I’ve been there. On the other side, where the mainstream of people live: In a career that conveniently pays the bills and if you’re lucky, has some personal reward in it for you, too. You take care of your responsibilities, drive a car or two, pay back a mortgage, pay insurance, pay taxes, feed your family and go with the flow. Every now and then there’s a little extra that keeps you from wondering too hard, whether any of this makes an awful lot of sense. But you keep at it, because your parents did, your peers do and ultimately, it’s the right thing to do. Right? And since you’re following the rules, you feel safe and sound and don’t pay too much attention to the eventual worry that might pop in on occasion. I’ve been there and done it, too, for more than 20 years, thinking I’d be alright.
Then, out of the blue, something out of the ordinary happens. For example, a short hospitalization that takes you away from home for a few days. You might get a neighbour to water the plants or check in here and there, but if you live alone, like most elderly do, your place is pretty much deserted for a short while. Now picture yourself coming back to your place, the cab pulls away from the curb, your suitcase or bag is placed next to you. And here you are, in front of the building, where you live, pulling out the key, looking forward to home, sweet home, you open up and – the place is empty! In your mind, you might immediately go “burglary!” and think of the next steps to take, only to eventually find out that you’ve been placed in the streets despite having paid your rent on time! You might go “crazy!”, but that’s exactly what happened to this elderly woman, who now lives in a nearby park (meanwhile she’s placed in a new home thanks to Paul Hughes and the DO Foundation’s efforts).
I myself got within an inch of this very situation in the winter of 2010. Ever since, former friends and companions have gradually receded from me or flat out told me to leave them alone (in all fairness: Some stay in touch with me, but I often can’t respond to invitiations). I always had a job since High School, played by the rules, stayed out of trouble during a period of playing music professionally, where trouble came knocking left and right. You could say I’ve held my nose above water in all these years, despite having carried a number of burdens I occasionally allude to here on this blog or on Facebook. At some point, the burden plus the pressures exceeded my strength and had me burn out from fighting 24/7, 365. Even former close friends and family never fully understood, what I was and am still going through. And now I’m a ghost, whose only way of socializing is through the social media. I don’t have allies or lobbies to vouch for me. And employing the instruments available through the legal system, I have to find that the system fights me whereever possible. If you haven’t been there, you can’t imagine the extent of despair, loneliness and plain brutal fear staring you in the face the minute you open your eyes until the minute you try to close them at night. That is, if you found a place at last semi-safe to fall asleep in.
That is why the work of a humanitarian like Brian’s and his entire team of volunteers matters so much! They give those a voice, shelter and hope, whom society at large doesn’t care about and in some cases probably doesn’t want to speak out. Humans helping humans is the last resort for many, who have run out of options, which in many, probably most cases aren’t the results of their own choices, but choices imposed on them by others. Where former friends or even family might close their doors in front of them, they got one last door to knock on: The DO Foundation headquarters in Detroit. This is why their work matters so much. If you want them to continue their work, here’s how you can support them.