By: Farhin Lilywala
Homeless people should stop being lazy and get themselves jobs.
Homeless people don’t have anything to eat.
Homeless people don’t do much.
That’s according to some of the people in the Hollywood, Fla. community. Over Labor Day weekend, I attended a program called Will Write for Food in which 20 other journalists and I ran the homeless newspaper for 36 hours.
Getting pizza at midnight. Meeting deadlines at two-thirty in the morning. Drinking unprecedented amounts of water to keep hydrated, yet craving a coffee IV. That’s how my weekend was. Actually, that’s how those 36 hours were. Yet, they were influential hours that have left a lasting impact on me.
Simply sitting in a room with fellow college students that are able to articulate their futures in journalism is an overwhelming feeling. Then, walking next to those same journalists into a small makeshift cafeteria filled with homeless people is another feeling in itself.
As soon as we walked in, the stench of cigarette smoke hit us. Then, we made a sharp left and found ourselves in a little cafeteria, much smaller than many of us have known even in elementary school. Our advisers and program directors told us to mingle, to sit and eat dinner with a homeless person from the shelter.
So, I stood in line for a good fifteen minutes, patiently waiting my turn for food. When I got to the front of the line, I saw not only volunteers but also shelter residents willingly and happily serving me food. It brought a smile to my face, thinking I had already seen something new to me.
After I got my food, I looked around the room, but there were no seats available. I scanned the room, looking for a conversation to join or a person to talk to. Finally, I found a woman who was sitting by herself in a chair, a little bit removed from everyone. I walked up to her and kneeled next to her. She offered me her chair, but I politely declined.
She talked to me about her family-her daughter and her granddaughters. She talked to me about how she came to the shelter-she was waiting for her apartment to be ready. I’m still not sure whether I believe everything she told me. Nonetheless, she talked to me. She even talked to me about her childhood and going to church as a child. When I saw her, she didn’t look like the stereotypical homeless person, and yet there she was with her blue eyeglasses strap, sitting and smiling at everyone.
I realized that there can be a homeless person sitting about twenty feet away from me, and I still won’t know. It’s heart wrenching to think that a person’s life can change so dramatically within a matter of days and yet many members of the community blame the homeless people themselves.
This experience was an eye-opening one, at the very least. I endeavor to share this new knowledge with communities in hopes that people can develop their own informed opinions.