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THE VISIBLE PAUPERS OF KALAMAZOO

PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION AND TESTIMONIES OF LIFE ON THE STREETS AT


THE KALAMAZOO GOSPEL MISSION



by
Christopher Smith, Graduate Candidate
Western Michigan University, Anthropology Department
























2014, Christopher Smith














Table of Contents
Chapter I: Introduction
Chapter II: Literature Review
Chapter III: Methodology
Chapter IV: Presentation of Findings
Chapter V: Conclusions
Annotated Bibliography
Appendices
Interviews: Mortar, Sweet Asphalt, Seven
Field Notes
Mens Shelter Layout Chart Table 1












Chapter 1: Introduction
In the United States, homelessness affects men, women, young adults, and children of
varying economic backgrounds, races, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, political affiliations,
etc. The Urban Institute estimated that in the year 2000 3.5 million people were homeless; of
them 39% were children (http://homescoalition.com/faqs/). Two trends responsible for the rise
of what some call the new homeless are the shortage of affordable housing simultaneously
with the increase poverty i.e. deindustrialization since the 80s (Rossi, 1981). The number of
homeless people in Kalamazoo County in 2011 was 822 of which 317 were children in 479
families (http://homescoalition.com/faqs/).
Statistics show that the causes for homelessness in Kalamazoo County were a result of
unemployment (19%), eviction (15%), domestic violence (27%), and substance abuse (9%)
(http://homescoalition.com/faqs/). There is a vast amount of published literature surrounding the
issue of homelessness, but from my investigation there is not an equal amount of literature telling
the story of homelessness by those who experience it. You can do a simple Google search or go
to your local library and find book after book giving you statistics, pie charts, graphs, and
historical records that show how homelessness came about in the United States, but very little
information that allows the homeless to speak for themselves; to humanize the issue of
homelessness.
The purpose of this study is to find out how the homeless men who reside at the
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission survive and cope with their homelessness, and what are some of the
causes of their homelessness. The intention of my research is to allow the men speak for
themselves openly, candidly, and honestly about their experience of being homeless responding
in whatever way they choose so as to show the reader that not just the men, but also women and
children that we see or try to not see are people with thoughts, dreams, emotions, desires, and
aspirations just like you. That that individual is someones son or daughter, mother or father,
husband or wife, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, and more importantly that that person has value
to someone and to this life in general.
This study is important for a myriad of reasons, but primarily because homelessness
affects everyone. Homelessness affects not just the homeless, but also the taxpayer, the
employed, businesses, emergency medical providers, law enforcement, families, friends,
community, and society as a whole. Countless studies have shown that it costs a city more
taxpayer dollars in medical and law enforcement services towards the homeless than it does to
provide housing.
Secondly, the homeless have always been portrayed in the United States as lazy, drug
addicts, alcoholics, and/or mentally ill. These cultural portrayals when used as a political tool by
certain members of the Republican Party give the homeless population a negative image.
Images and statements that depict a black woman as a welfare queen during the Reagan
administration, or recent remarks made by Rep. Paul Ryan that poverty in our inner cities (coded
language for black and brown people) is a product of culture; that men not working and just
generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of
work (http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/george-f-will-the-lefts-half-century-of-denial-
over-poverty/2014/03/21/1aeaff4e-b049-11e3-a49e-76adc9210f19_story.html) portray the
homeless as undeserving of government assistance.
And even the Democrats/Liberal partys miniscule attempts at welfare reform during the
Clinton administration as Bryce Covert of The Nation online magazine reports did little to
address poverty. Welfare reform from the start reduced poverty, but it left those still living at
that income level (less than $2 per day) worse off than they were before, reaching fewer of them
and giving those it did reach less (http://www.thenation.com/blog/169788/clinton-touts-welfare-
reform-heres-how-it-failed#). Reporter Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post fact-checked
the Clinton administrations claims that millions were moved off of poverty and found that the
number of people on welfare since 1996 has fallen from 12.6 to 4.6 million, but that welfare
reform led to a huge spike in poverty of those living on less than $2 per day
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/09/06/fact-checking-bill-clinton-on-
the-economy/).
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found out that the poverty rate for families
decreased during the early part of welfare reform and a booming economy in the mid-90s under
the Clinton administration, it started to increase in 2000 (dot com bubble), and is higher than
1996 levels (http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3566). The Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families caseload, or TANF for short, has declined by 60% simultaneously
with an increase in poverty (http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3566). 70% of
poor families with children received cash assistance in 1996, but in 2009 less that 30% of
families with children did (http://www.thenation.com/blog/169788/clinton-touts-welfare-reform-
heres-how-it-failed#). Coupled is the fact that purchasing power, when adjusted for inflation, is
below 1996 levels (http://www.thenation.com/blog/169788/clinton-touts-welfare-reform-heres-
how-it-failed#). The Left and Right political parties have done little to truly and effectively
tackle the issue of poverty and its derivatives.
And finally this study is important because as I stated above it attempts to re-humanize
the homeless in the mind of the reader. Members of the homeless population are no different
than anyone else on this planet. The homeless possess the same emotions, thought processes,
and behaviors as people with homes, and therefore it is imperative that they be seen and treated
as human beings, and more importantly human beings with purpose and value to society if we
are, as a country, going to effectively address the many causes and effects of homelessness.
The only term that has been debated by academics and scholars is how to define and
operationalize the word homeless. The official definition as stated by the National Health Care
for the Homeless Council is an individual who lacks housing (without regard to whether the
individual is a member of a family), including an individual whose primary residence during the
night is a supervised public or private facility (e.g., shelters) that provides temporary living
accommodations, and an individual who is a resident in transitional housing, and A homeless
person is an individual without permanent housing who may live on the streets; stay in a shelter,
mission, single room occupancy facilities, abandoned building or vehicle; or in any other
unstable or non-permanent situation. (http://www.nhchc.org/faq/official-definition-
homelessness/). For the sake of this study I will use this definition which describes the
participants in the following pages. But I would also suggest that a top-down definition of a
persons or peoples situation is to elitist, and that finding out how homeless people define
homelessness is valuable when it comes to instituting public policies that address homelessness.







Chapter II: Literature Review
As I stated in the introduction, when it comes to addressing the issues of poverty and
homelessness by political figures and institutions, academics, or even organizations that are
directly involved with the homeless community there is a top-down, analytical, and technical
approach that is not inclusive of the people who experience it. Paulo Freire argues that in
academia there exists a banking concept of education where experts convey a body of
knowledge to students and the public as the singular truth. What is needed is a bottom-up
approach to knowledge production by those most immediately affected by homelessness: the
homeless themselves.
To understand homelessness people must go to where the homeless go e.g. shelters, soup
kitchens, parks, libraries, and drop-in centers. To understand homelessness requires creating
friendships with the homeless. Society fails to adequately address homelessness because those
involved in addressing the issue do not approach it from the standpoint of friendship, but out of a
rigid fear in our society that we may end up being homeless ourselves, and that the homeless
have broken a social norm (Wasserman, Clair; 2010). Wasserman and Clair argue that
friendship can teach us much about our relationships with homelessness.
By becoming friends with the homeless we are able to understand what homelessness is
and isnt (Wasserman, Clair; 2010). A lot of social science research fails to become friends with
whom they are studying out of fear of tainting their data (Wasserman, Clair; 2010). Instead they
approach the subject of homelessness from a standpoint of arrogance and judgmental assertion
based upon supposed wisdom (Wasserman, Clair; 2010). By doing so many social scientists fail
to realize that the homeless have their own perspective and definitions on what being homeless is
and how it functions.
People must understand that culture creates images of homeless people that raise fear in
us (Wasserman, Clair; 2010) while also creating a language in which we think and talk of the
homeless in one-dimensional stereotypical terms like junkies or alcoholics (Liebow; 1993).
We must recognize in our language the subtle othering we engage in conversations like they
or those people which alienates ourselves from the homeless and realize that every man,
woman, and child who is homeless is no different than those with homes.



















