Houseless Veteran: The Voices in Poverty Resist Series!

Tiny - Posted on 20 November 2012

Joseph Thomas

November 20th, 2012

To be homeless is a state of mind and physical being to endure the greatest violation of all human rights. Sleeping on pavements, doorways and benches are all violations of city ordinances, yet this is all that is left to you and me. To be homeless is to be a pawn for greed, as corporations gentrify whole communities from the houses of our extended community, near and far. City politicians, police, and
businesses have all written a ticket to pursue and to grasp power off the backs of the poor and homeless: we, the Black and Brown. Everyone deserves a roof, a pot to pee in, and a bed to sleep in. The city and state's answer is incarceration: labor for the state in exchange for tenancy through tax dollars. By now, everyone knows that like anything
else homelessness is a business constructed for the rich.

Living in the streets, I know that resources don't exist because 52% of our budget goes to those who incarcerate and violate us to no end. I know that missions do not house, and transitional housing means a temporary stay and a return to the streets. Because of who I am there is no employment, and they humiliate us in their justifiable way of
issuing us $221.00 per month for 6 months: "a solution to all our problems." Because of city, county, and state we now have insurmountable health issues. We have no nutrients, clothing, and in other cases no care for the children. Through homelessness we now have become soldiers on the war on poverty.

Service procedures, mentors, stats and so-called self-help programs do not at any time challenge the prevalence of homelessness. I am homeless, so I can say how to provide for those who currently find no alternative but to sleep in our parks and streets.

Increasing inequality is a driving force for homelessness. In
California the disconnected seek and need aide. Deteriorating incomes coupled with rapidly rising rent forces low income families into the streets!

Question: What do people of color have? Do we have more opportunities for housing, education, employment, finance, scholarship, or even respect from what you say your programs offer? Your programs do not give us hope but only despair. One of your peers just one week ago said that the poor can handle themselves because they will always have
a safety net! Is this what you think of me? You who represent the state, the nation, are blowing smoke because the structure that you and this nation planted never intended us to survive in the first place.

Years ago a life in the struggle was the draft and a ticket to
Vietnam. Now I come to realize from where we sit or stand, that was just a futuristic preface of things to come as we live lives of homelessness right now. So in conclusion, our so-called city writes our ticket, but we choose or destiny. Which is it? Homes not jails—or "not," to say the least! Stand up and fight! And city and greed get back!

The Vietnam War and Civil Rights
I was an orphaned Negro baby boy.

I was at SNCC. We went to Alabama, we were being shot by police.

All we were trying to ensure is that every Black man and woman were allowed to vote. One year I worked with Alan Clayton Powell. I was with King in Detroit – all the injustice and pain and killing. Police picking up Blacks who were 18. When I got sick it was due to first encounter with Po’Lice. They put me in a choke hold – at the time I didn’t know my rights so I let it go. Later on I got lick cause of the trauma to my nervous system due to the choke-hold. My recourse of suing was gone. An operation put me back. I ended up homeless, doing more drugs. When I got arrested last time they threatened me. Two years in prison VA. If you don’t know your civil rights this is what happened.

1967-73 we were in Vietnam. I came out with a fresh new attitude about racism in the military – they watch you get slaughtered. In a padded room in Hanoi shooting up Black folks with drugs to see how much we could take. _____ started this – You go and do 5 years in prison, addicted to opium. $700 a day. Let you out. Took you 11 years to get back to yourself – couldn’t go outside, couldn’t see people, couldn’t be in a group of people, got no money or support.

I was a radio man. I’m 62 years old and I’m homeless. I’ve been homeless for 42 years. I've been surviving on social security and underground economic strategies.

I have been through 4½-5 generations.I have learned one thing – everybody’s unity, especially people of color unity is the key. Power is in numbers. To everything we have unity all around.

This story was written by Joseph, a poverty skolar from the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), for the Voices of Poverty Resist series. This series was launched out of a fellowship that Lisa received from the Marguerite Casey Foundation for journalism focused on poverty. Because Lisa leads with her indigenous values of inter-dependence she has created this collective journalism process where all of our voices in poverty are speaking for ourselves.


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