Thursday, November 09, 2006

Creative survival

I saw him again earlier this week.

The slight, muscular man with a sharply lined face peddled his old bicycle down the street a block from my house. What was different this time was the old, creatively modified golf cart that he had attached to his bike allowing him to haul a huge plastic bag of aluminum cans he had collected from the street.

The determination on his face impressed me as he transported his treasure to the recycle drop off center where he would cash in what he had amassed.

I remember a conversation I had with this gentleman about this time a couple of years ago. I stopped him on the street and invited him to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with us.

"I don't take handouts," he informed me.

I tried to explain that there was no handout involved, just a community meal.

He would hear nothing of it, continuing to insist that he took care of himself and needed no assistance, thank you very much.

As I watched him ride away, I wondered what it would take to provide this gentleman a better opportunity.

His problem is not that he doesn't want to work. It could be that he has limited skills, or he may be dealing with mental illness or addiction (though I doubt the latter), or he may have a criminal record that blocks his full employment.

I don't know.

What I do know is this, we should be doing better by him and with him for our own sakes.

But our system in Texas and Dallas is so limited, so under-developed, so broken, random and thoughtless.

There should be a way, a port for this guy to dock into, not for a handout, but for a chance to move forward.

He is surviving, and better than most, thanks to his creativity and persistence. I wish him well.

I just think he deserves more.


Anonymous said...

He deserves more -- but if he is unwilling or uninterested in help, what can be done?

I assume his attitude on handouts places him in the minority of not only homeless people, but people overall. But what could be done for someone like him?

Larry James said...

Anonymous, thanks for the post. My point is simply that there are almost no places in reach of this man that would allow him to gain more traction than he can create in his current "business." He had no housing--Dallas has less than 300 units of SRO housing that a man like this could even consider affording. There are few employment training options for a man with no home. It goes on and on. The point is not the man. The point is the limited number of options open to him. We find it easy to blame the man, while living in a community that offers almost nothing to him or his circumstance.

Justin said...

Could he work on staff at CDM?

Larry James said...

Justin, thanks for the question. Yes, he could. We have employed a number of persons like him. We currently have no positions open, but he could work for us if we did. We have hired homeless persons and helped them get housing. We will do so going forward, but we don't have the capacity to employ all who need it.

Anonymous said...

Looks like your question backfired, Justin... Seriously, is Larry responsible for solving everything, or can we tackle this as a community issue. Sounds like we're putting "personal responsibility" of the poor as Larry's "personal responsibility" rather than truly giving it a community response. Community doesn't just mean the government -- it means all of us! Attacking people won't get it done.

Justin said...

I don't know what you mean "backfired" I just wanted to know if CDM hired on people like that. I assumed they did, but I was just wondering. One of the groups I support in Memphis, HOPEWORKS, helps with people learn job skills, and get placement at businesses owned by Christians. I think organizations like that are doing a great job. These people need help, but they don't just need a handout (just need, not don't need) they need help out of their situation.