Chapter III: Methodology

My approach to this research is fairly simple and straightforward in the fact that I reside
at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. This gives me access simply because of my familiar presence
at the mission is known over a given period of time. In that amount of time I have already
formed relationships with some people down there, and therefore have an upper hand in
collecting data compared to those who are not familiar to those at the mission. This is not to
assume that there will be no difficulties in collecting data, but that it should be relatively easy.
My method is to engage in participant observation at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission as
both a complete participant and complete observer. This research is valid in so far that the
interviews I will conduct allow for me to collect all kinds of data, it reduces the chance of people
changing their behavior, interviews in a semi structured fashion will allow me to ask questions in
a casual manner and given the fact that my face is known to most men down there, and
respondents will feel more at ease. Living at the mission also allows for cultural familiarity in
how things operate down there intuitively speaking, and participant observation addresses my
exploratory research better than surveys or pile sorting.
I will try to conduct semi structured interviews with the men who live at the mission with
specific attention paid to those who live in the Mens dorm and the Good Samaritan room. One
limitation to this approach, even though I live here, is that the homeless population consists of
many people with mental health issues where data collection is impossible, men who are
addicted to drugs and alcohol and therefore are spending their time addressing the needs of their
addictions, and then those who are working various hours/shifts and those that may not wish to
be interviewed because of embarrassment and/or shame.
My observations are primarily focused on dialogue i.e. transcriptions of interviews. I will
use an audio recorder, and take few notes while I ask questions regarding their homeless
situation. Given the various personalities at the mission I will have to select my respondents
based upon if I have a continuous repertoire with them. It should be noted that given my
circumstances, and the environment that I am in, I have come across individuals that I do not
like, and therefore even if what they could provide to me in data is rich, I will not interview
them.
The interviews are not structured to any given amount of time, and will take as much
time as the respondent needs to answer the questions fully and honestly. Upon completion of my
interviews I will provide full transcripts in the appendices section of the paper. It is my thoughts
and intention to type everything verbatim including foul language, verb confusion, noun
confusion, poor sentence structure, and slang. I have chosen to do this because I believe that as
social science we need to try to grasp the human aspect of what we are researching, depending
on the research topic.
Beyond what has been stated above, validity is most assured through face-to-face
interviews, and given the fact that I know a few of the respondents, invalid information should
be minimal. One difficulty I also may have is the lack of sleep and the inability to intellectually
gather all my thoughts and information succinctly. Given the fact that I am a graduate student
living at the mission makes for a situation where managing my time both academic and personal
in conjunction with the times that I must be awake and on my feet will create a challenging task
to say the least. Therefore I recommend that for future research in this area that the researcher
has his/her own housing so that they can rest and have all their intellectual capacities in order.
And all names used in the paper are made up to protect peoples identity.


