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April 2015

April 29, 2015

I want to reintroduce the small, durable HD cameras I purchased last year. In the past I approached Bud and Michael about using them. I want to put these cameras in their hands and give them the freedom to film whatever they want. I see great value in filming their day from their perspective; flying their signs as traffic passes or just recording their thoughts.

dv1_hero1I thought Teresa would be a good person to talk to about trying this out. She journals often so she values the idea of recording ones thoughts and recording events. I’ve also known her for over two years now; she knows I have no agenda other than attempting to bring the lives of the homeless to those that might ignore them. She was very receptive to the idea and asked me a few technical questions about how the cameras work, some of which I couldn’t answer. The cameras themselves will record over four hours of HD footage with audio. The battery will probably run out before the memory card are full. Teresa told me she wants to film “a day in the life of Teresa”. I thought that was an excellent idea, it will give the public a chance to see something they wouldn’t unless they were living on the streets themselves. She has the capability with the camera to hang it from her neck as she panhandles and with the audio she’ll be able to narrate what she sees. The footage will most definitely be raw and it may take a few times of sharing the camera with her to get enough footage to edit into a cohesive piece but I’m thrilled about this and will approach other people I’ve known to do the same. I think it would much more difficult to get this type of filming without establishing relationships like the care bags have afforded me.

I met Andrew today. I entered the Kennedy underpass, seeing a seated shadow, thinking it was Michael.  As I got closer it was a person I thought I could talk to a bit and maybe he knew where Michael was. I left him there seated as I went further to catch up to Michael and ask him about the camera I loaned him a while back. FullSizeRender (20)

I didn’t find Michael but I shot this photo on my way back through. There are about 8 makeshift beds on the ground. There’s the faint smell of urine and pigeon droppings are everywhere. There’s a large cardboard sign propped on a sleeping mat that reads, “NO PISSING”. Before these concrete structures were added to the platforms, the homeless used to be able to sleep on them. It wasn’t much but it got them off the ground and allowed visibility from passing traffic as well as greater air flow.  I thought I’d speak to Andrew, introduce myself and get to know him. He moved to Chicago from Poland about 5 years ago. Hes 42 years old but looks in his late 20’s. His English is broken but we communicated well enough to exchange some information. I suppose we talked for about 15 minutes. He’s received a care bag or two before. I told him what I was doing and explaining to him more information about what the care bags mean to me. It helped that one of the care bags I delivered was next to someones bed to use as a reference. He was very friendly and polite and we shared a couple of laughs. When he first arrived in the states he described living here as being “OK”, I’m not sure what happened to put him on the streets but he has no family here in Chicago. He stays in a local shelter, looking for construction work and thinks sometimes of going back to Poland. I talked to him about the camera recordings, discussing the possible issues with the English language. Its very possible to have it translated to English so he can express himself comfortably. He declined to have his picture taken at this time so I could introduce him to you, maybe in the future he’ll change his mind. I gave him the small amount of cash I had on me and we parted ways.

April 26, 2015

99th week of making and delivering care bags. This brings the total to over 533 care bags for the homeless of Logan Square, Chicago.

There’s only 22 hours to reach the goal of this years fundraiser. The goal is so close and I’m nervous. If the goal is met or not, I’m thrilled so many people deem this work important and help the homeless. This year I’m really going to work hard on providing better snack options to my homeless friends. The food has to be nutritious and help satiate them when they need something, but also palatable. I try to buy foods that provide some comfort, some memory and nutritionally denser than fast food. Its sometimes of little consequence in the big picture, concerning their individual health  but I think I can do better.

Please visit the Fundraiser before time runs out. Every dollar goes to helping the homeless and every donation matters. A $1 donation doesn’t seem like much but it pays for a couple of cold drinks. It pays for the wet wipes. It also provides a pen to write with or a Clif Bar. Thank you for you’re continued support! Click anywhere on this paragraph to be redirected to the fundraiser.

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April 22, 2015

Kleenex came through with their promised donation of travel pack tissues! Its amazing that they made an unsolicited donation to care-bags.org. They had nothing to gain from their donation except for spreading a little kindness and doing some good. Thank you Kleenex Brand!!!

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April 20, 2015 makes the 98th week of making and delivering care bags. This brings the total to over 526 care bags for the homeless of Logan Square, Chicago. I repurposed a few of the bags people have given me this week.

