Day 3 – Human side of homelessness

Mosaic staff writer Aysha Rehman speaks to a homeless veteran // Photo by Steven Barajas, Mosaic Staff Photographer

Mosaic staff writer Aysha Rehman speaks to a homeless veteran in San Jose. // Photo by Steven Barajas, Mosaic Staff Photographer

By Aysha Rehman, Mosaic Staff Writer

Not once in my entire life did I think I would befriend a homeless person, let alone three homeless people. But I did. Today I was on my way to Sacred Heart Community Service to begin writing my story on homelessness in San Jose. To be quite honest, it wasn’t exactly that helpful, but where me and Steven were directed next really changed things for me.

We were told to go to the Bacardo homeless shelter, over 5 blocks away and a 25 minute walk from where we began. I felt really bad making Steven walk all that way with me, and when we got to the shelter, we were turned away, not having permission to be on the premises.

On our way out, a homeless veteran by the name of Michael M. approached us and asked us if we were writing about veterans. Seeing how this was a great opportunity, we asked if we could sit and talk with him about his situation, and he had quite a bit to tell us. Well spoken and very politely, Michael M. told us not only how he became homeless, but also the medical issues he had along with the shelter he had been visiting.

He’s been homeless since 2006, and has been to quite a few places, but the fervor with which he spoke was really something unique. Here is this gruff, initially scary looking veteran approaching you about his situation, and he gives you this perspective that you never really considered–that perhaps not all homeless people are scary, let alone violent to say the least. They’re just frustrated and, as he liked to put it, “have no business being homeless.”

In the process, we were kicked off the shelter’s lawn but continued the interview just a little ways away from two more amazing human beings, Frank and Michael W., two men Steven and I actually passed before coming to the shelter. Michael W. said hello as we passed, but it never crossed my mind that we would be coming back to say hello again.

Frank was also a veteran like Michael M., and had been essentially, kicked out of a house he shared with others before it was sold and he became homeless in October. Michael, was homeless for a short time as well, and befriended Frank just a week before. The two have traveled as a pair since.

I didn’t really talk much with Michael W., but I did have a discussion with Frank, and he had many lovely things to say about the community here in San Jose. He felt that people here cared, and did a lot of things to help out, despite not being able to get the low-income housing he really needed.
After our long and meaningful exchanges, it was time for me and Steven to leave, and so we packed up, and both pairs parted ways. I think if anything, today I saw the real, unedited human side of homelessness. I met some really sweet human being that had “no business being homeless,” and deserved so much better. I just hope I can do their situations justice and get their story out to people that can help.

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