A few days ago I received an email from Karen Shafer, a woman who lives in suburban Dallas.
Over the past many months Ms. Shafer has developed a keen interest in the homeless population of Dallas. Beyond simple interest, she has made friends among the men, women and families who live on the streets of our city, making regular trips into their world.
Most recently, she has been instrumental in arranging for mayoral and city council candidates to join her on "night tours" of our streets to meet and to hear from this special part of our community.
But, back to her email message. She was forwarding to me an email she had received from a homeless woman, Tami. I thought it worth publishing. While my posting is not intended as an endorsement of all that she says, it is an honest effort to allow her to be heard, as she requests.
Here's what Tami said in response (slightly edited) to Ms. Shafer's question, "What do you need?"
Dear Ms. Shafer,
hi, it's me, Tami. we talked this past weekend about what the homeless
need/want. well here's what i would like to see happen for the homeless.
first, what we talked about, the city has five million dollars for the
homeless, and they are wasting it. they need to take that money, buy
up a lot of these empty houses and give them to the homeless.
Secondly, all these people that have all the power, the mayor, the
security guards, . . . need to stop treating us like trash. all we are to them is a reason to get up in the morning and get paid.
Thirdly, the rule of two sessions a day on the computers at the library should be changed. the homeless don't have anywhere to go all day (the ones that don't work) and if we aren't hurting anything by using the computers then we should get as many sessions as we want. Lets face it, the homeless make up the business at the library. The rich people don't hardly need to come to the library because they have personal computers at their homes.
back to the second item, we want to be heard, we all have voices and needs and no one is asking us what those needs are. i know that most of the homeless have given up, they go to work and then they smoke and or drink up their paychecks, but the rest of us just want to be heard, we want to belong.
the only reason i'm homeless is because i was a victim of the government. i was on hud in abilene, i had an apartment for almost a year. HUD send the landlords/owners of those apartments a small list of things that needed to be fixed, but the landlords/owners refused to fix what HUD told them to so they kicked me out of the apartment. i was going to move back to Plan, (where i grew up), but my husband and i ran out of money and we got stuck here.
I have never been treated so badly in my whole life as the way i've been treated here. anyway, that's what's going on on the streets. the homeless are being treated very, very badly and the points i outlined above need to addressed.
thank you for letting me tell you what's been going on. and i hope you can help. we are people, not animals, and not trash.
You may not agree completely with Tami's assessment of things on the streets of Dallas, but her opinion, based on her daily experience, should not be dismissed lightly.
Listening to one another is the first step to solving our problems. Dallas is a city accustomed to seeking out and paying attention to "expert opinion." Given that cherished community value, being willing and even eager to hear the homeless talk about homelessness seems like a no-brainer to me.
Community development 101: to solve a vexing community problem, consult the people who know most about the problem.
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