Chapter IV: Presentation of Findings

The Kalamazoo Gospel Mission is a Christian-based homeless shelter located at 448
North Burdick Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The organization physically covers most of the
block with a building that shelters men on one side, and women with children on the other side.
Behind the shelter building and across the railroad tracks is another building owned by the
mission that fixes vehicles and which was built to train men in the shelters program on how to fix
cars and trucks. Right next to the vehicle repair building is the missions store where they sell
various items to the public, and the money received goes towards the missions operating budget.
And right next to the store is the warehouse where the mission receives all of its donations from
the public that are eventually sorted and sent over to the mission store. They receive many
things like clothing items, electronics, furniture, cooking utensils, and home appliances like
vacuums, refrigerators, and microwaves. Next to the mens shelter is a plasma donation center
where some of the men, if they are fortunate to have a valid personal ID that does not have the
mission as the address, donate plasma for money.
There are two floors in the mens shelter; the first floor being for those who sleep either
in the Mens Dorm or in the Good Samaritan room also referred to as ten-to-six which I
will refer to as 10-6 for the rest of this study. The name room is commonly called 10-6
because the lights are off in the room at 10:00PM and are turned back on at 6:00AM. The
second floor is designated for men who have decided to join the missions program which is
designed to help men with drug and or alcohol addiction, develop a spiritual relationship with
God, and provides job training in administration, automotive, food service, maintenance, and
retail.
As is displayed in Table 1 which is found in the appendices section, when entering the
mens shelter you are immediately in the lobby area and the reception desk is in front. To the
right is the Mens Dorm and to the left is the Good Samaritan or commonly referred 10-6 (ten-
to-6) room. Behind the reception desk is the office where the employees of the mens shelter
work, and immediately behind the office is the restroom and showers. In the Mens Dorm room
there are approximately 84 metal bunks beds that are equally divided by 84 high school sized
lockers in the middle of the room, on the North side, and West side, each one specifically
numbered to match the bed to whom a person is assigned to. The Mens Dorm room has a small
storage room on the West side of the room, a storage room on the East side, an emergency exit
door on the East side. The room also has a water fountain and wall clock.
The 10-6 room is one large open area that has small cargo-sized blue lockers on the West
side of the wall for men who sleep in 10-6, and is used every night for chapel services between
7:30PM to 8:30PM. It has a storage room that holds an estimated 90 or more 2-inch thick green
mats that the men use to sleep on at night, 2 long carts that hold chairs which are used for chapel
service, and a few tables. The room is also equipped with emergency sliders on the windows to
protect against severe weather like tornados. And the room also has retractable walls that can
divide the room into 3 smaller spaces which are used for various things.
The big difference between the Mens dorm and 10-6 is that those who sleep in 10-6 are
afforded more freedom in the fact that they can come and go as they please. For instance if
someone is staying in the 10-6 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but decide to sleep
outside, at a motel, or a friends place on Thursday they can do that without permission from
staff. On the other hand those that sleep in the dorm must get permission 2 days in advance in
order to be excused, and the reason must be something important like visiting family, or handling
business that leads to you getting out of the mission. This difference appears to grant those who
stay in 10-6 more freedom of movement without having to worry about losing a place to sleep if
they need one, but also it holds those that sleep in the dorm to be more responsible.
The mens shelter is generally structured as follows: all men wake up at 6:00AM and
breakfast is served at 6:45AM for both men and women. The men who sleep in the Mens Dorm
must be out of the dorm by 6:40AM. Between these times the men in the dorm must make their
beds and have taken care of their personal hygiene. Anything that is left on or around the bed,
besides a Bible, will be thrown out. All personal bedding must be stored in the locker assigned.
There is no food allowed in the dorm, and the only beverage that the men may have is bottled
water.
The men who sleep in 10-6 are supposed to be awaked at 5:45AM, but sometimes this
rule is not followed. The men must be out of the 10-6 area by 6:40AM and like the men who
sleep in the dorm, men in 10-6 are either heading to the dining hall for breakfast or are making
their way off of mission property to Ministry with Community (a drop-in center) or somewhere
else. After breakfast those assigned a morning chore must report to the mens shelter front desk
to notify staff that they either are about to do their chore or they have already done it. If nobody
is attending the morning church service in the 10-6 room, or do not have any other business to
attend to at the mission, then they must be off of mission property by 8:15AM.
Lunch is served at 12:30PM Monday thru Saturday, and at 1:00PM on Sunday. People
who stay at the mission, or are from the public may come in around these times to eat. At
5:00PM the mens shelter is opened up again for the men who stay there and they are allowed to
sit down in the 10-6 room and wait for dinner to be called at 6:00PM on Monday thru Saturday,
and at 6:30PM on Sundays. Or the men are allowed to enter their respective lockers to put their
personal belongings away, or handle whatever business they must.
Dinner is usually over around 7:15 and all men who sleep in the dorm must attend chapel
service every night between 7:30PM to 8:30PM; men who sleep in 10-6 do not. Before chapel
service begins which ever staff member is on for the evening shift does roll call of every man
who sleeps in the dorm. If a name is called and that person does not have previous permission to
be excused from chapel, they may be removed from the dorm.
When chapel service is over then men put their chairs up on racks that are against the
West side of the room and line up at the front window in the 10-6 room to be checked in for the
night. During this time the men who sleep in 10-6 start to dust mop the floor, bring out the green
mats which they sleep on, and roll out 2 metal bins that contains blankets. The men who sleep in
the dorm sign their names on a sheet and either grab a bath towel or go outside to smoke a
cigarette. Those that stay in the 10-6 room stand in a small tunnel that separates the dining hall
from 10-6 and are only called up to sign in after everyone in the dorm has been signed in.
Once in the dorm room the men either go to McDonalds a block away, take a shower, get
into their lockers, make their beds, read a book, talk, or go to sleep. In order to stay in the dorm
the men must be drug and alcohol free, and a test is given to each person when they first enter
the dorm, and at various times if a staff member suspects a person to be under the influence of
drugs and/or alcohol and if the Breathalyzer or urine sample tests positive that person is
removed from the dorm. While in the dorm men must use headphones with the electronic
devices like MP3 players so they do not disturb others who might be trying to sleep. Dorm
residents are allowed to be outside, after chapel service, until 9:30PM. At this time everyone
who sleeps either in the dorm or in 10-6 has to be inside for one final head count. And this
process generally repeats itself everyday unless there is a holiday or bad weather and staff will
let the men stay inside and watch movies in the 10-6.
Most of the men of the mission head over to Ministry with Community which is a non-
profit organization designed to help the poor and homeless of Kalamazoo. They offer breakfast
and lunch, laundry services, showers, hygiene products, telephone usage, mail services, small
storage units, meeting for both men and women like Alcoholics Anonymous, or a pottery class.
They also provide a day room with television and chairs that opens up at 6:30AM when the
entire building opens up and closes at 5:15PM every day. And if for those that choose not to go
or stay all day at Ministry with Community, then they head up to the public library.
All men who stay at the mens shelter must do 1 chore per day in order to continue to
stay there. Chores occur throughout the day and include cleaning areas in the bathroom, dorm,
10-6, the dining hall, and outside on mission property. There is a particular program designed
for guys in either the dorm or 10-6 where they must do 20 hours of chores per week which I am
told by one of the staff members has been implemented to hopefully give certain people who are
not working or attending college motivation to get their lives on track.
Around the 1
st
of each month the amount of people the mission helps dwindles because
some people receive government assistance in the form of disability or social security checks. I
do not have exact numbers, but I have heard from many other people who stay down there and
from staff members that many of the men who receive government assistance in the forms stated
above use that money on things like motel rooms, drugs, and alcohol. It is suggested that most
use their money up in a week or two and end up back at the mission while they wait til the
following month to do the same thing again.
To tackle this problem the mission has decided to implement a 90 day program that gives
men 90 days to get a source of income, an apartment, and to move out. So far there have been a
few that have left since this program was implemented on January 1
st
2014, but given the
complexity of homelessness and the diverse reasons for why people are homeless and their lack
of financial resources, there are those who are still residing at the mission and are unable to get
out of theyre situation. One man that I will call Juan had an accident at his job that has made
it impossible for him to stand on his feet for long periods of time. Currently Juan is trying to get
workmans compensation so that he can use the money to get himself an apartment.
There is another man that I will call Bruce LeeRoy who has been working through a
temp service for the last two months, and saving up his money for an apartment. His story is
interesting to me because he was recently released from prison for a conviction that I do not
know, and chose to not ask. For a few months when he arrived at the mission he would sell
cigarettes at the bus station across the street for what appeared like most of the day. I would
leave the mission to head to my classes at Western Michigan University at 8:00AM and Bruce
would be there, and when I got back to the mission around 7:00PM I would see Bruce still
pacing the grounds of the bus station selling cigarettes. He charges .50 cents for single Newport
menthol 100s. Eventually after months of looking for work Bruce landed himself a job at
American Axle through a temporary agency. He is currently working 7 days a week on third
shift, and when he gets the time he is also looking for a place to rent.
There is another man down at the mission who I will call Dexter who has been at the
mission; it is told to me by others, for at least 5 years. One of the staff members that I talk to
often has told me that he spoke with Dexters sister and was told that Dexter could stay with her
if only he would get a part time job. I spoke with Dexter about employment in Kalamazoo and
he has told me that given the low rate of pay many employers are paying he will not take
anything less than $10.00 per hour, and thats really pushing it he stated. Dexter is a veteran
as well of the U.S. Navy and is in his mid-fifties.
What I have also noticed at the mission is a decent population of youth that are homeless.
A few of the guys that I have light conversation with and I have wondered why many of the
youth, specifically from Kalamazoos Northside, are at the mission. Some argue that it is
because they lack direction in their lives while others put fault on their respective families.
There is one young man who stays in the dorm, and has signed up for the missions New Life
program that I will call Hitman. Hitman I would assume is a 21 or 22 years old, short and
skinny white male. From conversation that I have overheard from him, he states that he was in
the U.S. Army; for how long I do not know. Apparently when he was in high school he was
given an athletic scholarship to one of Michigans main universities, but declined the offer.
What lead him to living in the mission I do not know, but he is one of an estimated 10 youths
between the ages of 18-25 living at the mission.
There was a young man that I talked with often and who slept on the top bunk above me
that I will refer to as Tight Jeans who is 21 and on probation. He told me that when he was 19
years old he was a youth minister at a church. One night he and a young lady who was 16 at the
time were watching a movie; one thing lead to another and eventually word got out to the pastor
of the church that they were having sex. Tight Jeans told me that by law the pastor had to report
him to local authorities which landed him on the sex offenders list for 25 years and a year on
probation. Tight Jeans knows what he did was stupid; he and I talked many hours about that, and
he is now trying to get on his feet. From what he has told me he is not allowed to stay at his
parents house because of his younger sisters being present and by law, according to him,
people on the sex offenders list cannot be within a certain distance of minors. He moved out of
the mission in the end of February, and I spoke with him last week to find out that he is off
probation, has found himself a job, and is currently living on the Eastside of Kalamazoo.
A young man that used to be at the mission and slept in the bunk bed next to me, I will
call him Android, never discussed how he ended up in the mission. He came to the mission in
2011, and Android and his wife just moved out in February. Android is a 22 year old white male
who ended up getting married while living in the mission to a young woman that stayed on the
