The June 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Court Upholds Legal Rights of Homeless People

Hunger Rises, Food Stamps Cut

National Hunger Survey

Union Busting in El Salvador

CEO Pay Rises, Worker Pay Shrinks

CEOs Scheme to Privatize Social Security

Dee's Story: The Stigma of Being Homeless

Bush's Chronic Homeless Plan

Pepperspray and Torture

How Earth Day Was Co-opted

St. Mary's Center

Life Stories of Homeless Seniors

Hodges Jones

Jose Querdo

Jeannette Hundley

James Jermany

Ken Minor

Lynn Hoberg

Social Justice in the East Bay

100 Teachings of Gandhi

June Poetry of the Streets

Students Poetry


May 2005

February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Life Stories of Homeless Seniors

Oral History by Trena Cleland

Hodges Jones

I never did anything political until I came to St. Mary's. I've never voted in my life! But we went to represent ourselves in the action that they just had over in San Francisco, the anti-war demonstration. That was nice! That was my first time being to one of those.

I've always been a loner. When I first came here, I was sort of a stick-in-the mud. I was stuck up. St. Mary's has brought things out of me that I didn't know about. Some people say that I have opened up more since I have been here. I like that! I just started gradually, like a flower, budding out. I started blooming.

I lived in my truck. One day, I was taking a load of metal to the junkyard and my truck broke down, and there it stayed. The people from St. Mary's found me at my truck. That's how I got involved here.

A lot of people say this is the best shelter that they have been in. The staff don't talk to us like we are crazy or drug addicts. They treat us like we're human beings.

I went to court on a drug charge, smoking drugs. They put me on three years probation, provided that I would come to Recovery 55 meetings at St. Mary's in the mornings. I did this for the first three years. I was always quiet. I would sit in one special corner, and I didn't seem to want to participate or talk or anything.

One morning, we were talking and discussing, and Miss Georgia Barnes asked me, what did I think about being in these meetings? I told her I didn't like them. I said, "I don't particularly care to be here. I'm only coming because the courts told me to."

She said, "Oh, I don't believe that. You'll be back." That's what she said! You'll be back. Sure enough, she was right. Even after the court order was over, I kept coming back.

We are all in the same boat. We might use different drugs - some drink, some smoke, some shoot dope - but we are all practically in the same boat. Gradually, it just seemed to rub off on me because I had been around 'em so long. Like they say, we're like family now.

I like a lot of the activities that they have around here. On Wednesdays, Barbara Reiner brings these little drums. Some guys play piano, some guys play guitar, and we have a little jam session. That's fun! I have played with the tambourines and the drums. We play out in the yard in the summertime, and you hear us [laughs]. It's nice, it's enjoyable.

Getting politically active

I never did anything political until I came to St. Mary's. I've never voted in my life! But we went to represent ourselves in the action that they just had over in San Francisco, the anti-war demonstration. That was nice! That was my first time being to one of those. There was a lot of people marching down the street.

Next month, we're going to go to Sacramento to a demonstration. I'll go with all the people. There's three or four buses going from St. Mary's and some from other areas too -- San Jose, Santa Clara, San Francisco. After you get up there, you see all them people on the capitol lawn. It' s nice!

Another time, we went on a ferry boat to Fisherman's Wharf -- my first time there. I ate some of that clam chowder right there on the dock, just like a tourist [laughs]. That was nice, that was nice!

Susan asks us to do art. She seems to have a way, and before you know it, you're painting or you're drawing! That's what happens to me. She's always talking about, "How come you don't draw all the time?" I say, "It don't come to me until I come into this class. I don't have no drawing in mind, but you give me some paper and some pencils and you say, 'Draw.' So I start doo-daddling around until something comes out!" [laughs]

She's got some things of mine that she's keeping because she admires them. I admire myself to be participating like this, because I didn't think I had it in me! It's amazing what can come out of a person.

I don't want to live on the street again. I'm going to try to avoid that. There are some good people out on the street. Businesses close down, and people can't find another job in their category, and soon they wind up losing their furniture, or putting it in storage, and getting kicked out of their place -- it's rough.

I've heard a lot of people say, "I never imagined I would be on the streets. I've always had confidence in my work, having a job." Which is myself, too. I'm not a lazy person; I like doing something.

I was diagnosed with diabetes, but never paid much attention to it until I came to St. Mary's. I was going to Highland Hospital, but St. Mary's put me in touch with the Over Sixty Clinic. They put me on diabetic medicines. Now I have two medicines, for high blood pressure and diabetes. Doctors tell me, being that I'm a diabetic and have high blood pressure, it's good for me to walk. So when I walk around, I try to make it useful. Instead of sitting down and waiting for that monthly check, I recycle as I go along, which keeps a few dollars in my pocket. I try to keep myself busy.

When new people come to St. Mary's, I tell 'em, "Hang in there and keep coming back, because it'll rub off on you. You'll get used to it. Gradually, after you keep coming, you'll start knowing the people and how they treat you, and you'll start liking it." I'm rather enjoying St. Mary's life!

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

E-mail: Spirit

© 2002-2005 STREET SPIRIT. All rights reserved.

Published by American Friends Service Committee

Editor : Terry Messman

Web Design: Robert Mills, Web Weaver CyberB Solutions