“Please Don’t Call Me Homeless” (part 1)

On Tuesday night, I found myself part of an audience sitting in front of an unlikely acting troupe–a dozen Lexington folks, many of whom have spent time living on the streets. The theater production was Please Don’t Call Me Homeless…I Don’t Call You Homed, and most of the actors were playing themselves, the script having been based on their real stories, often their real words. Scenes of life on the street were interspersed with scenes from weekly “Circle of Care” mentorship meetings, which are part of the Lexington Catholic Action Center’s “From the Streets to a Home” program.

Certainly the street scenes were powerful–we saw glimpses of a life most of us in the audience are able to avoid. And they were tragic–discussions of alcoholism and addiction, community violence and sexual assault, and hunger and loneliness. Like I said, it’s a life many of us are able to avoid.

But we also heard stories of hope and determination, of GEDs earned, of apartments rented, of addictions overcome, of faith discovered, and of friendship.

At the end of each Circle of Care meeting, for example, they gather in a circle and one at a time extend a hand to the next person, saying, “Put your hand in my hand, [name of person]. Together we can make it.”

It is a refrain of hope.

Put your hand in my hand. Together we can make it.

After the production, the actors stayed to visit with the audience and respond to questions. Their responses were thoughtful and caring. They wanted us to know that the most important thing we can do is treat each other, even those on the streets, as people worthy of human dignity. Their lack of housing, not to mention the issues caught up in that situation, is not their identity. They are people. We are people.

As one of the actors reminded us, “When we say, ‘Put your hand in my hand, together we can make it,’ that’s true! It is!”

And it’s true for all of us–only together will we make it. He continued, “We all like to look independent, but the truth is, we are all dependent on one another.”

Hmm… We are all dependent on one another.

Sound familiar?

Put your hand in my hand. Together we can make it.

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6 comments on ““Please Don’t Call Me Homeless” (part 1)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I lived on the streets from 1993-97. If it wasn’t for food stamps and ssi I would still on the streets today. I ‘m not an alcoholic or a drug addict. I just couldn’t afford to pay rent. Rents skyrocket and working 2 jobs I couldn’t keep pace. I lived at the YMCA and we weren’t allowed to keep food in the rooms so I had to eat out alot which wasn’t healthy or cost effective.

    • elizabeth says:

      Anonymous,
      Your voice is important in this discussion–thank you for speaking up. The problem of skyrocketing rent is certainly an important one to bring up. Indeed, even here in my somewhat rural area, rent rates have increased twice as much as wages over the last decade. It’s good to keep this in mind as we talk about the difficulties of living on the streets because it reminds us that this is a social problem, not the problem of lone individuals. Many hardworking folks end up in difficult situations–all the more reason that we need to respond to each other in compassion. We don’t know each other’s stories, but we all have a story.

      Thanks again!

  2. Stephen says:

    I was sitting here in my land of cubicles thinking about “Put your hand in my hand. Together we can make it”, wondering what about it I liked so very much.

    I like that the statement says “together we can make it”, not “together we can solve all the problems”, or “together we can be happy”, or “together we can fix you”. But rather “make it”. I like that.

  3. It’s pretty late to be posting this, but, as a member of the cast of Please Don’t Call Me Homeless . . . I Don’t Call You Homed, I’d like to thank you for posting this for discussion at this site and for understanding what we were all trying to accomplish. I can tell you that I’ve been fortunate on at least two counts: I’ve never been on the streets, myself, and I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of the Street Voice Council and their sponsor organizations.

    • elizabeth says:

      David,
      Thank you for responding. I’m glad the post made it to your attention. Thanks for all of your work on the production–and to the Street Voice Council. I’m glad that attention is being drawn to this issue in our neighborhoods.

      Elizabeth

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