womens side of the mission. His wife is currently a student at Kalamazoo Valley Community
College, and he is scheduled to start classes there in the summer pursuing a degree in Computer
Science. During my time down at the mission I would see them together often either at the
mission, the McDonalds a block over, Ministry with Community, or the public library located on
Rose Street in downtown Kalamazoo.
While I do not know everyones reason for ending up homeless, what I do know is that
some of the causes are due to unemployment and layoffs from jobs, lack of affordable housing,
low income, drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues, and those who appear to have no
direction in life. I have heard from some of the men that many of the women and single mothers
are homeless because of domestic violence or because their partner engaged in some criminal
activity that caused her to loose eligibility for Michigans housing program.
An older black man that I will call Shorty told me that the cause of his homelessness
was due to drug addiction. He is originally from Washington, D.C., and ended up in Kalamazoo
in the late 90s seeking drug addiction treatment. Currently he volunteers in the dining hall at the
mission, and spends some of his time at Waldo Library while waiting on confirmation if he can
receive financial help to secure himself an apartment. I asked Shorty what he thought it would
take to end homelessness, and was presented with a long pause accompanied with a look that
said I do not know. He told me that homelessness is so complex and so different for every
person that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I have found this to be true in the fact that the
reasons of why people are homeless at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission vary, but more
importantly is the lack of resources that are designed to each individuals needs are limited.
My main respondent for my structured interview, Mortar, argues that one of the
problems is lack of cooperation between city officials, business people, the mission, and Ministry
with Community in bringing social workers together and obtaining the necessary funds to tackle
this complex issue. He goes on to argue that in his opinion many of the staff members at the
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission are not professional in handling the people that use the mission as
shelter or for a place to eat. I witnessed this lack of professionalism first hand one Saturday
morning on the 12th.
There was a man sleeping in the dorm that was not supposed to be in there. One of the
staff members, who I will call Gomer, entered the dorm and walked over to where the man
was sleeping and shook the bed violently to wake the man up. Keep in mind that it was 6:30AM
and the man I assume slept in the dorm overnight. So Gomer began to talk down to the man
loudly stating What are you doing in here? Youre not supposed to be in here. You know
youre not supposed to be in here. Youre an idiot for being in here. Your services have been
revoked until you talk to Mike (Mens shelter manager). Only an idiot would come in here when
they are not supposed to be in here., and Gomer walks right out the dorm.
There was an older gentleman that worked in the shelter on the mens side last year until
he found himself a new job early this year, and I asked him is it tough working here and having
to deal with so many people. He paused for a second, turned to me and said Its not the people
that we serve here every day that stresses me out and makes my job difficult, but it is some of my
colleagues that I work with behind the desk and administration. Another staff member that
works on the mens side told me with wide eyes that Man, its the people that I work with!
(laughs and smiles). And another staff member who has been working there for at least 6 years
and that I confidently know extremely well has told me of times when certain staff members are
treated better in a positive manner than he is. He told me that one time he had his laptop out
during the middle of the day, and that nobody was around in which he had to assist so he was
surfing the internet. The mens shelter manager walks up to him, and tells him If I see you on
your laptop again I am going to throw it out. He told me that what made him upset is that a
previous employee would sit at the front desk all day using his cellphone and the manager would
not say anything about this workers behavior, but why threaten to throw out my laptop!?
Another noticeable aspect of the mission is the varying degrees of verbal and/or physical
violence that occurs often. Most of the time you have men that are upset with one another, and
will cuss someone out, but very rarely will there be a physical fight because the consequence of
that is permanent banning from mission services of any kind and the property. You do
occasionally have those instances where 2 or more people, depending on how many are involved
in a confrontation, will become physically violent and be removed from the shelter permanently.
I was told of an incident that happen a few years back in the 10-6 where a man accidently
rolled onto another man while they were sleeping, and the man was beaten up pretty bad by the
guy he accidently rolled on to. A recent incident involved the theft of a cellphone from the 10-6
room while the men were waiting to enter the dining hall for lunch on February 20
th
, 2014.
What apparently happened was a black male left his smartphone in 10-6 so it could be
charged while he went to use the restroom. Afterwards a white male approaches the phone, takes
it, and puts it in his pocket. Other men in the 10-6 room told the man that the phone belonged to
someone else who was using the restroom at the time, and the man replied Well he shouldnt
have left it out., and proceeds to leave mission property with it. The black male exits the
restroom to find that his phone has been stolen so he goes to the front desk, and a staff member
uses the security cameras to figure out who took it.
From what I heard from the guys in the dorm the black male knew exactly who took his
phone, and for a few hours this man was walking around Ministry with Community looking for
the guy who took his phone. Later that day around 5:00PM both individuals crossed each others
paths and the black male is stated to have ran up to the guy and repeatedly started to stab him up
and down his chest. Mortar calls the incident 4Gd because the phone was a 4G smartphone.
The man that took the phone survived, but I do not know where he is at as of now; originally he
stayed at the mission along with the mans phone he had taken. The following day the
Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the man who did the stabbing is facing assault with a deadly
weapon with intent to commit murder charge.
I would suggest that violence and foul language is simply a derivative of a poor job
market in Kalamazoo, and particularly an underserved population within a 10 block radius that is
fertile ground for peoples tempers to flare. The homeless population consists of those that have
lost their jobs, veterans, the mentally ill, men released from prison or jail, single mothers,
families, young and old, black and white all sharing 2 things in common: they are poor and they
are homeless. The environment in this radius has everyone, for lack of a better word, bunched
on top of everyone; people who are trying to survive day to day. Homelessness in general is a
complex situation because it involves people and organizations that interact both overtly and
covertly with each other. And homelessness at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission is no different.
The questions that could be asked of what goes on around there are many, and how to approach
it can begin equally at many angles, but one thing is certain which I have uncovered: that the
men down at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission come from different backgrounds, cope with
homelessness in differing ways, but at the end of the day are just physically and emotionally
exhausted human beings trying to make it.
Take my respondent Mortar for example when I asked him how he handles working a
second shift job and staying at the mission he states:
I nterviewee: It was tough man cuz like I say I wasnt getting enough sleep. I mean ya know even
ifeven if I wasnt working youre on your feet for 16 hours. And then here I am on my feet ya know lets
say from 8:00AM to 2 oclock ya know I might get some sleep, I might not ya know, and Im talking about
sleeping in my car. Then I had to work 8 hours ya know work was, is mental and physical because you
have to think about what youre doing and the you have to be prcised with measurements ya know.
Theres a lot of mental and physical stuff that goes with it ya know. By the time I got in at 11:30PM I was
tired. Ya know before I get a good sleep Im up again and thats what caused me to have this accident ya
know uhhthen uhhbefore I had that accident I went to 10 hours because I knew I needed the money
cuz I was trying to work my way out the mission. So I worked 40 hours and that Friday I had the
accident because of lack of sleep ya know, and thats basically my mainmy main issue with it because
as far as being there I really wasnt there that long ya know because doing what we do from 5 oclock on
I missed all that ya see what Im saying Id eat breakfast ya know? I could eat lunch then rest of the day
Im gone ya know? I aint nowhere around ya know? And I didnt start having to do that until I had this
accident ya know, or I wouldnt even been around this bull stuff ya know so.
Mortar ended up in a car accident one evening that kept him out of work for a little over 3
months. He first ended up at the mission because he was overwhelmed financially and could not
afford his rent, car, and insurance payments. Giving the fact that Mortar has to get up at
6:00AM, starts work around 3:00PM, and does not get back to the mission until around 11:30PM
and has to be back up at 6:00AM gives him little sleep conducive to him functioning at 100
percent on his job and being able to find a job. Being injured, off of work, and still homeless
was even more of a hassle for Mortar as he tells me that:
I nterviewee: Ya know the only thing that I have problems withI knew I had backlash
uhhwhip lash symptoms so my neck to my shoulders to my hips, my back and all that was
hurting ya know and matter of fact I had pain pills I wasnt really taking ya know Id take one ya
know if I thought I needed it ya know if my knee or something got to bothering me ya know? My
hips, my knee ya know all that stuff got to bothering me so I went to a chiropractor and I told her
what happened and she knew I had whip lash symptoms just by looking at me. So she helped
relieve that pain, butbut until that time I had to walk out the pain basically. So you know
wasnt nothing else broken except a broken toe and a broken wrist. The wrist took longer
because it had 2 main fractures all the way around the wrist. So I messed my wrist up and I
couldnt even tell you how I done it. I couldnt tell ya what happened during the accident ya
know cuz I was so sleepy man that I went out, and then all I know is I was in an accident, thats
all I know. I was driving to work and next thing I was being pulled from the wreck so its just
like that. It was a devastatingmanbecause youre working, then not working then not getting
no paycheck. The money I had in the bank ya know Im living off of that ya know and it was
dwindling ya know, but I still had to do what I had to do ya know? Then I had to fight with my
insurance company to get some money. That was the mostthe most devastating thing of all.
Dealing with those knuckle heads down the way (Kalamazoo Gospel Mission) you can say a few
words and youll be alrightcuz I know most of these people man, and ummbut dealing with
the insurance company had me worried man; had me really worried, and really scared because
that was itI didnt have no money and I wasI was basically by the time that lady called me I
was basically broke ya know? So she called me and the next thing ya know a few weeks later I
had a big ass check know and thatthat really helped out ya know. That saved me and then
Inow Im able to go back to work so well see what happens. 2 more years and I hope to be
out of itclose to retire, but I wanted to be out of there in August, but I gotta have 1 of my loans
paid, and I wouldve probably stayed another year because one of my loans I had another loan
thats probably gonna take a little longer to pay off. Other than that Igonna start to pay these
loans off. The loans have been the biggest problem for me financially man. Getting that money
out your heck and you got all these other problems like now Im probably gonna run into some
problems paying for my insurance cuz the insurance they rape me ya know cuz of 1 accident
the insurance goes up $200. Its crazy man ya know you dont even use the shitI dont even use
the insurance ya know, but its still costing me all that money ya know? And then they want to
charge the hell out of you. They want to go back since 2007 in my record. I aint ever had an
accident. First time I had an accident my rates go up crazy ya know? 61 years oldthat aint
rightjust aint right.
To conclude, during my time down at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission as a participant
observer writing this short ethnography I can tell you that it is a job being homeless. You are
faced with being tired all day, and if you are the unfortunate ones, trying to figure out where you
can go and try to stay awake or catch some sleep. Mortar tells me off an incident he had with an
officer at the bus station regarding him taking a brief nap which is transcribed in the appendices.
Everything else like food, clothing, hygiene, etc, though is provided to the men and women who
stay at the mission by Ministry with Community and the mission, or for those that are fortunate
to have a job or are in college they have funds for them to use for their personal needs.
Depending on your situation you may also be faced with lack of means for transportation
in the city. Some men may sell their EBT card to purchase things that you could not get with the
card which include bus tokens for the public bus system. And most are faced with lack of
financial resources and/or access to affordable housing while others may be limited in their
criminal records which prohibit them from applying to certain jobs. And there are those with
mental and/or physical disabilities who have to somehow manage their homelessness differently
compared to those who are not affected by these ailments.





