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Great news last week. Teresa wanted to go to CSC (formerly Revive Center for Housing and Healing) to get on the housing list. I picked her up and she got on the list for housing! Thats a huge step in the right direction. Shes a great candidate to get placed with a home. Shes been homeless for so long (over 15 years) but I think she can make the adjustment, I know she can. Shes intelligent, sensitive and realistic about the adjustment. Ill keep you all informed how things go. This opportunity wouldn’t have happened without people like you. The fact that I’ve known Teresa for over two years, establishing that trusting relationship makes it possible to talk to her about programs like this. She would never have trusted a stranger with this information, let alone take her to a place like Revive Center.  When a home becomes available, They will notify her via website (she has an account now, accessible via the library) as well as myself and they’ll show her her new home. They take a percentage of what she earned to help supplement the costs. The idea is, once placed, she will have access to various programs, she will be able to get off of drugs, she will gain her self esteem back and get readjusted to a safe, healthy life. This is the best possible way to get the homeless off the streets.
I brought her a care bag last week with writing pens and notebooks. She journals about her experiences on the streets. I hope someday to share some of it with all of you. She hopes someday turn her writings into a book called “Tales From Under The Bridge.” She wants people to know and feel what things are like on the streets.  – See more at: https://fundanything.com/en/campaigns/annual-care-bags-org-fundraiser-2015/updates#sthash.mdUf5YZE.dpuf

April 14, 2015

I’ve spend the past couple days looking for Teresa. We spoke last week about her getting signed up for housing at the CSC is now Revive Center for Housing and Healing. Like most people I see, she wasn’t current with what services are available to her. We had a nice talk about possible opportunities to get her off the streets. I think she is a good candidate, she could get pushed up the city wide list for housing because of her addiction, age, length homeless, etc. Once housing is available she will be shown a property and if she feels its safe, its hers, if not, they will show her another place. The housing is not dependent on whether she is clean from addiction. This approach is the only realistic solution to end homelessness. You cannot get off of drugs when you’re on the street. Period. There’s just no way to detox on the streets. Extreme sickness, diarrhea, thoughts of suicide; imagine the worst flu multiplied 1000 times. Give them homes and once they readjust, the hope is their sense of self will come back and then, when they’re ready, they can get treatment to get off of heroin. A percentage of their income is taken and the rest subsidized by the government. Its more inexpensive to the tax payer this way and gives a person their lives back. Its very difficult but it takes strength on the part of the homeless and assistance from an outside source. I’m happy to bridge that gap if I can.

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Teresa was talking to me about needed to get out of the underpass and find a new place. Shes currently staying under the Kennedy Expressway (pictured) that’s home to many of the areas homeless. Shes conflicted, as a woman she feels safe here and that’s difficult to come by. Does she take the chance to move to another area and establish new relationships or stay here in this community? The city put up the concrete barriers to discourage homeless from sleeping there last year. To read more about these barriers, check out the article written by Darryl Holliday http://www.dnainfo.com/…/cleanup-of-underpass-scatters-home…
As you can see from the photographs I took today, the homeless have moved from the raised platforms to the ground. Teresa tries to organize the people living there to keep the area clean, to not feed the pigeons and to place food out of reach from the ground. The garbage, clutter and food draws rats and illness. This is a huge problem for the homeless and the residents that use the walkway. If its messy, the residents can make a phone call and complain. This results in streets and sanitation coming by to throw away everyone’s possessions. She takes on the burden of trying to make the best out of this situation with other homeless that have varying problems like mental illness and addiction. I hope to get her to Revive Center soon if she’s decided that’s something she wants to do. Just like Roger, Ill talk to her about it, Ill give her a ride there, make introductions and take her back. I know this conversion with her couldn’t happen without knowing her for two years. Theres trust and a relationship there that only happens when you put the time in. When housing does become available to her, they will contact me to give her the good news.www.care-bags.org, ‪#‎ShareTheCare‬, ‪#‎carebags‬

 

April 12, 2015. Its the 97th week of making and delivering care bags. This brings the total to over 521 care bags with dozens of nutritious snacks and treats, toiletries and assistance information for the homeless of Logan Square, Chicago.

This years annual fundraiser is up to $4330.00 with $7200.00 as the goal, 15 days to go. This annual fundraiser helps cover the costs of a years worth of care bags for the homeless and raises awareness everywhere. Please donate any amount if you feel this work is important and share with your friends! Click anywhere on this paragraph to be directed to the fundraiser and thank you!!!

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I am going to attempt to share the conversation I had with Roger today. For those of you that don’t know, Roger is in his mid 50’s and has been homeless for over 7 years. He suffers from heroin addiction and anxiety which keeps him from being around too many people at once. Shelters are not an option for him. He is a veteran. These past two years I have known him to be an intelligent, soft spoken, thoughtful man. He was a foreman on an industrial painting crew that reconditioned water towers among other high structures. We’ve shared a lot about each other over these two years and even drove him to the Revive Center for Housing and Healing to get signed up for housing. That day proved to be a bit too much for Roger and we left unsuccessful in signing him up though I am hopeful someday he’ll want to try again.

