Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Rent’ Category

This Sunday is the 10th of October.  Inspired by the Year of Giving, a guy named Howard Wu created an event, Give a Stranger 10 Bucks Day.  Howard thought that the perfect day to do this would be October 10th since it is 10/10/10.  Why not join me and Howard and give $10 away this Sunday.  Click here to go to Howard’s event page.  Like the Worldwide Day of Giving, I encourage you to leave comments here or on the Facebook page about your experience.  Good luck!

Ernest has been out of work for nearly five years. (photo: Reed)

On Day 280 I saw Ernest holding a sign on the side of a very busy intersection in Virginia.  Born in Alexandria, VA, this 51-year-old used to work for the Alexandria School Board, but he has been unemployed for the past five years.  He now lives in motels.

“I started panhandling about a month and a half ago,” Ernest tells me.  “I was working on and off for a moving truck company.”  Now he stands on the corner of Lee Highway and Fairfax Road holding a sign that says, “I am homeless.  Does it hurt to give to someone in need.  Please help me if you can?  God bless.”

He says that on a good day he brings in about $90.

Now divorced, Ernest has a 30 year-old-son, two grandkids and three stepchildren.  “I try not to be a burden to any of my kids.”  He says that some people he knows don’t know that he is homeless, but admits that “the truth will set you free.”

“I’m not learning too much out here,” he confesses as a pick-up truck whizzes by him pushing him up against the guard rail.  “You get all kinds of people out here.”  A lot of people show him compassion and offer him some help, but others taunt him.  “You know some guys say stuff like, ‘Hey man you look healthy…get a job!’  I’m like, at least give me a smile or a wave or something.”

He says that it is really hard for him right now.  “I would much rather have a job.”  He would like to find work as a handyman, custodian or maintenance man.   

Although he says he is not learning much, I did find one thing he has learned.  He figured out where the best corner to stand was.  “I used to stand across the street and a few other places, but this has the most traffic,” he explains.  I was shocked that he chose the spot he did because there was only about 18 inches between him and the passing cars.  I jumped over on the other side of the guard rail while I spoke with him because I didn’t feel safe standing where he was.  

Ernest put the $10 I gave him toward the cost of his room that night.

Ernest used the $10 to pay for a motel room that night. (photo: Reed)

Before leaving, we swapped telephone numbers in case someone reading this would like to contact Ernest about a job.  I learned that in Arlington County if you fall below a certain economic indicator the county supplies you with a cell phone and a basic minutes plan.  This gives homeless individuals like Ernest a way for family, friends and potential employers to locate them.  Awesome!

Read Full Post »

I invited Bob to a coffee at a nearby coffee shop so Bob could sit down and rest his back. (photo: Reed)

I originally walked right by Bob who was holding himself up by leaning against a pole and supporting the rest of his weight with a walker at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and R Street.  I crossed the street but couldn’t stop thinking about what his story was.  I turned around and went back and placed ten dollars in his hand.

“I’ve got a bad lower back which is inoperable,” Bob shared.  “I fell down a flight of stairs in 1977…each year it gets worse.”  There was something special about Bob, I don’t know if I knew exactly what it was immediately but I did perceive something really unique.  I have to admit that when I first walked by him I assumed that he was panhandling to get some money to buy booze.  But I would soon find out that he has been sober for nearly 25 years.

Part of me doesn’t want to write anymore and just tell you to watch the video I shot of him.  It’s one of the most moving videos I have shot of any of the people that I have met.  Bob opens up to me about being adopted, an upbringing void of love, 30 years of addiction to alcohol and a slew of drugs, family hardships and 20 nervous breakdowns.  His vulnerability and genuine candor will touch you.  I have watched this video probably a dozen times and forced my dad to watch it this weekend.  He too was in awe.

Bob tells me that he has good days and bad days.  Sometimes he spends weeks at a time in a depressed state.  I definitely caught Bob on a good day.  No less than six people stopped by, I kid you not, and said hello to Bob while we chatted.  Two or three of them made a specific comment about how happy he looked.  I’d like to think I was a part of that, but he might just have been having a good day.  If you were curious how many people stopped to say hello to the guy who gives away $10 every day…that number would be zero!