Chapter V: Conclusions

What I have found from this study is that one of the major problems of homelessness is
the feeling of being tired all the time; even if you get a full eight hours of sleep your body is still
tired. I would think that is caused by being on your feet for 16 hours a day, the emotional stress
you experience from homelessness, and the feeling of insecurity when being around other people
that you do not know particularly when you are asleep next to them. I can say from my own
experience that this is the way that I felt, and a few other men that I have spoken with have
shared the same thing. So I would suggest research be done in the area of sleep and
homelessness with the intent of trying to come up with better methods, if possible, to address
being tired and lack of sleep amongst the homeless population. Maybe the possibility that if
state and local governments in conjunction with private donations may be able to fund a program
that really addresses root causes of homelessness and provides housing while also providing
geographical space where the homeless can go and get their rest without being harassed by law
enforcement.
Also I cannot stress enough in the fact that for the amount of people that walk the streets
of Kalamazoo and are homeless, they all ended of there for various reasons and that there is no
one way to address the homeless situation in Kalamazoo. I believe that this is going to take both
a sociological and psychological inquiry into addressing this issue. We have people from all
walks of life, with different mental and physical capacities, past criminal records, unstable family
situations and the like which require a holistic view and approach to solving the homeless
situation at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, and those who are homeless in Kalamazoo but who
do not sleep at the mission.
I believe that while this is just a paper written for a graduate level course, there is some
information in here that may be useable to further research in understanding homelessness. First
I strongly suggest that more studies on homelessness be conducted from the standpoint of the
homeless. They are the ones who experience homelessness more readily than those
organizations who are there to help them, and it is here that I believe the best knowledge to
solving if not alleviating this societal problem lies at least in part. In particular to the site that I
have chosen I would have preferred, given the complexity of the problem, that more time was
available to study homelessness in Kalamazoo as best as possible. There is a lot of social
interaction occurring not just at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, but also Ministry with
Community, McDonalds, the bus station, and nearby businesses just to name a few. Given the
design of the class this paper is not able to answer the myriad of questions that could be asked.
I would particularly like to see research conducted on the groups that are formed in the
homeless community specifically to what happens in these groups, how is power used (if power
is even present), how do they communicate with each other, how do they look after one another,
what types of conversations occur, what types of symbolic and physical meanings take form.
Also given the fact that all human interaction and behavior is relative, research into the
perspectives of local organizations and businesses of the homeless in Kalamazoo would provide
great insight into how these people and organizations view and feel about homelessness, and
how a 10 block radius is socially structured around homelessness.
One of the difficulties I found with trying to do this type of research is finding the time
with respondents to sit down and talk with me. Many homeless people are on the move or do not
want to talk about their situation. Others have mental health issues and therefore Q & As are
not viable. Then there are those that work different shifts, and in conjunction with my classes
trying to get an interview was somewhat hard, and therefore most of my data came from light
conversation with others, and participant observation. I would suggest that if it is possible to
formulate a short essay which asks for a respondents perspective on homelessness in all of its
variation that it be given to those who provide services to the homeless seeing as they have the
most contact with them, and can organize a day and a time to try and collect that information.
I believe research should also be geared towards interviewing those that work at the
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission and Ministry with Community what their perspective is on
homelessness and those they serve. Often times social relations are relative and reciprocal and
therefore how an individual and more importantly and institution operates and structures itself
depends a lot on how they view and interact with the other party; in this instance the homeless
community and staff at the mission. Therefore I believe social scientists can view and
understand how and why the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission operates the way it does as does the
wider downtown community of Kalamazoo whose sidewalks the homeless traverse daily.






















Annotated Bibliography

Anderberg, K. (2011). 21st Century Essays on Homelessness. Self-published: CreateSpace
Independent Publishing Platform.

This book provides first person essays on homelessness. The author examines
personal stories on issues of mental health, poverty, childhood homelessness,
runaways, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Baumohl, J. (1996). Homelessness in America. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press.

This book focuses on the broad social issue of homelessness with 19 in-depth essays
that examine policy issues by noted social workers, researchers, advocates, and other
experts in the field. The topics in the chapters range from causes and prevention of
homelessness, national and local advocacy movements, the local regulation of public
space, and current policies on employment, income maintenance, and housing.

Flaherty, B. (1996). Making room: the economics of homelessness. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press.

This book looks at the economic factors behind homelessness. Past research by
sociologists and health research officials have explained homelessness because of
mental health issues, familial environments and the like, but the author looks at the
period in the 1980s when things appeared to be economically great for Americans
while at the same time rents were on the rise for the poor, houses were being
abandoned and the age of neoliberalism under former president Ronald Reagan began.

Hellegers, D. (2011). No room of her own: women's stories of homelessness, life, death, and
resistance. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

This book tells the stories of fifteen women who share the common experience of
homelessness. Drawing on interviews conducted in Seattle, Washington over the
course of nearly two decades, these accounts range across the United States, from New
York to Louisiana to Los Angeles. Included here are memories of living in the South
at the tail end of Jim Crow, of growing up gay and Black in the Pacific Northwest in
the 1960s, and of surviving childhood abuse in Harlan, Kentucky in the 1970s. These
women reveal the formidable struggles they face every day, from catastrophic health
issues to routine threats of physical and sexual assault.

Howard, E. (2013). Homeless: poverty and place in urban America. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press.

This book answers the question: How did previous generations of urban dwellers deal
with the tensions between the rights of the homeless and those of other city residents?
The author researches the efforts of politicians, charity administrators, social workers,
urban planners, and social scientists as they grappled with the problem of
homelessness

Kusmer, K. L. (2002). Down & out, on the road: the homeless in American history. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.

This book is the first scholarly history of the homeless in America from the colonial
era up to the present day. The author probes the history of homelessness from a
variety of angles, showing why people become homeless; how charities and public
authorities dealt with this social problem; and the diverse ways in which different
class, ethnic, and racial groups perceived and responded to homelessness. He analyzes
overarching social conditions and structures such as a condemnatory U.S. Protestant
work-ethic response to homelessness, and why "workhouse" solutions do not deal with
underlying economic issues, and the mythologies of the "tramp as criminal,"
"pedophile seducer" and disease carrier are examined.

Liebow, E. (1993). Tell them who I am: the lives of homeless women. New York: Free Press ;.

In this book observes women who live in a variety of shelters near Washington, D.C.--
how they interact with one another, family and shelter staff; pass their days; and
struggle to retain their dignity. The author argues that homeless women are
remarkably supportive of one another; that shelter workers are often dedicated, but
also scared and autocratic in spite of their best intentions; that the men in these
women's lives seldom offer help; and that homeless mothers are propelled by ties,
however flimsy, to their children.

Min, E. (1999). Reading the homeless the media's image of homeless culture. Westport, Conn.:
Praeger.

Media portrays the homeless population as lazy, drunk, drug addicts, or crazy people.
This book examines the various ways, both verbal and visual, in which the homeless
have been portrayed by the media from the 1980s to the present day.

Rossi, P. H. (1989). Down and out in America: the origins of homelessness. Chicago: University
of Chicago Press.

This book provides a picture of homelessness to date by offering an explanation of its
causes, proposes short- and long-term solutions, and documents the striking contrasts
between the homeless of the 1950s and 1960s and the contemporary homeless
population, which is younger and contains more women, children, and blacks. The
author presents homelessness in a historical context and tries to answer a question:
Who are the homeless? His report is an academic analysis of the homeless and the
extremely poor and provides extensive comparative research data on homelessness:
age, gender, marital status, income, appearance, health, alcoholism, drug use, and
criminal record.

Vanderstaay, S. (1992). Street Lives: An Oral History of Homeless Americans. Philadelphia, P.A:
New Society Publishers.

Street Lives presents a more nuanced portrait of homelessness than most accounts.
Street Lives begins with some historical context, and then offers brief testimonies
from homeless people around the country. This book allows readers to empathize with
a wide variety of homeless Americans by listening to their thoughts.

Wasserman, J. A., & Clair, J. M. (2010). At home on the street: people, poverty, and a hidden
culture of homelessness. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

The authors of this book argue that programs and policies addressing homeless people
too often serve only to alienate them. Wasserman and Clair delve into the complex
realities of homelessness to paint a gripping picture of individuals - not cases or
pathologies - living on the street and of their strategies for daily survival. By exploring
the private spaces that those who are homeless create for themselves, as well as their
prevailing social mores, the authors explain how well-intentioned policies and
programs often only widen the gap between the indigent and mainstream society.

Yankoski, M. (2005). Under the overpass. Sisters, Or.: Multnomah Publishers.

The author and a friend live as a homeless people in six American cities for five
months. The experience the harshness, hunger, and dangers of being homeless in
Denver, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C. Their experiences of being homeless are
detailed in this book.