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Its difficult to translate my experiences on this blog the way I feel when conversations are happening. I think some of it is in my writing ability and some of it is I’m still trying to process and balance the ups and downs that accompanies the conversations delivering the bags.  Its important to me to report the happenings, as I’m in a unique position, close to most of these people and their daily lives. This blog is one way I can raise awareness and hopefully instill some empathy. These days, I’m very comfortable sharing aspects of my life with them as I hope they are with theirs. The conversations aren’t about being homeless most of the time. There’s great value in getting away from the hardships and just having “normal” conversations, hopefully a laugh or two. Roger and I have an honest report. I do my best to make him feel there’s nothing he could tell me that would make me judge him and that’s translated well into all my personal relationships. Today we talked about my recent trip to PA, my Grandfather, storage for his propane heater until next winter and we talked about depression. He let me in a bit more today and shared more personal things. He told me he doesn’t remember much before he was homeless and recounted what he felt led him to this current state. He could’t exactly remember but it started with hearing voices and an assault he suffered. He shared how crippling his depression is on certain days. I too understand this and even though we are in different positions the depression doesn’t care. It effects the poor and the affluent. Roger knows this. He had difficulty explaining it and then I offered my perspective on how I feel depression effects me and he agreed that’s exactly how he feels at times. Most people don’t understand unless they go through it or deal with it on a regular basis. He described his best feelings, his happiest moments, crawling back into his tent and pulling it closed from the rest of the world. He told me he thinks about taking his life often but can’t find a way that doesn’t effect or harm other people. His example was to walk in front of a truck but it would affect the driver. These are hard things for me to hear but he wants to talk so I listen. It makes me look at our relationship and what it means to him and what it means to me. I know I distance myself the best I can but its difficult. My safety is setting boundaries and treating his situation with respect, knowing I can’t try to change his life without his consent. I care and at the same time prepare myself for the day that hes no longer here. I’m happy to be there to listen but as time passes it gets harder and harder. For me, it’s bittersweet to hear such harsh realities while knowing I’m one of the few people he can talk to. Somehow I have to share the experience with all of you so that you’ll notice these people, help these people, talk to them, laugh with them, share yourself with them.

April 11, 2015

My friend, Kevin McCullough made a very generous offer to all of you last week that any donation made between Monday and Friday he would match 100% up to 1K. Thanks to all of you who donated over $1000 last week in that time frame and Kevin who matched it today with a extremely generous donation of $1000!!!! The total is at $4330 and now the goal seems within reach with 16 days left. Thank you so much my friends, lets reach the goal!!! Keep sharing and encouraging those to donate any amount! I’m just in awe right now…

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April 5, 2015

I had to share this with all of you…Bud wrote me an email yesterday. I still haven’t really wrapped my mind around what happened last year. I’ve spoken to Bud many times since he got off the streets and he always talks to me like I saved him. Its too much to deal with for me. I don’t know how to process it. He did all of the work, I just played a small part in helping him. This email reminds me of what can happen when you spread a little kindness and start new relationships. It started with a few care bags and turned into care-bags.org, video interviews with the homeless, a weekly blog and then people all over making their own care bags with their families and so much more than I thought was possible. In this case, Bud was homeless in Logan Square, Chicago for almost a year and when we met we did a video interview with him that resulting in something amazing, something unexpected. Please watch his videos I’ll post in the comments to hear his story. Here’s the email he sent me yesterday…

Gene,
what’s up man? Was just looking at the web site haven’t looked at it in a while, how you been? I’m good still working and very much more important working on my recovery, and helping others to recover from addiction, still at my job and living at my sister’s, but looking for my own apartment hopefully GOD willing I’ll have one soon! It’s amazing how far I’ve come in the last 10 months, but once in a while, I can still feel like life is falling apart, but I just take a minute and remember how I was living and how I’m living now and what ever huge problem I feel I’ll never get through doesn’t seem very big at all, I can always check out my video, you made and it brings me back to how good life is now, I’m in my kids life now and my wife, have many good friends and family that are here for me and I’m here for them, sometimes I can’t believe it I just got health insurance for me my wife and kids, never would I have believed that I would be responsible for anything or anyone, but now it seems to come without even thinking! I know I’ve said Thank you before, but gene I truly believe that none of this would have happened if you wouldn’t have came and brought me hope! I won’t ever forget what you did for me! Thanks gene! I couldn’t find your number I’m sure I have it in my other phone! I never want to lose contact with you! I was in the city yesterday and wanted to call you and see if we could get together, but didn’t have your number! I would like to see you soon maybe get some lunch or something!
Talk to you soon bud aka Ernest

These care bags represent the 96th week of making and delivering care bags with dozens of nutritious snacks and treats, toiletries and assistance information. Over 516 care bags have been made and delivered. There isn’t much time left to make a donation for this years fundraiser. If you have been impacted in anyway in the last two years from the making of these care-bags please consider making a small donation to help me continue this in a greater or equal capacity. go to care-bags.org or to the fundraising site in the link below. Thanks everyone. ‪#‎ShareTheCare‬,‪#‎CareBags‬

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