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DEBORAH LOCKE COLUMNIST
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 Four months homeless, Stanley Billips knows that when he walks in =
downtown Minneapolis carrying a bag over his shoulder, the person =
walking toward him will step aside, passing with as great a berth as =
possible. Doesn't matter what kind of bag Billips carries: plastic, =
duffel or gym. If it's stuffed full, a white person will pass with =
disapproval.=20
Middle-class blacks do the same thing and just as often, Billips said. =
They look at him as if to say, ``Why must you portray us that way?''=20

``They don't realize that we end up homeless for many reasons,'' he =
said. ``Just because I carry a bag doesn't mean I'm a drug-addicted =
ex-con who is waiting to steal your car or your purse or break into your =
house.''=20

Two contradictions pop up for me in my work on this series about the =
homeless. First, it becomes obvious that the harshest stereotypes about =
homeless people often ring false. People find themselves homeless for a =
hundred reasons, including lost jobs, credit problems, addictions, bad =
decisions, chronic illness, abusive homes and more.=20

Many of the lives described so far match exactly what's going on in =
communities all over the state. Very often a series of ordinary missteps =
-- not catastrophic events -- takes a person to homelessness.=20

Look at Stanley Billips, 45, who fits in many ways the harsher =
stereotype of a homeless person: someone from somewhere else who could =
not make it there, moved here and immediately collected welfare and food =
stamps.=20

Billips arrived in 1991 from St. Louis after hearing that, in Minnesota, =
he could get what was described as ``financial aid.'' He came because he =
heard that the state brimmed with drug treatment programs. Compared with =
other states, it does. He got into one.=20

He came because he heard there were jobs that paid from $7 to $10 an =
hour. Wages like that didn't exist in St. Louis, although affordable =
housing is and was available. There he could not get monthly welfare =
checks. Food stamps worth $74 came but once. Before money was issued, a =
St. Louis case worker would have checked to see that Billips lived where =
he said.=20

Current welfare reform measures in Minnesota now make it harder to just =
apply for the money and get it, Billips said. What no one explained when =
he moved here is that once you're in Minnesota at the $7-$10 hourly =
wage, finding affordable housing becomes a continuous challenge.=20

Even so, stability was no virtue in Billips' life. He spent a small =
fraction of his wage for living expenses and blew the rest on crack =
cocaine.=20

In St. Louis and Minneapolis, Billips moved from job to job, woman to =
woman, living for the next cocaine hit. He's clean now and sleeps nights =
at St. Stephen's Shelter in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis. =
During the day he works for the Alliance of the Streets, an advocacy =
organization for homeless people run by St. Stephen's.=20

After work until maybe 9 p.m., he may play cribbage. The next morning =
it's off to work. Forty percent of Billips' paycheck goes into a savings =
account managed by St. Stephens. The money will be used for housing.=20

Billips knows he could buy drugs with the rest of his paycheck. He also =
knows he'd lose his job for doing that. ``I'm too determined to get the =
hell out of this place,'' he said.=20

He is surrounded by people like him who know the signs of a person about =
to lose it, about to buy and use crack.=20

``I stay with people who ask all the time where I'm going,'' he said. =
``They keep me from lying, from saying I'm just going out for a minute =
for something. They know when I'm under stress and the urge hits for a =
rock, and they say no, you don't need that. They say, ``Sit down, I'll =
get you a Coke and you'll drink it and we'll talk.'' Then they say, ``Go =
to bed. You will not leave here alone tonight.''=20

So he stays put, in the place he describes as a giant brotherhood where =
he's found inner strength. The down side to communal living? Living in a =
room with 40 men at the same time you're a red-blooded heterosexual =
male.=20

``Most of us, if we have to share a bedroom, would rather it be with a =
person of the opposite sex,'' he said. `'But this is the way I have to =
live at the moment. It's what comes before the next phase.''=20

The past phases include a middle-class childhood in an all-white St. =
Louis neighborhood. Billips' dad was a self-employed typewriter =
repairman and his stepmother worked as a licensed practical nurse. The =
couple adopted three more sons.=20

They ate dinner at 6 p.m. every night, and the kids had to be there. Mr. =
Billips never showed any affection for his children and never spared the =
rod when one misbehaved.=20

After high school graduation, Stanley's dad told him to find work. =
Stanley defied his dad by signing on with the U.S. Navy for four years =
and was stationed in Honolulu. He was married briefly in Hawaii, =
divorced, returned to St. Louis and was married briefly there. That, =
too, ended in divorce.=20

``If my legs were long enough, I'd kick myself in the butt for not =
listening to my dad,'' Billips said. For most of his life, he ignored =
what his dad preached about a good work ethic.=20

He also ignored the opinions of people who judge him on race. In the =
white St. Louis neighborhood, Billips often received denigrating looks. =
``I learned to overlook stupidity,'' he said. ``I knew that they didn't =
know me and formed opinions on what they saw on the outside, not on the =
inside.''=20

To Billips, being homeless means you have no name on a lease and no key =
to a door. He said this phase leads to the next phase, which means =
carrying a key in his pocket and storing a lease in his own apartment.=20