Ruth is Bob's birth mother. Ann was the mother who raised him. Bob would like to know what happened to his birth mother Ruth Lucas (photo: Reed)

He goes into a lot of detail about drug induced binges he embarked on in the 60s and 70s.  “I just wanted to drink, shoot dope and have a little sex occasionally,” he told one psychologist in the early days of his recovery attempts.  After dozens of failed attempts at sobriety he finally succeeded with the help of others and will be celebrating 24 years of sobriety on October 16th of this year.  I asked him if I could see him on that day and he said that that would probably be OK.  “So what’s the secret to finally beating the addiction,” I asked.  Bob looked down for a second and then looked up and said, “Well, you just have to do two simple things: stop drinking and change your whole fucking life!”  He managed a smile and laughed softly despite him realizing the bitter and all too familiar truth of what he had just said.
At one point a stunningly beautiful young woman stopped by and said hello to Bob.  “Are you going to play piano tonight?” she asked referring to an open mic session at an outreach ministry based coffee-house.  She had hoped that maybe he would play some music that she was going to bring but Bob said he didn’t feel comfortable doing that.  “I just know a few notes,” he humbly offered.  “I was hoping to play a song tonight that I wrote.  It’s a love song I wrote to my daughter.  I love her so much.”  He went on to tell me more about his daughter and it was so clear how much he loves and cares for her.  He lives in the basement of her house but their relationship is clearly strained.  He says that she has an alcohol addiction.  “There is always hope, look at me.  It took me 30 years though.”

I spent almost two hours with Bob.  I learned so much and every topic we spoke about he had something interesting to contribute.  I am so impressed with his overall attitude toward life.  “Desire nothing and you will have everything,” he says referencing the teachings of St. John of the Cross.  “Buddha said something similar, ‘Human desires are the cause of all human sufferings.’”

I caught a rare smile. Bob will use my $10 to help pay his rent. (photo: Reed)

I hope that you took the time to watch the video above.  It’s worth it and if you know anyone who is struggling with an addiction or even well into recovery I think they will find it very insightful.  One thing he says about recovery at the end of the video clip that I think is priceless is, “It takes time and a lot of alcoholics don’t want to wait.  It takes time, it’s a process, recovery is a process.  They want what they want when they want it.  They want it right now. They want 15 years of recovery in a month.  It doesn’t work that way.  You got to be patient.”

As we said goodbye he left me with a single thought.  “Tell someone today that you love them.”  Invaluable advice.

Read Full Post »

Version en espanol va ser publicado al final de jueves.

On Friday Roberto and I decided to have a few beers at a local convenience store that has a TV, two billiard tables, and a few tables where locals can sit and relax.

After our second beer some neighborhood kids asked if we wanted to play some street soccer.  We agreed.

Not only am I terrible at soccer, I was completely out of breath running back and forth on the gravel road that was our “field.”  We are at about 7,000 feet which is about 6,990 feet higher than Washington, DC.  That on top of the 24 ounces of beer sloshing around my stomach had me completely incapacitated.  Thankfully Roberto played well and scored two or three goals for us while I rambled around wheezing.

The next morning was Saturday and Roberto took me down the mountain to show me his plantation.  He grows coffee, bananas, guavas, etc. and has pigs, chickens, turtles, dogs…you name it.   Here is a short video in English about life on the plantation.

Later that day he took me to his mother’s house where the entire family met for a long lunch filled with conversation about the following day’s presidential election.  Most people in the household were supporting Antanas Mockus, however he ended up coming in second place with less than half of the votes of Juan Manual Santos.  Nevertheless, there will be a run-off election between the two candidates on June 20th.

We spent a few hours relaxing at their house after completely gorging ourselves with homemade soup, rice, beans, chicken, fried plantains and crunchy coconut clusters for dessert.

That evening we stopped at a small food stand in front of a residential building in the Francia neighborhood where Rubiela stood stoking the charcoal fire.  There was only one thing on the menu: arepas.

Grilled arepas (photo: Reed)

Arepa is a flat bread made of corn that is very popular in Colombia, Venezuela, and even parts of Panama and Spain’s Canary Islands.  Picture a pancake-like bread…or maybe a really thick corn tortilla. 

Rubiela takes ground corn and mixes it with water, salt, and butter to make the dough.  She then takes the dough, cooks it on the grill, and serves it with a thick tomato and onion stew (guiso) or cheese or both.  Every day she makes at least 3 kilos of arepas which yields about 66 pieces of bread.

I found that there are several varieties of arepas and that they are consumed just about any time of day. 

Rubiela and her son Cristian (photo: Reed)

Rubiela, a single mom, has been firing up the grill in front of her home for seven years.  This is the way she provides for her and her 12-year-old son Victor Manuel.  “There was nothing else to do so I started selling arepas,” she tells me referencing the economic struggles in Manizales.  She says that it is even hard to find a job as a maid, much less an office related job with benefits.  Ideally she would like to work in an office environment where she could help with receiving guests, serving coffee, and other small tasks.  

Her laugh is contagious and fills the air with joy.  I try not to let it completely hide the fact that I know that she dreams for something different.  She is thankful though for her and her son’s health.  “There are good days and bad days, but we never go hungry,” she tells me.  

