Street Sense is a community paper that has been changing the story of homeless people in the Washington DC since 2003. They offer people on the street economic opportunities and an outlet that encourages debate on poverty and injustice; it also helps to develop their writing and communication skills, and to gain a sense of pride and self-respect. As a result, nearly all vendors report an improvement in their lives and it helps them to re-establish some sort of family structure.
After a quick chat, I bought a paper and shook Mr. Foster’s hand, the homeless man, and we left.
In the car my daughter Daniela commented “It’s crazy how people treat homeless… you never know when you or someone that you know will be in a similar situation.”
Wow, what a strong statement!
To believe that not everyone could be homeless requires a belief that things just work out exactly as they should. It’s not hard to imagine that things can go south for someone over the course of tough events in one’s life that can easily lead one to be homeless.
While writing this blog, a friend mentioned that during law school he volunteered at a homeless shelter… “Some of the people that use to come there clearly had some mental issues, yet the majority of them, were people that had bad luck, that were passing through hard times and were looking for a way to begin again…”
These people had gotten beaten up and were looking for a way out!
As a young entrepreneur, my first business venture folded as my life did as well. I did not have any money to pay for school, rent or food. So, I was evicted, left alone in the street with not one penny in my pocket and hungry.
Now, what kept me going? Pride.
It would have been very easy to pick up the phone and call my father, “Padre, I am done, please send me money to go back to Ecuador.” My Pride, would not allow me to accept defeat or a call for help, even though many times I was ready to give up.
A good friend allowed me to sleep on the floor at his studio; another let me use his school cafeteria card so I could have something to eat. On top of that, I had to roller blade everywhere because I couldn’t even afford a bus ride.
I was completely broke but I never lost hope. I kept my posture and my smile. I would speak in a loud confident voice, always dressed in clean and ironed clothing. I would talk about my ideas and did not show defeat. Slowly I got back on my feet and began building my business…
While I was building my business, I met many homeless who ended up working for me and becoming my friends. I tried to take some of them out of the streets but I never succeeded. They had already given up on life, accepted defeat and lost their dignity.
Street Sense, the newspaper, is fighting for people to maintain their self-respect, their dignity; instead of begging for money, they are working, they are earning it. The newspaper is providing them with the opportunity to keep their head up.
Daniela’s thought is so true, people do not see themselves ever in that situation, they see themselves as better people; they look down at homeless not understanding that it is so easy to follow that path and that the majority of the street-people are just looking for a crack in the door, an opportunity to begin again!
They are looking for a smile, a straight-look in the eye that conveys support, “you can do it!” They are human beings fighting to keep their own dignity.
“The most important thing that you have is your pride and nobody can take it away from you!” – Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld