Homeless Donations

For the Homeless Experiment I ended up leaching off some public services for a few days to see what homeless life was like. In all honesty I don’t feel like giving much back (I was much more enthused to donate a computer to the library than I am to give to the homeless shelters), but something tells me I should at least replace what I took.

Therefore I think there’s three places I should donate back to:

The ARCH of Austin:
I stayed here for a night in “The Penthouse”, got to take a shower and was fed a meal. I don’t like how they’ve put a homeless shelter right in the heart of the Downtown Entertainment District, but I do like the services provided. If someone were to actually want to get out of homelessness, the ARCH provides everything you need to live for a while at no costs….thus giving you valuable time to get back on your feet.

The ARCH has an online donation page, so I just pledged $30 as a donation through PayPal.

Caritas of Austin:
I ate here several times through this experiment and also took extra food to survive on. They let me in, no questions asked, allowed me to take as much food as wanted and were very kind to everyone. I also crashed one of their fundraiser events a while ago, so I suppose some small donation is well deserved for this organization.

Their basic function to serve meals to the needy is fulfilled, however their success at consistently serving good meals to anyone in need almost makes some people feel entitled to this service. However I’m guessing those feeling entitled are a small majority…it was mainly some of the obvious drug addicts. Almost everyone else there very much appreciated the valuable community service they provide.

Caritas has a donation page where you can donate online and select a particular service to send the money to. I donated $30 to the Community Kitchen which I ate meals from.

Black Mike:
This is the guy I met under the bridge my first day out and my last day out. Mike is actually quite intelligent, able bodied and yet still homeless. He is the kind of guy who makes you want to say, “WHY DON’T YOU GET A JOB YOU BUM!?”

I spent the most time with Black Mike and was amazed by how much he read. He loves reading fantasy novels…big, giant 500+ page fantasy novels that have over 10 series of books in them. He enthusiastically told me elaborate stories about blue dragon eggs, faraway fantasy lands and a bunch of other crap I didn’t care about….but he really loved that stuff.

I asked him, “Well you’re smart, imaginative and have a lot of free time, why don’t you write your own fantasy novel?”

He was almost floored by the question.

I quickly realized in his world people rarely highlight his better qualities or give him motivation to move beyond his current state. The people he begs from don’t, the other bums on Riverside don’t. I started hounding him on this line of questioning because I think it could actually help him.

Imagine this: A homeless guy whose been to the penitentiary and ended up living under a bridge for years becomes a fantasy novel author….now THAT’S a success story to tell! He could milk that story for all it’s worth to gain notoriety and therefore gain exposure for any books he writes.

I actually do not support him living under a bridge and begging for money to buy beer with day after day. Therefore I will not give him money and I will not give him beer (although that’d be a great gift to almost any bum on the street).

So here’s what I’m going to donate to Black Mike:

  • Before I went home I left him my sleeping bag, jeans, extra socks, poncho and sweater hoodie.
  • A plastic storage container to store/organize his stuff. All his stuff is collectively dumped into a cardboard box with no top. Raccoons and cats routinely get into it. This should help curb that.
  • A book on how to write science fiction. The book is actually called, “How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead” and has a lot of information that he could use to at least ATTEMPT becoming some sort of writer.
  • A composition journal (the kind I almost always carry with me).
  • Two Zebra pens (my favorite pens).

So monetarily-wise I’m not giving him much back, my total bill for all this stuff (sans the old stuff I left him) was around $35 (book was most expensive), but I think if he takes some advice and tries to get a novel off the ground it could have some long-lasting impact on him….much more than a couple of bucks would. Perhaps he won’t become a best selling author (although you never know), but at least if he takes on writing as a serious hobby it could somehow lead to a better and more fulfilling life.

I can’t say I’d be willing to help walk him through all the steps, but I’ll have given him the encouragement and tools to make it happen. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

So tomorrow afternoon I’m going to swing by the ole bridge and give him this stuff:

This should even out what I’ve taken from the world for this experience.