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DEBORAH LOCKE COLUMNIST
Four = months=20 homeless, Stanley Billips knows that when he walks in downtown = Minneapolis=20 carrying a bag over his shoulder, the person walking toward him will = step aside,=20 passing with as great a berth as possible. Doesn't matter what kind of = bag=20 Billips carries: plastic, duffel or gym. If it's stuffed full, a white = person=20 will pass with disapproval.=20

Middle-class blacks do the same thing and just as often, = Billips=20 said. They look at him as if to say, ``Why must you portray us that = way?''=20

``They don't realize that we end up homeless for many reasons,'' he = said.=20 ``Just because I carry a bag doesn't mean I'm a drug-addicted ex-con who = is=20 waiting to steal your car or your purse or break into your house.''=20

Two contradictions pop up for me in my work on this series about the=20 homeless. First, it becomes obvious that the harshest stereotypes about = homeless=20 people often ring false. People find themselves homeless for a hundred = reasons,=20 including lost jobs, credit problems, addictions, bad decisions, chronic = illness, abusive homes and more.=20

Many of the lives described so far match exactly what's going on in=20 communities all over the state. Very often a series of ordinary missteps = -- not=20 catastrophic events -- takes a person to homelessness.=20

Look at Stanley Billips, 45, who fits in many ways the harsher = stereotype of=20 a homeless person: someone from somewhere else who could not make it = there,=20 moved here and immediately collected welfare and food stamps.=20

Billips arrived in 1991 from St. Louis after hearing that, in = Minnesota, he=20 could get what was described as ``financial aid.'' He came because he = heard that=20 the state brimmed with drug treatment programs. Compared with other = states, it=20 does. He got into one.=20

He came because he heard there were jobs that paid from $7 to $10 an = hour.=20 Wages like that didn't exist in St. Louis, although affordable housing = is and=20 was available. There he could not get monthly welfare checks. Food = stamps worth=20 $74 came but once. Before money was issued, a St. Louis case worker = would have=20 checked to see that Billips lived where he said.=20

Current welfare reform measures in Minnesota now make it harder to = just apply=20 for the money and get it, Billips said. What no one explained when he = moved here=20 is that once you're in Minnesota at the $7-$10 hourly wage, finding = affordable=20 housing becomes a continuous challenge.=20

Even so, stability was no virtue in Billips' life. He spent a small = fraction=20 of his wage for living expenses and blew the rest on crack cocaine.=20

In St. Louis and Minneapolis, Billips moved from job to job, woman to = woman,=20 living for the next cocaine hit. He's clean now and sleeps nights at St. = Stephen's Shelter in the Whittier neighborhood of Minneapolis. During = the day he=20 works for the Alliance of the Streets, an advocacy organization for = homeless=20 people run by St. Stephen's.=20

After work until maybe 9 p.m., he may play cribbage. The next morning = it's=20 off to work. Forty percent of Billips' paycheck goes into a savings = account=20 managed by St. Stephens. The money will be used for housing.=20

Billips knows he could buy drugs with the rest of his paycheck. He = also knows=20 he'd lose his job for doing that. ``I'm too determined to get the hell = out of=20 this place,'' he said.=20

He is surrounded by people like him who know the signs of a person = about to=20 lose it, about to buy and use crack.=20

``I stay with people who ask all the time where I'm going,'' he said. = ``They=20 keep me from lying, from saying I'm just going out for a minute for = something.=20 They know when I'm under stress and the urge hits for a rock, and they = say no,=20 you don't need that. They say, ``Sit down, I'll get you a Coke and = you'll drink=20 it and we'll talk.'' Then they say, ``Go to bed. You will not leave here = alone=20 tonight.''=20

So he stays put, in the place he describes as a giant brotherhood = where he's=20 found inner strength. The down side to communal living? Living in a room = with 40=20 men at the same time you're a red-blooded heterosexual male.=20

``Most of us, if we have to share a bedroom, would rather it be with = a person=20 of the opposite sex,'' he said. `'But this is the way I have to live at = the=20 moment. It's what comes before the next phase.''=20

The past phases include a middle-class childhood in an all-white St. = Louis=20 neighborhood. Billips' dad was a self-employed typewriter repairman and = his=20 stepmother worked as a licensed practical nurse. The couple adopted = three more=20 sons.=20

They ate dinner at 6 p.m. every night, and the kids had to be there. = Mr.=20 Billips never showed any affection for his children and never spared the = rod=20 when one misbehaved.=20

After high school graduation, Stanley's dad told him to find work. = Stanley=20 defied his dad by signing on with the U.S. Navy for four years and was = stationed=20 in Honolulu. He was married briefly in Hawaii, divorced, returned to St. = Louis=20 and was married briefly there. That, too, ended in divorce.=20

``If my legs were long enough, I'd kick myself in the butt for not = listening=20 to my dad,'' Billips said. For most of his life, he ignored what his dad = preached about a good work ethic.=20

He also ignored the opinions of people who judge him on race. In the = white=20 St. Louis neighborhood, Billips often received denigrating looks. ``I = learned to=20 overlook stupidity,'' he said. ``I knew that they didn't know me and = formed=20 opinions on what they saw on the outside, not on the inside.''=20

To Billips, being homeless means you have no name on a lease and no = key to a=20 door. He said this phase leads to the next phase, which means carrying a = key in=20 his pocket and storing a lease in his own = apartment.=20


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