Roberto and I left to run some errands and agreed to come back later that evening.  When we returned hours later, the sun had set, her son had retired into their home, but Rubiela was still tending the fire and cooking arepas.  Her hearty laughter had subsided and she was noticeably tired.

We both got two arepas.  I got mine topped with the tomato and onion guiso.  Roberto got his with guiso and cheese.  Each arepa with guiso was $0.40.  If you wanted cheese on top, add another $0.60.  Pretty cheap.  They were delicious.  We ate, laughed, and talked politics…hard to avoid with the election the following day.  She was voting for Juan Manuel Santos, the candidate from the incumbent U Party.  

Rubiela said she was going to hold on to my money and put it toward the rent that is due on June 4th.

Here is a short video of my time with Rubiela, part of it is in English part in Spanish.

Read Full Post »

Day 96 – Robin C.

My dad leaving Cally's (Photo: Reed)

On Saturday my father and I drove from Richlands, VA to Washington, DC.  It’s about a 7 hour drive.  Along the way we stopped in Harrisonburg, VA.  It has a small picturesque downtown.  On the west side of the main square there is a restaurant called Cally’s.  We stopped in to eat.

I decided to give my $10 to Robin, she was our waitress there.

Robin is 21 and studies Cultural Communications at nearby James Madison University.  As she prepares to leave the security of the university setting in May she ponders where she will go.  I was interested in her perspective on the economy and the job landscape from the eyes of a graduating college senior.

Robin at Cally's (Photo: Reed)

“I am not really worried about landing the perfect job right now.  I hope to move to the beach…maybe Florida…and take a bit of a break for a while and get a job…not necessarily something in my field of study, but just something to pay the bills for a while.”  I asked her if she thought her feelings were representative of the perspective that her classmates had.  “Probably not, some of my friends are really worried.” 

Robin deserves a break after four years of studies while often working two part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Cally's beer sampler (Photo: Reed)

Cally’s as it turns out is a brew pub…so my father and I decided to get a sampler of their beers.  They give you six small tastes which my dad and I split.  Robin said she liked the Downtown Amber.  I really liked the pungent Smokin’ Scottish Ale while my dad preferred the smooth velvety Kolsch.  

The Fredericksburg, VA native said she would use my $10 to put toward her final months of rent.  

After four years at JMU, I asked Robin to reflect a little on her time there.  I asked her what the best part of being a JMU student was.  She shot us a smile and said, “Leaving!”

Good luck on your graduation Robin!

Read Full Post »

I was trying out a new spot called Social.   It’s on 14th Street just north of the Columbia Heights Metro.   I just was having drinks, but the food looked fantastic.  They do several portion sizes as well so that you can share plates easily.  Very cool place…worth checking out.

It was there that I met Jim and Jacqie, a young New Jersey couple transplanted to Silver Spring.  Jim is a video editor.  Jacqie teaches art at a local school.  They are getting married this summer.  I mostly spoke with Jim.

He is a pretty interesting guy.  Frankly I think we are lucky to have Jim with us today.  He told me about some rough times in the past that he had with drug use.  Today he says that he is drug free.  I am sure the road was not easy.

Jim is a big fan of his home state of New Jersey and the opening scene of the movie Way of the Gun…a movie that I have never seen.  It was kind of funny…I think he looked at me twice and slowly said, “Way of the Gun.”  Speaking of guns…check out this video to see Jim’s tattoo.

This is not a tattoo that you later decide you want removed!

Jim handed the money over to his fiancée.  I asked him what he was going to do with it and he said that times were a little tough right now and that he would probably just put it toward rent.

Read Full Post »

I didn’t think that the driving situation could get worse than yesterday…but I stand corrected.  Today there were way more amateur drivers venturing out into the snowy mess.  I helped dig out and push five cars.  Most of the people were not used to driving in the snow.  Sadly one of them was a taxi driver who was completely clueless about driving in the snow (in his defense, he was from East Africa).

I was surprised at how few people offered to help.  One time a maintenance man at a nearby building offered to help.  His name was Chavez…I tried to give him $10 after we got the person unstuck, but he politely refused and said the next time I saw him he would accept.  I will be looking for you Chavez!

I later found Roger, a Street Sense salesman, at the Farragut North Metro entrance.  Roger is 58 and lives in DC.  He has been living with his brother-in-law for about four months after he had some serious problems with his wife and daughter that lead to his wife changing the locks.  “That’s a bad sign” he tells me.  Yea…I would have to agree with you Roger.  Now his brother-in-law is also asking him to leave.  He is not sure where he will go after Feb 11th.

He says he will keep my $10 and add it to his savings to hopefully pay for housing/shelter.  

Roger seems very nice.  I shot a little bit of video of him that you can see here.