Appendices
Transcription of main semi-structured interview:
Interview Respondent: Mortar; Interview date: March 16
th
, 2014
Character Summary: I have come to like Mortar a lot. He is a black male in his early 60s, and
is a U.S. Army veteran. He currently is and has been working for the same company for the last
21 years and is hoping to retire soon. Mortar grew up in Three Rivers, Michigan and has told me
a lot about what his childhood was like, his experience in the military, in the workplace, and just
life in general. He is a highly talkative individual, but he has given me much wisdom and
knowledge well beyond what this paper asks.
Interviewer: How did you end up being homeless?
Interviewee: How did I end up being homeless? UhhI got over extended on bills ya know. I
took out 2 loansuhhmy 401K I hadI had to pay that back through my paycheck. UmmI
was paying an apartmentI had highuhhinsurance on my car, I was paying on my car, and
then we had 2 layoffs at work. First we haduhhwhat they call a voluntary layoff, then we
haduhh2 regular layoffs, and then we had auhh6 month work reduction where you
didnt get fulltime pay for working a fulltime schedule. With all that and all the bills I had to
pay, something wasnt getting paid so since I was paying $625 for my apartment I gave my
apartment up, then moved into theuhhto the mission. I still had money in the bank ya know,
but it was just so tight that, ya know, more money was coming from out the bank then going in
so I stopped. I said naw man Im gonna move into the mission.
Interviewer: What year was this?
Interviewee: 2013. About September 2013.
Interviewer: Were you still working at the time?
Interviewee: Yup, yeah. Yup.
Interviewer: What was it like for you working and living at the mission?
Interviewee: UhhI was on and off for a year cuz I had moved into a motel though to. And I,
I had, the reason why I moved into a motel because I paid cheaper prices then what everybody
else could because I got to know the uhhI had got to know some Indian people through living
in motels and uhhthe old man that I knewuhhone of his sons and daughters they ran the,
the motel on Westnedge Hill, and uhhthey knew me and I asked them Man can I get some
kind of reduced pay? ya know cuz Im, and they let me have it. But then after that man ya
know its still expensive weekly ya know so I moved into theinto the mission. Ya know I
moved out, and then in, out, then back in again.
Interviewer: How did you manage working and living at the mission?
Interviewee: It was tough man cuz like I say I wasnt getting enough sleep. I mean ya know
even ifeven if I wasnt working youre on your feet for 16 hours. And then here I am on my
feet ya know lets say from 8:00AM to 2 oclock ya know I might get some sleep, I might not ya
know, and Im talking about sleeping in my car. Then I had to work 8 hours ya know work was,
is mental and physical because you have to think about what youre doing and the you have to be
prcised with measurements ya know. Theres a lot of mental and physical stuff that goes with it
ya know. By the time I got in at 11:30PM I was tired. Ya know before I get a good sleep Im up
again and thats what caused me to have this accident ya know uhhthen uhhbefore I had that
accident I went to 10 hours because I knew I needed the money cuz I was trying to work my
way out the mission. So I worked 40 hours and that Friday I had the accident because of lack of
sleep ya know, and thats basically my mainmy main issue with it because as far as being there
I really wasnt there that long ya know because doing what we do from 5 oclock on I missed all
that ya see what Im saying Id eat breakfast ya know? I could eat lunch then rest of the day
Im gone ya know? I aint nowhere around ya know? And I didnt start having to do that until I
had this accident ya know, or I wouldnt even been around this bull stuff ya know so.
Interviewer: After your car accident where did you go?
Interviewee: What happened is since I missed the payment on my car insurance, I missed only
one payment the entire time I had it, matter if fact I was doing another 6 month period on my
uhhon my insurance, well anyway, I missed a payment and I was about 10 days late and I had
the uhhaccident. Well I spent 6 days in the hospital, but I still can hardly walk and I was
bruised so deeply man that I was scared I had internal injuries ya know? It wasnt no sign of it
they seen, but it just felt like it man, and I was walking on a cane, and my wrist was broke. So I
stayed at a motelthey paid for a motela social worker at the hospital got me a free motel for
a week. Then I paid it out my own pocket for another week. Then I moved into the mission. I
was able to walk a little man, but I was limping and walking real slow, but the bruising started to
go down by then ya know cuz Id ice myself up and then Id put Bengay on and since I knew I
didnt have internal injuries I knew I just had to work it out ya know? And thats what
happened. I rehabbed in a motel ya know then I came back to the mission.
Interviewer: And when did all this occur?
Interviewee: The accident happened November 22
nd
2013 and uhhall the way to the present
day so Ive been out of work all that time.
Interviewer: What was it like being injured, but you know you had to be up at 6:00AM in the
mission?
Interviewee: Ya know the only thing that I have problems withI knew I had backlash
uhhwhip lash symptoms so my neck to my shoulders to my hips, my back and all that was
hurting ya know and matter of fact I had pain pills I wasnt really taking ya know Id take one ya
know if I thought I needed it ya know if my knee or something got to bothering me ya know?
My hips, my knee ya know all that stuff got to bothering me so I went to a chiropractor and I told
her what happened and she knew I had whip lash symptoms just by looking at me. So she helped
relieve that pain, butbut until that time I had to walk out the pain basically. So you know
wasnt nothing else broken except a broken toe and a broken wrist. The wrist took longer
because it had 2 main fractures all the way around the wrist. So I messed my wrist up and I
couldnt even tell you how I done it. I couldnt tell ya what happened during the accident ya
know cuz I was so sleepy man that I went out, and then all I know is I was in an accident, thats
all I know. I was driving to work and next thing I was being pulled from the wreck so its just
like that. It was a devastatingmanbecause youre working, then not working then not
getting no paycheck. The money I had in the bank ya know Im living off of that ya know and it
was dwindling ya know, but I still had to do what I had to do ya know? Then I had to fight with
my insurance company to get some money. That was the mostthe most devastating thing of
all. Dealing with those knuckle heads down the way (Kalamazoo Gospel Mission) you can say a
few words and youll be alrightcuz I know most of these people man, and ummbut dealing
with the insurance company had me worried man; had me really worried, and really scared
because that was itI didnt have no money and I wasI was basically by the time that lady
called me I was basically broke ya know? So she called me and the next thing ya know a few
weeks later I had a big ass check know and thatthat really helped out ya know. That saved me
and then Inow Im able to go back to work so well see what happens. 2 more years and I
hope to be out of itclose to retire, but I wanted to be out of there in August, but I gotta have 1
of my loans paid, and I wouldve probably stayed another year because one of my loans I had
another loan thats probably gonna take a little longer to pay off. Other than that Igonna start
to pay these loans off. The loans have been the biggest problem for me financially man. Getting
that money out your heck and you got all these other problems like now Im probably gonna run
into some problems paying for my insurance cuz the insurance they rape me ya know cuz of 1
accident the insurance goes up $200. Its crazy man ya know you dont even use the shitI dont
even use the insurance ya know, but its still costing me all that money ya know? And then they
want to charge the hell out of you. They want to go back since 2007 in my record. I aint ever
had an accident. First time I had an accident my rates go up crazy ya know? 61 years oldthat
aint rightjust aint right.
Interviewer: So while you were injured and staying at the mission what was an average day
like?
Interviewee: Average day is that I get up, do my chore, go to the bus station and wait there til 9
oclock Monday thru Fridays and Saturdays and then head to the library. Ya know sit in the
library, get on the computer, read books and thats all I did. And thin if I had to dokeep my
appointments with my doctor Id do that. You know like I said most the time I read books and if
I had to get on the phone to different thingsdifferent people you know I would do
thatinsurance company, my motheryou know make calls. I had to do this to help myself get
back to work. And then eventually what kept me out of work was my wrist you know. The
chiropractor took care of aches and pains ya know and my right knee was hurt before cuz I got
hit by a car beforeso the little bit of injury that happened in the car accident kinda makes it
stiff but the left knee that swelled up man it dont even bother me. The chiropractor what she did
she did her do cuz she knew what to do. Straighten me right out. I was having all kinds of
pains. But you know because of that I know I had to walk you know I was kinda glad I had to
walk cuz thats what helped me rehab. You know walking, carrying this pack on my back you
know that kind of gave me the strength I needed for my lower extremities to get better because
thats basically where my injuries were. From where I was hurt from here to here (points from
right shoulder down to left leg) all the way down to my knee. Got a broken toebroken toe
healed up, but its still broke somewhatbut its healed up to where it dont bother me. But
thats basically it manlong as I knew I was getting thatthat exercise in I would beyou
know cuz I was waiting for my wrist to heal up. I have still fractures in it, but you know Im
going back to work anyway so well see what happens.
Interviewer: So you said that you would stay at the bus station until 9 oclock. So have you
had any encounters with the local law enforcement?
Interviewee: Yeah I mean they see you sitting in there and I guess the encounters probably
come form a lot of different things you know its not so much me personallyanything that Ive
doneya got a lot of teenagers that come in there and raise hell. You got a lot of drunks that
come in there they sleep and beg moneystuff like that. Anyway man you got a lot of
