Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Heroes: Chicagoans

Have you missed me?  I've missed all of you!  Things have been a little nutty around here and to keep my head from spinning and turning into Medusa I've been really concentrating on getting some things off my plate.  But now....I'm back and what a way to come back....

Now, let me preface this all by saying that I've worked for and on behalf of the homeless for almost 20 years.  I've served meals, helped to raise money and awareness. Through this I've learned a lot about the homeless.  For instance, I know that many, if not a majority of homeless (including teenage runaway), choose to be homeless. Sounds weird, right, but it's not.  It makes sense...to them.  These people don't want to, or can't, handle the responsibilities of life. They don't want a job or pay rent, etc.  Then there are others who are mentally ill.  No one is looking for them because they don't know who they are let alone where they are.  Then there are those who simply fall on hard times and use every resource available to them to get back on their feet. The one thing almost all of them have in common is panhandling.  It's just that each group has a different approach.

In Chicago, there are even food voucher programs by where one can buy vouchers and give them to someone in need who can in turn use them to purchase food. This is just one of many ways that people are helping each day.  One organization, I'm on the board of directors of, seeks out those in true need on the streets, providing housing, food, clothing, psychological help, medications, living assistance and much more.  So, with that said I am a compassionate and understanding person when it comes to the homeless, but I also know that taxpayers provide services to help these people get back up on their feet.  If they want it, they can get help. I will not give money to the homeless, but if said man below approached me outside the restaurant, I would have bought a bagel for him....I am not completely heartless....

This morning after a coffee meeting I sat down at the bus stop to check CTA Bustracker on my phone (brilliant by the way!  Tells you how long before your bus arrives) when a man walks up to me:

Man: Excuse me, can you help me out?
E: No, I'm sorry, sir, I can't help you.
Homeless Man: Look, I'm homeless and just woke up in the alley.  I'm hungry
E: (Yes, you smell like you just woke up in the alley) Well, I can't help you but there are plenty of places you can go for help.  You can flag down any police officer and they have to take you to a place where you can get food and shelter.
Homeless Smelly Man: PO-LICE! Don't you go talkin' to me about no PO-LICE!  All I want is some damn money to get something to eat!
E: (I stand up and begin to step out of the bus shelter) Sir, I'm sorry I can't help you.  I work with and know of several organizations that can help you get what you need.  I only mention the police because they are required, when asked, to take you to a shelter.
Angry Smelly Homeless Man:  (approaching me) Just give me some DAMN money so I can get something to eat!  I'm homeless and hungry.
E: (Walking backwards towards the building, people are now walking by me...mostly men and as I look at them for help)
ASHMan:  (approaching me again, rambling) Don't be talkin' to me about no PO-LICE.  I did time in a penitentiary and I don't want to see no police ever again.  Do you know what it's like there?  I ain't goin' back!
E: (Great, the penitentiary.  I'm going to die and none of these fuckers walking by me, seeing me retreating from this man yelling in my face are doing a damn thing about it.  Here I am on a busy street corner, fuckers walking by like nothing is happening, fuckers sitting RIGHT THERE waiting for the light to change not doing a thing and I'm going to die and Angry Smelly Homeless Man is going to run off with my free refill of Panera coffee - half-caff, of course)
ASHMan: (approaching me still) I just woke up in the fucking alley, do you understand? And I'm hungry just give me some money to eat something. 
E: (I really wanted to yell at the man, but didn't want to increase the odds that he would kill me right there and then...AND trying to make an effort to get some fucker walking past me to intervene...) Sir, I'm sorry I can't help you.  I told you that there are people who can help you.  You're making me extremely uncomfortable (my back now pressed up against the building and people walking in between us on the sidewalk - HELLO!  DOES ANYONE FUCKING CARE THAT I WILL BE KILLED?)
ASHMan: I'm making YOU uncomfortable?  Just give me some damn money and I'll go away.
E: Seriously, sir, you're making me very uncomfortable and I will not help you.

ASHM finally walks off to bother other people down the street and I am left, back against a wall with fucking Chicagoans who won't do a damn thing walking by me.  I am completely jolted, stunned and unsteady.  Seriously?  Not ONE person, not ONE man could or would stop to help a woman from being pestered by a a clearly unstable angry homeless man?  I will tell you this one thing: this would not happen in Kansas or back home in the Southern Plains states.  No way, no how would ANY man allow a woman to be put in such a situation without coming to her rescue.

Chicago has certainly changed over the years.  Where once it was the "BIG" city that Midwesterners flocked too, it's now a true melting pot of people who only flocked here after gentrification, after it became so pretty and nice.  Clearly none of them are from the Midwest and none give a rat's ass about anyone but themselves, and that breaks my heart.  Chicago is no longer a Midwestern city.  It has gone the way of other booming metropolises.  I'm so disappointed.  I love my city, but the people....I wonder, if this man had attacked me if anyone would have done a damn thing about it.

And so this is the first step in the slow process of breaking up with the city of Chicago; the best relationship I've ever had.  She was always new, exciting, passionate, sexy, and there when I needed her, but now things have changed.  I've changed.  I need more.



middle child said...

I was born in Chicago and we moved to the suburbs when I was 4. I am soooo not a Chicago person. Hate Chicago though the lights are beautiful at night. Too many people being shot. Children. Innocent children. Good luck.

Canadianbloggergirl said...

Wow that is a scary situation, especially that no one came to help you out! When I lived in NYC, homeless people would approach me for a smoke, I would say yes, and hand them one....no scene, but a police officer came up to me and said, you must not be from here, cause if you give to one, there are 15 around the corner waiting to ask you also. I told him to mind his own business, but he was prolly just looking out for me. Gotta love the city, but sometimes it can be disappointing too!

Epiphany said...

Canadian - you're so right. You have to draw a line.

MC - I really do love, love this city and I've had a few small crimes committed against me, but nothing major. However, lately, I've been feeling more and more unsafe..in broad daylight.....

Crazy Shenanigans said...

Wow! First of all I can't believe that guy! I mean I get that's he's homeless and is in a rough position in life but that doesn't give him the right to DEMAND money from you. Once you said no he should have stopped. I can't believe the people around didn't come to your defense! How rude!

Anonymous said...

Hi: I hope the blog is working for you. I was actually thinking of starting a blog with this same intention and naming it exactly the one you named it...but when I searched google, it was already taken...Bummer for me but I hope you are finding yourself. I am back to the drawing board.

Epiphany said...

Ethel - well, great minds think alike! Hope you will follow and let me know when you're blog is up. I'm always happy to help brainstorm. xo

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