Shire Sharing: Success! 24 Backpacks Delivered to Homeless Folks

EXCELLENT job, guys!!! We succeeded!

Yesterday, Christmas day, we met a group of homeless people at Veteran’s Park and handed them the backpacks. Chris Emerson, the director at the Homeless Services Center, contacted people ahead of time and asked them to meet us there. We received thank-yous, handshakes, hugs, and many words of appreciation. After they opened their backpacks, many people gave positive feedback about the contents. In particular they were glad to have received the bus passes and the hand warmers. One man told me, “Other groups do this, and they never give us hand warmers!”

We talked to a lingering group of people for a while about their situations. They described the homeless shelter as being “like a prison”. They said they are not allowed to touch anyone, not even to comfort a friend. There is a strict curfew, and they are booted out the door at 5 am every day. I’m sure the privately-funded shelter does everything it can to accommodate these folks while trying to maintain peace and health, and I don’t fault them for their rules and conditions. However the people we spoke to seemed desperate to get out of the shelter and into a more normal living situation. One couple said that they are trying to find friends to crash with as soon as next week, because they can’t deal with shelter life any longer.

We asked people what led them to homelessness. One man said his wife threw him out and he’s without a job. A woman told me that she became addicted to prescription painkillers and has dealt with a series of other problems, has lost her children to DCYF, and simply can’t find a job. These were apparently normal folks like you and I, who fell on really, really tough times. I was honestly surprised to find this out. Having rarely interacted with the homeless my entire life, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was warned that many homeless people are in their situation due to severe, untreatable issues. My impression after this experience is that these people –while perhaps emotionally distressed (and within reason, being homeless), and not without a persistent personal issue of some sort — are your every-day kinda guy. A lady named Nikki that I spoke with for a while seemed intelligent and well-rounded and I’m surprised she’s had a hard time finding work, although I don’t know what her background is. She said she used to make over $40,000 a year before her life started to fall apart.

I asked the group of people who stayed to talk to us – “What needs to change in the world for you to improve your situation?” They all said, in unison – “Jobs!” They told us about how hard it’s been to find a job and what sort of roadblocks they’ve encountered. Apparently, on job applications, when one woman filled in her home address as the shelter address, the potential employer recognized it and she was rejected for the job.

I asked these people how they get money. A couple told us that they never have any money. Their food, clothes, and so forth are all donated. I asked if they’d ever tried begging. A lady said she didn’t want to try because she didn’t want to get in trouble. She did mention that she’s dealt drugs in the past, but avoids it because she has her own substance abuse issues. Possibly the most shocking thing I heard was when one woman told me she owns no underwear. Not a single pair. Today we’re going to the store to buy her a package of underwear and we’ll be bringing it to the shelter.

We tried to talk to them about liberty. Activist and volunteer Matt H. commented afterward that it seemed these people had never considered the possibility that there are solutions beyond government assistance. It’s not that they “want to live off the government dole” – it’s that no other options have ever been presented to them. When talking about the failing welfare programs, many people commented something to the effect of, “If the government would just _____ then we’d be OK!” Ironically, these people later told us that the best help they receive is from private charities and churches, and not from the government.

While we were standing there talking to these folks, someone came along and asked us for spare change. I gave him a few quarters and dimes, and then I told him about 1964 and older coins.  Our volunteers chimed in about where he can go to sell any change he collects that contains real silver, and told him how much a quarter or dime is worth these days. This is valuable information for anyone that has a lot of change!

We did have an opportunity in our conversation to talk about self-employment and, essentially, agorism. They told us a story about a friend who had a hot dog stand nearby and was put out of business because he could not pay the city fees. They agreed with our assertion that the government caused that person to lose a job, and even if the person could have afforded the fees, the hot dogs would have been more expensive for the customer as a result. We threw around some pie-in-the-sky ideas about how homeless people could engage in street vending if there weren’t any licensing laws or regulations, and subsequently go from homelessness to a normal life, just by being self-employed. A person may not have the right skills or background to earn himself a job, but anyone can run his own business! My conclusion after this experience is that it’s possible to stop the majority of Manchester homelessness simply by allowing these people to be self-employed. Nothing cold be more empowering for them, but the government stands in the way of this at every turn.

I can only describe this experience as intense. I didn’t know what to expect at all. In regard to most of the people I met, if I had met them in any other situation, I would never have suspected they were homeless. A few did appear, in my personal experience, to have significant emotional or mental problems that might possibly keep them from ever becoming employed, but I think this amounts to a very small percentage of the people we met today. Right now I’m fantasizing about how we can get these people self-employed without getting them in trouble. What do you think we can do to help?

Pictures and video coming soon! Please donate to our Chip In page and help us make the next delivery to another 24 homeless Manchies. Thanks for all you do, guys! This effort was incredibly successful!

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