nuisancestuff that happens in there so when the police see you idly sitting around they tell you
to move on. And I had a policeman tell me, I was cat napping, and he told me that if I didnt
move on he was gonna put me in jail for loitering. And I heard other people getting tickets for
loitering, getting kicked out of the place so you know the roust youaint know doubt about it.
They dont care who you are I mean if they think you loitering you got to go. But sometimes
they kinda pick out certain people especially Blacks you know and you gots to go. And 9 out of
10 most of the time people do be loitering but it dont be the type of nuisance loitering you
know? I could see them doing that, but come up the threatening to put me in jail cuz Im sitting
there is crazy man. You know just a Gustapo tactic as far as Im concerned.
Interviewer: What about at the library? Have you had any encounters there?
Interviewee: Yeah same thing man. Security dont want you to sleep. And I asked the security
guy about that you know and its the same thing: you get a lot of people that cause nuisances.
You know I mean 9 times out of 10 you sitting in the easy chair, whoever you are and you
reading books, 9 times out of 10 your gonna fall asleep. You know what Im saying I mean you
know thats just the naturalto me its natural. It aint no big thing, but when you got drunks that
come in there and sleep and you know probably urinated on themselves and you know stuff like
thatbe drinking in the bathroom ya know doing all kinds of stuff make other people look bad
ya know cuz if you sleep 9 times out of 10 you might be drink. You know they dont know so if
you cross the line they say you cant sleep in here you know what Im saying so. And I had a
librarian tell me she gonna put me out if she caught me sleeping again. She caught me sleeping 2
times (laughs) in the same day (laughs) uhhshit.
Interviewer: So what do you think of your overall experience at the gospel mission?
Interviewee: Ya know man the gospel mission got its purpose man I mean ya knowya know
as far as eating and having a place to stay its you know ya cant beat it. I mean you get pretty
good food ya know you have to say that compared to some of these missions. Some of these
missions just runned completely different, and you dont get nothing. Here you get pretty good,
it might not be the best, it might not be what your mother might make, but as far as mission goes
I say its good and you got a place to sleep. Now as far as them helping people I dont think they
help people at allI mean as far as getting on their feet. As far as helping them with work,
helping them with rent. You see you got mentally ill running around there that need to be
supervised. You know you got ex-prisoners that you know they cant make their way I life cuz
theyre having a hard time. Societys against them, they got their POs (parole officers) on em.
I mean you dont have social workers to filter through these people. As long as you got that you
still got a large population of homeless. You know homelessness isnt decreasing because the
gospel mission there, the homeless population isnt decreasing because of the Ministry with
Community, you know the homelessness isnt decreasing cuz of the city, you know nothings
making people less homeless. They just sustaining. So if you just being sustained and you
homelessyou always gonna be homeless year after year, day after day. Day after day, week
after week, month after month, year after year so what is that doing for anybody? Sustaining
people. And thenand then you gonna put (inaudible) in 90 days you aint doing nothing you
gotta leave. Well what is this, what am I gonna do? You aint got no resources to do nothing ya
know? Ya gottaif you wanna work you gotta go way out on the south side to one of these
temporary services and if you aint got money then you gotta walk. You already on your feet 16
hours you see what Im saying? By time the end of the day you dont want to hear nothing they
say as far as religion because it dont mean nothing to you cuz you tired plus you dont see them
coming at you religiously. You just see them coming at you like society you know a waste of
time and you aint this you aint that man. You need this and thatwell wheres God in your life
you know? Jesus helped people you know he didnt just, he didnt just sustain emhe helped
them. You know hehe made an improvement in their lives, and I dont see that happening
even with the Ministry with Community doing a better job but its still notits still notit still
dont get people over the hump. You know you got people that got moneygot checksthey
should be having somebody financially helping them to be able to do the right things with their
money. You know what Im saying if you get a check from the government or the state then you
gotta follow these certain guidelines. That way it keeps people from going out blowing they
money. And next month they do the same thing and they being sustained. Its all they being,
and if you aint got no money at least you got a case worker that can help you sit down and make
a guideline for your life. You know you should be doing this, this, and this. We gonna help you
do this, this and this. You know if you need bus tokens we gonna get you bus tokens. You know
here you have no advocacy for the homeless you knowmy planwhat I thought is that if the
city, and the Ministry with Community, and homeless shelter, merchants and everybody needs to
get togetherpool together their money and make this money toto get people jobs. You know
they can makethey can give everybody minimum wage to do this stuff this way the jobs are
right where the homeless are so they dont have to go all overover town looking for work. Ya
know that way least these people are making some kind of money. Its notits notits not a
problem to end all homelessness, buts it better than nothing. Its better than what they doing.
You know then if Ministry with Community get social workers then get the social workers to
work with these people. Uhhyou know if that has to be improved then improve that you
know? And these people aint got insurance you know and be able to get checked out you
knowget appointments and get checked out especially suited for homeless people. You know
what Im saying people could have anything you see what Im sayingnot just some corner
place you can go and get some coffee. You know what Im saying they got a place down
hereumm that one place that the hospital runummhealth centerfamily health center.
You know they should have a program just for the homeless you see what Im saying whether it
be men, women or children. I guess they probably do I dont know much about it, butyet still
man we can just sustain peoplewe gotta make emwe gotta pushif they not moving on we
gotta push em on. Cuz everybody dont know what to do ya know everybody dont have the
mental capacity of the know howwillpower to wanna move on you know? They need to be
inspired, they need to be pushed, they need to be helped ya know what Im saying? And is
nothing wrong with that ya see what Im saying, and if ya gonna throw money at em then what
youyou just sustaining a habit you know by blowing they money and eating at the mission all
the time you know? You know you gotta stop that, you gotta stop that way of life, you know you
gotta restruct peoples lives, and our society doesnt wanna do that. They dont wanna go that
far to help somebody restruct. And if you dont restruct then you gonna have problems that you
still got. Thatsthats a shame you knowfar as that concerns you doing all rightso far as
something to eat, as a place to sleep. You eat 3 times a day at the mission; you eat twice at the
drop in center, but you sustaining homelessness. You putting more money into sustaining
homelessness than you are eradicating it. If you dont eradicate it what good are ya doing?
Regardless of whateveryou can be as much Christian as you want, you can throw as much
money as you want, but you aint doing nothing you know? You got mentally ill people walking
around that need to be supervised whether they need to be taking they money, whether some
place specially for them to go, you see they needed to be weeded out and separated from
everybody else cuz everybody else cant deal with them. You knowdont know how to deal
with them; dont want to deal with them. You know you need somebody that advocates or these
people you know? And you gonna pay for it in the right way. You know do the right thing and
itll cost you lot less you know? Now it cost you a wholelot like a mentally ill person killed
someone at the bus station years agoya see what Im saying? Well if he had of been
monitored or supervised hi might not have been in that situation in the first place. Far as Im
concerned they think they doing something, but you aint doing nothing far as Im concerned.
Interviewer: What do you think about the employees at the mens shelter? Whats your
perspective on them?
Interviewee: Well George, I worked with George and George is a good man, but ya know
George is a lot of touchy because of his age. I dont know everybody there personally but
theyre not professional. And thats my thing about working with homelessworking with the
problems that you got you need professional people like social workers, psychiatristsyou need
resources to deal with these people and you need to be professional about it. Because you need
some kind of strict order...a strictuhhplanning you know to keep these people in the straight
and narrow. Like I said before a lot of these people dont know how to restruct their livesthey
dont know and regardless of what we might think some of them are stupid but all that aside they
dont know what to dothey dont...know how to do any better. So this is what you gonna get
constantly. Like LeonLeons been there for 20 something years. I used to put Leon down in
the basementcome in drunk. Most of Leons friends are deadwhy couldnt they help him?
If they had they lives reconstructed they wouldnt be dead. You cant make nobody quit
drinking but you can still put them in the program to where theyit changessomething gets in
their mind to where they can build on that if they want toit they really want to. You cant
sustain homelessness and your gonna sustain them if you dont have professional peoplethey
dont know what to do. What they doing for these people down here besides making themyou
cant sleep on the floor, you cant do this, you cant do that ya know what Im saying, but what is
it doing to help these peoples lives? Thats all Im saying. I mean there probably good people,
good meaning, good intentions even Mike Cook, even Mike Brown but you aint doing shit. You
know you aint doing what ya need to be doing because youre not professional and you probably
dont care that much see what Im saying and because you aint professional and you dont care
