After that, this town has used the “happiest place to live” as a commercial motto to bring in tourism, invite businesses in, sell homes at inflated prices, and make this little town into a very prosperous place to live; which makes people happier. So, yay Oprah and National Geographic for letting people know that we do live in a beautiful place with incredible mountains, clean oceans, clean air and (somewhat) controlled development. So yes, it is happy.

This isn’t about that. I see the positive aspect of taking on the role of such a title but then I also spend a lot of time walking in just about every part of this happy town, seeing the things people forgets to recognize when they are so focused on “happy” and meeting people who are invisible because they are reminders of what isn’t right in the place they live. There are little clusters of forgotten people who have made homes out of little corners of this town. Under the freeway overpass, under bridges, behind large multimillion dollar commercial spaces. People will find anywhere they can to make a home for themselves. As much as I find this the strength of the human spirit to survive, I always know that no man (person) should go without basic needs that help him look in the mirror and know he matters. Every man should have a place to lay his head, to wake up and be able to make himself something to eat, to wash himself, and make his way through his world as a member of the community he lives in. No man should be living under a bridge or in his own filth while there are those around him live with more than they know what to do with.

6 weeks ago, around 6:30am as I was walking to Black Horse on Marsh to get my morning coffee, a man literally stumbled into my life. He had a hurt leg, a walker, a backpack, and that was all. I ran to him to help him get up and the first words out of his mouth was “I’m not crazy, I won’t hurt you”. He was homeless and in pain. He is one person in a larger group of people who are disregarded, considered failures, who are put into a cluster of whatever view there is in the culture that blames a person for a bigger social problem that isn’t going to be resolved. So after helping him up and getting him a cup of coffee, we sat at the bus stop and talked. His name is Pauly. I laughed and told him that I live in the house of many Pauls. I told him I’d look for him and he told me the same. He seemed like the kind of guy who fell on hard times and hasn’t been able to get out of it. After that I looked for him when I was out but didn’t find him. I hoped that he found a place to live or was able to get out of town to a better situation.

Last week, I was walking to get my coffee and I looked at the place I saw him the first time and he was on the bench, weeping alone. I went over and said hi. It hurt my heart all over again to see a perfectly capable person unable to be capable because of his situation. I listened to him and tried to put together what his story is and figured out it doesn’t matter. He is a person and he matters. As I was leaving him, he said “I don’t believe in god anymore, I thought I should tell you”. I’m not religious person but I understand the need to believe in something bigger than oneself, to have faith in something to keep the spirit to move forward. When I heard that, I got angry. To lose your faith, whatever it maybe, means that you have lost faith in the people around you. This man needs a place to call his own and it shouldn’t be under the bridge. This man needs a door to walk through every night, and chair to sit in, a kitchen to make coffee in, a bathroom to…, and a job that he can work at to earn his living. But more than that, he needs to know that he hasn’t been forgotten because he matters.

What’s the point of all soap boxing? I don’t know. I just know that when I’m walking around and looking at all that is celebrated about living in this happy place, I also see a whole lot of people who would be happy with something as basic as a little acknowledgment that they still exist, even if they aren’t living the happy life we are selling to ourselves in the happiest place to live.

 

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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