Since starting Can You Spare A Story, a lot individuals I’ve spoken with have told me the same advice, “you can’t help those who do not want to help themselves.” I always took this advice with a grain of salt, powering on to serve anyone and everyone, until I discovered the large population of individuals who are chronically homeless. I, myself never understood the concept of loving life on the streets until I met Eugene.

Eugene recently celebrated his 59th birthday on the streets, the same place he has celebrated it since 1982. Eugene has been chronically homeless for 32 years since he got caught up in a bad loan which lead him to lose his whole life. When everything fell apart, he became depressed and angry, making poor choices and getting himself in trouble. He hung out with the wrong crowd on the streets and ended up addicted to drugs and a life in and out of prison. As Eugene has become older, he has separated with negative influences and has found happiness living on the streets. Although this may seem impossible to most of us, everyone has a different definition of what a good and meaningful life is.

Now that Eugene is older and wiser, he has learned how to survive and be successful within street life. He told me the importance of traveling alone and how the only person you should depend on should be yourself. Eugene is currently staying in the downtown Phoenix area and acts as a security guard for young women and children on the streets. He has learned from his past mistakes and enjoys helping other avoid the same situations. Eugene told me that he believes individuals struggling with homelessness tend to act crazy as defense mechanism so that no one will mess with them. He believes this is the wrong approach and is dramatically impacting the public’s view of the homeless population. He believes there are two kinds of homeless individuals: those who are anti-social and those who are seeking attention to receive help. The anti-social individuals are people who mind their own business and enjoy the worry-free life of homelessness. The attention seeking individuals are normally newly homeless and looking for a way to be saved.

From his 32 years on the streets, Eugene has thought of a multitude of ideas to successfully tackle the worldwide epidemic of homelessness. He has taken it upon himself to demand social change for the homeless population through sharing his ideas with anyone who will listen. He has written to state legislators, governors, and even previous President, Barack Obama. Sadly, he has never received word back. I was lucky enough to have him share a few of his ideas with me.

Eugene believes that the current system to address homelessness is backwards and belittles the individuals rather than building them up. He truly believes that knowledge is power and that by allowing the homeless to have access to computers, GED opportunities, and basic life skill courses will provide individuals the motivation to get back into the swing of things. He also suggested an alternative to the shelter system, we could take an empty lot and section it off into individual camp spaces for people to call their own. In order to gain your own space, the individual would have to work cleaning up the streets. This would allow for individuals struggling with homelessness to feel a sense of ownership while cleaning the area, costing taxpayers less money in the long run. Eugene suggests that if we encourage individuals living on the streets to take pride in the space they call home that less resources would needed to keep the area clean.

Eugene was passionate and creative with his ideas to address an issue that he has been living with for 32 years. His passion for others is wildly apparent and he is a natural born protector. I hope to one day implement these ideas and if I had the resources to do it now I would hire Eugene on immediately to watch his ideas come to life. Although most of us do not understand Eugene’s lifestyle, we should be accepting of his choices and be happy that he has found comfort in this lifestyle. Eugene is happy on the streets protecting others and that is all that matters.

Eugene, if you are ever reading this, I am so grateful for the opportunity to hear the ideas you have been thinking of for decades. I will do anything in my power to make these ideas come to life. Thank you so much for using your knowledge of the streets to protect others. You’re an unspoken hero and I loved getting to know you.

Thanks for reading,

Syd

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