[Hpn] Homeless share own stories at Brown U. panel

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Fri, 16 Nov 2001 12:06:44 -0800

Homeless share own stories at Brown U. panel

By Austin Head-Jones
Brown Daily Herald
Brown U.

(U-WIRE) PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Seven homeless and formerly homeless guests
shared their life stories with Brown University students Monday night,
reinforcing the urgency of the homelessness problem facing Providence, R.I.,
the country and the world.

Panelists, who used only their first names, emphasized how hard homelessness
can be at the Faces of Homelessness Panel in Salomon 001.

"It was an awful experience," said Joseph, a formerly homeless panelist who
had arrived with his mother, Catherine. "I wouldn't want anybody to go
through what I went through."

"Basically you're shunned from society," said John.

Panelists said one of the most difficult aspects of being homeless is the
poor care provided by some shelters and institutions. Catherine, who was
forced into homelessness with her young child, said, "It was like living in
a closet with my small child. It is not good for families to be homeless."

"The shelter is not a good place. The smartest homeless people don't go to
the shelter," said Joseph. "If it wasn't so cold outside, I would rather see
a homeless family living under a bridge than in one of those things."

Another mother who was once homeless, Joyce, said "the hardest things that
homeless families face in this world are some of the shelter care

When asked about child support after her divorce, she said, "What child
support? Sometimes the other parent doesn't want to pay child support and
you need a lawyer to go after them."

John also explained how hard it is to be homeless with a pet.

"If you become homeless with a pet, your option is this: either give up your
pet or be shunned from society." Most shelters don't admit people with pets,
he said, and it is almost impossible to get donations of food.

The panelists became homeless as a result of many different situations.

"Basically, I marry, I get a divorce and the major breadwinner was my
husband. It was a matter of economics," said Catherine, a resident of
Kingston, R.I. 

Another panelist, Moh, said he was evicted. "I was living in this old house
that my family had for like 70 years. The city of Providence in her wisdom
decided to throw me out of my house and into the street," he said.

Many of the panelists held college degrees.

"In the fall of 1971," said Joyce, "I was sitting where you are now, working
on my bachelor's degree, and (homelessness) couldn't happen to me. Well,
guess what? It did."

Other panelists were pushed into homelessness by their illiteracy. "The
reason taxes got behind was that I couldn't read, and therefore I couldn't
get a job," said Fred Savoy, a resident of Washington, D.C.

Though most panelists eventually overcame homelessness, they stressed that
others remain homeless.

"The really hard-core mangled faces and broken souls ... are not here
today," Moh said. 

Michael Stoops, moderator of the panel and director of Community Organizing
at the National Coalition for the Homeless, began the panel by showing
photographs of homeless people from across the country.

"One in every four homeless people is a child," he said. "Tonight there are
1.9 million people who are homeless in America."

There was a large turnout for the forum, and several members of the audience
asked what college students can do to help homelessness.

"Whatever you can," said Mike. "That is all that can be expected."

"The most positive thing to do is look the (homeless) person in the eye and
not be afraid of them," Catherine said.

"Find some spare time to tutor someone," Savoy said.

An audience member, Kristen Mercado '04, said homelessness is a more
immediate problem than most people believe.

"What a lot of people don't know is that a lot of people at Brown are just a
hair away from being homeless," she said.

The event was coordinated by Brown-RISD Hillel, and is part of National
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

(C) 2001 Brown Daily Herald via U-WIRE

2001 At Home Corporation.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.
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