The houseless are not a target market, not research subjects, not an economic class, and not social epidemics. They are people. Individuals. Humans with lives and stories and families and passions and loves. To treat them as a lump of numbers is to cheapen them and rob yourself of friendship.
I went with Michael to a church service tonight. I met him and some of his houseless friends at the square where a van from Savannah Christian came to pick us up. It drove us out to the southside where we were ate and attended their wednesday evening service.
This is exactly what I needed. I feel much better about the project now that I know some of their names and faces. They had some great stories to tell. Funny, sad, real life.
I plan on experiencing this lifestyle first hand. I am nervous. I will stand out, people will know I’m not houseless. I am worried about my prejudices. I want my mind to be clean, undeveloped film ready to absorb every fleeting ray of light.
Michael is a local you have probably encountered if you live in Savannah. I have noticed him often, sometimes preaching passionately to the drunk tourists on river street other times talking and smiling with the homeless. He always carries his bible and faithfully wears bold religious t-shirts everyday.
I spoke with him about his past. Why he does what he does. Why he spends so much time with the homeless. He had some thought-provoking things to say.
I will be meeting him and some of his homeless friends tomorrow in the park. He’s going to introduce me to some guys and I think it will be a great opportunity to began a relationship with them. I’ll let you know how it goes.
I had a great conversation with Craig. He was able to provide me with information concerning the situation here in Savannah. He has been involved in social work since college, so I think he will be an expert resource for this project.
I was surprised to find out that the Authority employees around 80 people. Most of these people work at local organizations on a daily basis. One of their main priorities is to see that collaboration occurs between all the different services.
It’s almost frustrating learning about all of these organizations created to help the houseless. Why do we still have a problem if all this manpower and money is being focused on it. Is the problem too big? Can it ever be solved? Are we not trying hard enough? Do we fully understand the problem?
Today I am meeting with Craig, the executive director of the Homeless Authority here in Savannah. This organization is responsible for statistical data and involved in the disbursement of grants to local services. I think this will be a great opportunity to learn about the specific houseless situation here in Savannah.
Tomorrow I am meeting with Michael, a local street preacher who helps the homeless with clothing and food with Savannah Christian Church. This will be a chance to hear another intriguing perspective, this time with a spiritual spin. I hadn’t really considered how religion will play into this project, but I think it’s going to be unavoidable.
I talked with Mitchell, his wife Liberty and their son Hank. Mitchell was planning on attending the University of New Orleans this fall. He found out SCAD was helping Katrina victims by googling, “free tuition, art school, katrina.” They had some very supportive comments about living in the south.
I spoke with Liberty about the condition of their house and the contents. I asked her about items they took with them during the evacuation, she mentioned photos, family heirlooms, and important papers. In the rush she didn’t feel she could think straight, and she also felt like the more seriously she prepared, the more serious the storm would be.
One poignant memory for the family was seeing a truck with flashing lights coming up the street as they were leaving the city. They first thought it was an evacuation truck for the neighborhood children who were playing in the street. But they passed closer by and realized it was an ice cream truck.
I will have the opportunity to speak with a new student here at SCAD that was displaced by hurricane Katrina. This will be a great chance to discuss what feelings are associated with losing a house with someone who just experienced it. Here are some potential questions I have come up with. Please give me some feedback on these, or leave a comment if you would like to add one of your own.
What school did you use to attend?
What items did you take from your house?
Are there any items you wish you would have taken?
Do you know the condition of your residence?
Where did you go?
How did you feel when you found out you couldn’t go home?
How did you end up here?
What assistance to you and your family was offered–did you take–did you need–did you want?
How could assitance be improved for you?
What support system or resources has brought you here instead of living in a temporary shelter or housing like others?
What was your experience with poverty in New Orleans
What is your opinion of the media coverage concerning the hurricane?
How did being a husband/father alter the experience for you?
Today I presented my design proposal.