William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Fri, 16 Sep 2005 03:54:46 -0400



Homegrown homeless go begging

By Jim Spencer
Denver Post Columnist

Mary lived in a Cutlass Sierra with three grandchildren for six weeks. 
Today, they live at The Crossing, Denver Rescue Mission's transitional 
facility for homeless families.
Mary and her grandkids need help. If they had come from the Gulf Coast to 
Denver, they'd be getting it.
Instead, they have languished for two months in a small room as Mary 
searches for full-time employment and works temp jobs to pay the rent.
Mary is not a victim of Hurricane Katrina. She's a victim of compassion 
"I went to several agencies," Mary said. "They had no housing. I don't why 
they had no housing, then, Katrina happens, and you throw the doors open. If 
the housing is here now, it was there then."
Mary, 54, doesn't want her last name printed. "I don't want to get stoned to 
death walking down the street," she said.
She feels for the hurricane evacuees living in a dormitory at Lowry. She 
knows they didn't choose to be victims of the country's worst natural 
disaster. But she also knows she didn't choose to be homeless with three 
She's not whining, just making a point.
When resources are available to offer jobs and health care and apartments 
with a year of free rent to evacuees from New Orleans, Mary asked, "why 
isn't it offered to women and children who are already on the streets?"
Coloradans will answer the question as they follow up on their generosity 
for Katrina victims. Advocates for the homeless hope folks continue to 
donate money, time and services to local charities.
"We certainly have seen people come out in massive numbers (to help 
hurricane evacuees)," said John Parvensky, president of the Colorado 
Coalition for the Homeless. "It's more than we see in response to the 
day-to-day concerns. To some extent, we grow numb to the ongoing pain in our 
We judge needy neighbors in ways we would never judge hurricane victims.
People "can see themselves in the same situation as Katrina victims," 
Parvensky said. These same people see the local homeless as ne'er-do-wells 
on the street by choice.
Fact is, Parvensky said, most people become homeless through no fault of 
their own. They lose a job. They get sick.
A man with whom she had lived for 14 years threw Mary and her grandkids out.
She is the face of local homelessness we don't want to see. We prefer the 
faces we can

ignore without feeling guilty.
"It's the panhandlers," said Denver Rescue Mission spokeswoman Greta 
Ritchey, "the people you want to avoid."
Those people obviously need help, Ritchey said, but they aren't the majority 
of the homeless.
Mary is.
"I'm not homeless because I'm uneducated or on drugs or liquor," she said.
Mary worked a hotel job while living in her car. Her grandchildren came to 
work with her and sat in the car.
"I'd bring them to the job early so they could take a shower," she said.
Then the car died and her hours changed. She ended up unemployed with 
nowhere to live. Out of options, Mary moved to The Crossing. She doesn't 
want to stay. She hopes her grandkids don't have to eat Thanksgiving dinner 
there. She just had a second interview for a security job. But everything in 
her life remains unsettled.
"I couldn't get my blood pressure medicine this week," she said, "because I 
didn't have the co-pay."
Mary would welcome a donation of the co-pay. More than anything, though, she 
wants a job that lets her afford the co- pay. Forget a year's free rent, she 
said. Just give her three months and a weekly paycheck.
"My mother always said that if in three months you couldn't save a week's 
pay, you didn't want to work."
Mary wants to work. She wants her own place. She wants her grandkids to have 
a normal life. She needs temporary help, not a lifelong subsidy.
Just like Katrina's victims.
As she said, "I'm almost sure I have the same feeling as them when I look in 
my grandchildren's eyes and know we have nothing."
Jim Spencer's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached 
at 303-820-1771 or jspencer@denverpost.com.