"The Most Powerful Pages on the Planet"
August 1, 2008
Volume 1 - No.11
Darwin Campbell, Executive Publisher
A Bi-Weekly Publication
Dallas Homeless Offer Visions From Beneath The City
A Rare View of True Homelessness in the D/FW
Lone Star Power Pages
Part One of Two Part series
DALLAS- Nathaniel Peavy came to the Dallas area from Gulfport, Mississippi having been a victim of “Hurricane Katrina”.
Before disaster struck, Peavy managed his own graphic designs business for six years servicing the Mississippi Gulf Coast and parts of Louisiana specializing in the creation of an authentic style of branding, logos, signage and murals for various clients.
“After Katrina, I accepted my losses and tried to “tough it out“ contracting on a few jobs here and there, but with the loss of equipment and contacts that enabled me to stabilize and position myself previously in the market made it difficult,” he said. “I took a leap of faith coming to Dallas in an attempt to tap into a bigger market in the “Home Of The Dallas Cowboys”. What I encountered from this expedition was far beyond what I had envisioned for myself - the reality that Dallas had a problem with homelessness and an even bigger acceptance of this reality was that I would inevitably be a participant.”
According to a recent homeless count conducted in January of 2004 by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, the count recorded nearly 6,000 homeless persons in Dallas County, with the vast majority residing within the city limits. The most alarming aspect of those statistics is what actually happens day in and day out to the homeless on the streets of Dallas.
Peavy said life on the streets is a day-to-day challenge filled with mental and emotional pains, public humiliation and endless harassment that occurs regularly and often far from the probing eyes of the media, activists or the general public.
The homeless live life beneath the city in mostly raw environments and under the toughest of conditions. It is not glamorous, it not pretty and nothing to write home about, according to Peavy.
After a few months of being homeless, one is forced into financial destitution, perhaps a loss of credentials, agitations, and frustrations that comes along with him or her fitting a profile that subjects them to perceptions by society that they are unworthy or untrustworthy of receiving the proper help.
Peavy gives more vivid picture of life on Dallas streets and the struggle to survive that is repeated daily by those in Dallas, Fort Worth and other cities who are lost in the system and unable to find their way back into society.
“Can you imagine being treated less than human because you have no means to shower or what it is like having loss identification and clothing because you’ve been preyed upon by others in your situation,” he said. “Can you imagine being agitated because you have walked in your sleep all night because if you sleep here or there, you are harassed by the police, have your medications or other stuff taken or run the risk of getting robbed raped or killed…. or all of the above?”
Peavy said being homeless, you can’t steady employment, other than some one who wants to use you as a temporary leaving your pay and treatment open to exploitation.
During a typical day, the homeless in Dallas are constantly on the move. No matter where they land, passing cars, trucks, trains, or people easily disrupt their small world of peace.
“You are always agitated because of the lack of sleep, depressed cause of the lack of money, food, and comfort and angry cause of the lack of respect giving to you as a human being,” he said. “It is a wild state of affairs because the average human cannot fathom all the social dynamics and factors influencing the homeless person’s every thought, mood, and state of being all at once.”
Another humiliation is what happens to the homeless when churches and other aide groups come to offer food and assistance.
“We are treated like pigeons when bread is thrown out for feeding,” he said. “It is chaos that is caused by the “bread crumbs’ as more and more hungry pigeons (homeless) gather fight and hustle for a meal that would sustain them for a day. “
Another general overall perception is that all the homeless are addicts or criminals – a stereotype he attributes to lack of understanding and compassion on the part of people who do not know or understand the personal hell of the homeless.
“The drugs or usage becomes the symptoms of the actual problems many are struggling with,” he said. “Drugs became the ways to escape the pains of losses, whether it be of family, status, loved-ones, career or material gain.”
What Do The Homeless Want?
Respect and understanding about the condition of being homeless and a chance to be stable and self-empowered.
The prevailing attitude is that the homeless continue to be looked at as an eyesore and liability on streets across the Metroplex.
According to the study, homelessness has significant economic as well as social consequences for the City of Dallas.
In the 2004 report, surveyors acknowledged that the overwhelming presence of homeless persons on the streets of downtown has negative economic impacts on individual businesses, the prospects for redevelopment, and the city’s finances.
Cities like Dallas and Fort Worth are treating the homeless less than human. For them, it is a mere numbers game.
“What needs to be understood is that the homeless are not asked to be judged,” he said. “We are asking for help.”
People passing them on the street or seeing them on street corners rarely understand homelessness from their perspective.
Many of the homeless in Dallas are educated, have college degrees and children. Many had careers, homes and cars. Many had hopes and dreams for the future. Now, those same are trapped in a repeating nightmare.
People do not stop to think of the physical and mental agony and suffering of the homeless and it is that attitude that has a negative impact on the amount of compassion, support and consideration the homeless receive from city hall to city streets.
“What I have seen happening is that people are being judged on and by their initial appearance on their first encounter with most institutions that have available funding or clothes,” Peavy said. “My problem is that if a person of faith comes for aid or what ever it may be, then you are obligated to help them the best you can unless the show fault in their character.”
Peavy has worked hard to combat his homelessness through “The Bridge” – a homeless shelter in the inner city of Dallas. That program is making a difference and is helping him rebound and climb back to independence.
However, he still has concerns about his fellow brothers and sisters battling to overcome the stigmas of living life beneath the city in a sea of homelessness.
“Attitudes need to change. One has to have the compassion with-in his or herself for a living so to even receive understanding or the wisdom God can give a person in dealing with the experiences of the homeless one has to first “care”, he said. “You have people that have fallen (into homelessness) from every aspect of society. We are not animals and we are not evil. All we desire is to be treated and approached as human beings.”