Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tell Them Who I Am

Homeless at Home
March 7

CatherineGrison you tweeted yesterday about "TRUST" 
and that prompted me to repost this essay about #invisiblepeople!

Thank you for seeing me.  I am almost visible! @almostvisible

In addition to copies of my medical and financial records, I bring Michael Elliot's book, Why the Homeless Don't Have Homes and What to Do About It.

I skim the list of references and I see names I recognize: Jonathan Kozol; Faulkner; Foucault, and I know I am in good company.

I begin my second journey to the Multipurpose Center #54 on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens; I try to prepare myself for the four-to-six hour wait that inevitably lies ahead of me.

It is my hope that buried deep within these pages and Elliot’s years of experience and wisdom, I will find some solution to my problem.

After my first few days in New York City, I quickly learn that the homeless cannot vote nor can we obtain a library card. Knowledge is power. Information challenges the status quo. Books are my friends.

When I browse through Barnes & Noble, I often see titles that catch my eye; and though I know nothing of the content, I am inherently drawn to Night is Dark and I am Far From Home by Kozol, and Tell Them Who I Am by Elliot Liebow.

Today is March 26, 2001; My first journey to Multipurpose Center #54 was January 26, 2001: exactly 2 months ago; After many calls to NYC No-Heat Hotline to complain about the situation, I still have no heat. I have no electricity and no water. My caseworker did not tell me she would be leaving her position with Protective Services for Adults (PSA) and I have not been contacted by any with Health and Human Resources (HRA) since March 5, 2001.

On March 7, 2001, I drove my beat-up 1994 Honda Civic over to the emergency room at NYU. By the time I arrived at East 23rd pulled over and asked two officers in the 3rd precinct to please take my car and help me find my way to the ER since my panic was overwhelming and I had lost touch with my senses and felt I was a danger on the roads; I had now lost my sense of direction both in concrete terms and in the abstract vision I had painted of my life.

Officer Collins and her partner, Officer Gavin did not laugh at me; they did not tell me I was crazy or delusional. They let me catch my breath and miraculously managed to calm my fears and prepare me for the short trip in the ambulance to the ER. Officer Gavin's wife has four cats. Officer Collins was off duty, yet she stayed with me.

In the ER for what seemed like several hours. True to their word, they miraculously got my car out to Long Island where it was placed in a garage safe from the NYC Department of Finance.

I hate cops. Always have. Ever since I found out my Daddy was a Fed. But they were an exception to the rule. There is always an exception to the rule.

"Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."  ~Chinese proverb

Yesterday I was grateful for the sunny weather and a place to stay. Today it is snowing. Tomorrow I must return to Multipurpose Center #54 to file another application for Public Assistance.

The weather may be nice or it may be cold, but night is coming and I am far from home. And I beg of you, tell them my name.

Tell them I have a name. And last but not least, tell them who I am.

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