Want to help Roger out?  Here are a couple of things he needs:

  • A place to keep some of his things.  Preferably a place where he could have key to lock the items up.  Even a closet like space would help.
  • Free counseling. Roger has went through a very difficult time with his family.  He realizes that he needs counseling on how to deal with the situation.  I would like to try to find a therapist who would work with Roger on a pro bono basis.
  • Lastly, his computer broke and he really misses having his computer.  He actually still carries his computer case.  If anyone or any company has a working laptop that they would like to put to good use, Roger would be very appreciative. 

If you can help with any of these things, let me know and I can contact Roger.

Read Full Post »

Day 49 – Ivory W.

You may remember that zazzle.com offered to make cool business cards for me for free!!! Yep, I got them yesterday.  They look great.  I will take a picture of them and post it later this week.  Zazzle’s site is cool, you create your own designs (for all kinds of things, not just business cards) and can then post them in public libraries of content, making it available for purchase and customization by other visitors to the site.  Very cool!

On Monday I got my official authorization from the DC government to perform Ryan and Mandy’s wedding!  Finally.  On my way home, I decided to walk part of the way home.  As I walked north on 7th Street, I saw a Street Sense vendor at the North East corner of 7th and E.

Ivory displays the latest copy of Street Sense

I really like interacting with the Street Sense sales people and I try to see if I know this vendor.  Peaking out of his hooded jacket, Ivory’s eyes look out above his glasses and meet mine.  He smiles, revealing a shiny tooth with 4 diamonds on it.  I have not met Ivory (badge number 102) before and decide to give him my $10.

Ivory is a very interesting guy.  He started selling Street Sense 3 years ago on the corner of 7th and E and has grown his clientele significantly now.  His clients have helped Ivory get out of the shelter and into an apartment in Arlington that he shares with a roommate.

Ivory is an artist.  He paints his canvass with words…whether it be the spoken word or his written fictional stories that he has published.  That’s right, he has over 25 published stories and has written a book that sold 500 copies.  You can browse through old issues at the Street Sense site to find his articles or better yet, start buying the paper and look out for his next story, Galaxy Baseball. 

So what is he doing on the streets?!  I am not sure, I didn’t discover that yet.  He tells me that he is originally from Texas, where he grew up to be a rodeo bull rider.  Sounds dangerous…but so is flirting with homelessness.  Ivory takes it in stride though.  He eventually made it to DC and seems to be on the right path. 

Everyone knows Ivory.  A minute doesn’t go by while I am talking to him that somebody doesn’t greet him.  His eyes are always scanning the faces that fill the streets.  A man stops and Ivory gets excited as he tells me that he was one of the key people who got him started 3 years ago.  The man gives him a dollar.   In the following clip, Ivory talks a little bit about how he got his start at 7th and E Street.

Ivory said he was going to use the $10 to go toward rent.

For those of you in DC, go visit Ivory and help him out.  For those who are not in the area, I will try to post some more video.

As I was writing up my blog, I found a story about Ivory in the Washington Post from March 16, 2008.  It sheds a little more light on his life and the path that led him to be homeless.  There is also a write-up on Street Sense.

Ivory alerts me that it is almost 5:00pm and he needs to start paying attention to the foot traffic as the after work rush hour begins to buzz by.  He snaps into action to meet and greet his friends and customers and I am on my way.

Read Full Post »

Day 26 – Christine

On Saturday night I found myself out in Chinatown in DC with my brother and several friends.  

Fado's Irish Pub

I had not given my $10 away yet and it was getting close to midnight, so I thought I better find someone quick.  Inside Fado’s Irish Pub, I spotted Christine who was talking to some of our friends and I found myself inserted in some random conversation.  I decided to see if the 25-year-old would be open to receiving my $10.  You might laugh when I say that, but often people say that they don’t want to receive it.  They think there is some sort of catch or it is all part of some sort of scam.

Originally from Maryland, she now lives in DC where she keeps a busy schedule.  She teaches chemistry, is enrolled in a doctoral program for physical therapy, and is a massage therapist.  Her long-term goal is to work in the field of neurological rehabilitation.  If all this wasn’t enough, she somehow finds time to practice tai chi chuan.  Suddenly my mind wanders to images of an early morning park setting where a group of people perform precise movements at a painfully slow rate.  She says that tai chi helps provide for a solid base of self-defense as you learn how to put your entire body into your movements thereby creating more power.  Thankfully it turns out that she has never been put into a situation where she had to defend herself, well, except for a fight that she was in in the second grade.

I asked her how she would use the $10.  She said that she was going to put it toward her rent.  She shares an apartment and for some reason her roommate has not been paying his portion.  Although she doesn’t come right out and tell me this, it sounds like she is helping him out financially while he doesn’t have the money.  That is extremely generous of her.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 321 other followers