Virginia Sellner (
Fri, 8 Oct 1999 14:56:43 -0600 (MDT)

A friend of ours and a participant in the writing part of our Art from the
Streets Program wanted us to send this article around to where ever we could
-- so we are!!!

Virginia Sellner

This is a true story with fictitious names.

	My name is Roger Smith, one of the homeless, and I'd like to share a story
with you that is sad, but true.
	Early in September last year, I came to Cheyenne with the thoughts of
"maybe this will be the place that I would finally get a steady job, and
finally settle down."
	I went to the only shelter in town to stay for the night.  When I got
there, I saw a notice on the board for a ranchhand stating:  $700 a month
and room and board for a ranchhand, this job lasts for three to four weeks.
	I thought, "Wow, if I could get this job, I'll be all right because with
this kind of money $(700), I could finally get back on my feet."  So I
called this guy and talked to him.  The man, Dick Brown, said he might be by
the shelter in a day or two and to talk to him then.  Two days went by.  The
rancher, Brown, showed up and talked to me and hired me.
	That day I started, Brown fed me lunch and that was all  I went to bed
without supper (bedtime that night was 2:00 a.m.)  Next morning, I was up at
6:00 a.m. and fed the calves which Brown prized and kept separate from the
rest of his cattle.  When I was don, I started doing other tasks Brown
wanted me to do.  I did  not get breakfast or lunch because Brown refused to
feed me.  So I quit.  Brown would not pay me for the one and a half days I
worked nor would he take me back to Cheyenne.  I walked 15 miles on dirt
roads to the Interstate and another 15 miles before I got a ride back to
	When I finally got back to the shelter, I found out that Brown had done
this to several other homeless men.  The director of the shelter warned
several men the day I took the job, but I did not hear the warning.  Now I
wished I had because I wouldn't have taken the job.
	I told you this story to show how desperate I've become to get myself
settled with a job and home -- and I was used.
	Now there are a lot of people out there who do really try to help, about
80%, but the other 20% try to take advantage of a homeless person's
situation, such as what happened to me, or they will pay $5.00 an hour
instead of $8.00.  They think all we want is drinking or drug money -- that
we shouldn't expect anything better.  I know this is sad, but true.
	The following is my point of view of the problems of the homeless and
possible solutions:
	As I traveled this country, hoping the next town would be my last and I
would succeed in having a job and home, I've found these problems:
	First, If I took a full time job, how would I survive until I got a paycheck?
	Second, If I worked through a temporary service, I could get a motel room,
but how could I get a permanent job?  Because if I took a real job, I would
lose the roof over my head -- how would I survive until I got a paycheck?
	In my travels, I've seen some places that had a program where you could
stay until you saved enough to afford to get your own place.  These can be
good but are few and far between.  My problem with these programs is very
simple.  They are too strict.  It makes me feel like I'm either a child or
in a jail because most are run like an institution.
	I would offer this solution:  "why not take some of these old buildings or
houses and set them up as apartments or rooming house.  Rent them to the
homeless for $25 or $50 a week with the following rules:
	1.  Must have a full time job
	2.  Can only live there for up to 90 days.  This should be enough time for
a person to save enough money to be able to rent an apartment.
`	3. No alcohol or drugs on premises
	4.  First week's rent free or reimbursed when paid.
	There would still be some aid need, like food donations.
	What this would do is:
	1.  Give us the homeless, back our self respect
	2.  Make us feel more self-confident because we are paying and not taking a
hand out
	3.  It might help us be more self reliant
	As I've found by being homeless, we need a hand up, not a hand out.  Our
economy is booming.  There are jobs out there.  We want to work!  We are not
lazy!  I speak for at least 65% of the homeless who are carpenters (this is
my trade), electricians, painters, plumbers, etc.  The list goes on.  Don't
worry how we became homeless.   Think more of what can be done to help.  Our
main problem is how to survive until we get a paycheck.
	We, the homeless, can and will work.


Time and time
I sit and cry
Ask the Lord, but only why
Days will come and days will go
Only He and I shall ever know

Wyoming Coalition for the Homeless
P. O. Box 1232
Cheyenne, WY 82003-1232
(located in the Needs building at
910 Central Avenue, Upstairs)
Phone:  307-634-8499
web page:
WCH is an advocacy and empowerment program
offering voice to the homeless through the arts,
legislatvie action, homeless speaker's bureau,
and self advocates.

Thinking of buying a book?  Go to our web page and click on
the logo -- when you purchase a book this was we get a % -- so
you donate to us without costing yourself any more than you were going to
spend anyway!!!!!