you dont need to be doing what youre doing. If you aint doing what youre supposed to be
doing then youre just picking up a paycheck. They sucking up more resources than the people
down there do. You might get some food, you might get some shelter, but these dudes getting
paychecks you knowhouses you know what Im sayingcars and stuff you knowmost of
them people didnt have that there. Like ahhKirk stayed 2 years in 10-6 you know what Im
saying? What the hell are you doing down here ya know telling people what to do and that. I
mean he pretty good at what he do you know, but you aint improved to help somebody up. You
aint professional ya know. If you wouldve went to school and got professional Id give you
your props you know? But what you do aint nothing because youre not professional. You need
professional people in there thats all I know so.
Interviewer: Have you had any problems of feeling unsafe and insecure down there?
Interviewee: No, I meannaw I meanyou know I mean Im 61 years old man. Ive been
through a lot so as far as me being safe and secure I know how to take careI cant be going
around whoopin everybody but still Im not going to be no pushover you know and a lot of
times you have to beast.that you have to beast at people sometimes. You know you have to let
them know that you aint gonna take that nonsense. Other than that man its pretty cool down
there cuz Iya know me myselfId rather be your friend than ya enemy ya see what Im
saying, but if we have to be enemies then we gonna go to war. And me I come out of my
pockets for people, give stuff away ya knowclothes. Thats just what I think I should do.
Everybody deserves just do respect and if you make a friend with a guy then you got no enemies.
And that aint being no punk. It aint cuz Im scared of people and that. Why would I wanna
fight everybody? Why would I wanna be at odds with everybody? Most of those guys that I
dont even know go Hey how you doin you see what Im saying? ShitId done what I need
to be doing. Thats might security right there. The better I am as a person, the more secure I
feel. I would feel very unsecure if I had anyone wanna knock my head off. Ya know what Im
sayingIm beasting everybody and yeah Im unsecure nowinsecure now cuz they inow you
gonna get got. If you friendsbe friends man and people appreciate that. They appreciateyou
know I call Lopez mister Lopez you know? Ritter is one of them weird type people you know
what Im sayingI call him mister Ritter and it makes him feel good man ya knowthats all I
got to do. He might not speak to me all the time, he might see me at the library, he might wave,
sometime he might not, but if you didnt treat him with respect he wouldnt even do that.
Interviewer: With chapel service ending at 8:30PM and there only being 6 shower heads, 6
toilets, 6 urinals and 6 sinks, how do you manage that with over 80 guys every night?
Interviewee: Man Im not gonna shower, dick to butt, ya know what Im saying waiting on no
showers, and Im not gonna do it, and to me that aint coolthats not manly. I mean standing up
there by a bunch of naked mentheres something faggity about it to meI dont know. And
thats just me, but what I do is Ill wait til about 4 oclock in the morning and go in there and
take a shower. If they wanna do that then go ahead if thats your thing. Everybody wanna get
donethats basically what it is more than anything else. But me myself man being around
other men naked likeinlike that, that aint cool. Now if theres women in there and Im the
only man Im secure as hell (laughs)Im scared somebody might slip something in my behind
man (laughs again). Thats insecurity boy let me tell ya right there, but uhhnaw man I
dontsome of the guys you know might have weirdoes in there you know what Im saying?
Im not going for that and if somebody accidently bumped me butt naked Im going offI dont
care who it isthatthatthats not gonna happen. So thats what I do man, stay away from
conflict I get in at 4 oclock in the morning ya know. May be a couple of guys in there or
something. Aint no big thingwe aint in each others way.
Interviewer: How has it been psychologically for you being down there? Being homeless?
Interviewee: Psychologically man I think it helped me change a little bit. When I was growing
up man I had to fight for everything. Nobody gave me nothing, even my parents. If I wanted
something I had to get out there and get ithad to figure something out to get it. And it makes
you selfish. It made you selfishit made you uhhit made you as soon as you got mad you had
to fight you knowphysically fight people you know? I think by being at the mission this time,
now Ive been to the mission before, this time man made me moremore open to people, more
friendlymore openrealize you know how blessed Ive been you know not just the accident
man, but just life in general cuz I couldve lost my life many times. It wasnt just because I was
a bad person and doing bad things, its just that when you see a lot of bad of crazy things since
kidsIve been in about 1314 accidents you know? I aint never drown in one of em you
know? But I couldve been killed in any of them. Theres people I grew up with
killedanyway manIm blessed beingbeing ummyou know seeing God work in my life
you know as far as you know sparing me from the accident, caused me to keep a job for 21 years
when man I didnt think I was gonna make it 90 days you know? And them people didnt want
me there and it was only because I was Black. You know, no other reason man. I didnt know
nobody, couldnt know nobody, didnt do nothing to nobody. I passed the drug test; I mean what
more do you want from me? What else could you want from somebody? They willing to work
so you know its justits just being blessed uhhchanged my attitude towards some people I
mean theres some people that set me off cuz thats what their trying to do. And you know I
was still weak to that, to infuriating people.
Interviewer: How do you manage that?
Interviewee: I dontyou know the thing is man you gotta realize that something must be
wrong with these people you know what Im saying? You know I thinklike I said man when I
grew up you know I had to have a fiery temper man. My father was a slow burner, and I can be
that way to, but when it comes down to people that go out they way to mess with you and do
something that they know, and you know they know, and they know you know they aint
supposed to do it but they gonna do it anyway, and they directing it at you manits just
uhhits just like being bullied. And I never could stand that. I mean you know you start
messing with my siblings just because you can man that just sets me off. And I had to learn how
to deal with that man cuz you cant just get mad at some of these people because they got
problems to. And thats one of they problems: doing something to people that shouldnt be done.
You know you see people do all kind of stuff. You go into the restroom and see toilets clogged
up. I mean come on really? You know you see people like that one boy stand up scratching all
in front of your face and everythingcome on man. You really dont know no better than that?
And he probably dont. He probably got a problem and being that young you gotta feel sorry for
him. So once you feel sorry and realizing that Hey man this fool got it worse than you you
know then you have to back off and just ignore this stuff. When I had that confrontation with
MitchMitch is a bitch as far as I am concerned because he start a lot of shit and when I see him
picking on mister Lopez it just made me mad ya know? It reminded me of me when I was a kid
ya know? And the man already told him not to mess with him, and Mitch gonna keep hitting on
him and keep irritating him so I got into it and I said Man cut that shit out, and then he gonna
talk that shit about doing something to me? Man Ill hurt Mitch manMitch dont know, he
dont know. And then Ike gonna put his two cents in and thats another angry old man. You
know I should have realized that, but now you in my face? That aint gonna happen you know?
Man I dont care what your problem is now you got another problem. Yeah I pushed him
downman I pushed that motherfuckerI just whoaI didnt think that was gonna happen.
Because II liked the dude man, but he just an angry man. Now I realize thatnow I dont talk
to him I dont mess with him. Even if he say something to me lot of time I just keep moving
cuz he got a problem. Motherfucker drove cab in Kalamazoo for 20 years, I know Ike. I know
him from before. I drove a cab with him. Anyway man because of those type of people you
gotta understand that they got problems to and you gotta get passed it. You cant let that
problem be your problem. You have to better than what you were in order to deal with that
problem, even though its not your problem you gotta deal with it cuz its coming at you. So you
gotta be a better person to get beyond that, and thats what Im trying to do.
Transcription of follow-up semi-structured interview:
Interview Respondent: Mortar; follow-up Interview date: April 13
th
, 2014
Interviewer: What is something people should know about being homeless?
Interviewee: That its uhhdepressing, it makes people ashamed of themselves you know
uhhsociety has an ugly view of the homeless. I think theres a lot of misconceptions about
homelessness all the way around.
Interviewer: What misconceptions do you think people have about the homeless?
Interviewee: That their all lazy, dont wanna do anything you know? They wanna suck off of
society. I mean that could be true in some cases. And then you got a lot of people that dont
wanna uselotsa people just lost man. I mean they lost they hope, will, their faith you know?
They justthey just stuck in helplessness more than homelessness. If you helpless you cant
help yourself so.
Interviewer: How does it feel to be homeless?
Interviewee: Im one of the lucky ones man because I got a car and a job now. So no matter
what my situation is I can always make it better in time. Some people dont have resources. So
there stuck in homelessness. Im gonna be back to work, got a car and then Im probably gonna
find me a place to stay so that takes me right out the equation.
Interviewer: Would you be willing to help the homeless and poor seeing as you have a stable
job?
Interviewee: Yeah. Or course. I mean yeah.
Interviewer: Why?
Interviewee: Because they need help to. I mean a lot of people I say are stuck, they done gave
up. They need some encouragement, invigorated, whatever man. They need that extra help to
get themselves together. Then again you have to look at different situations: are you addicted to
anything, are you mentally incapable, or are you just gave up? Or are you just lazy ya know
what Im saying? If you can help or not you really dont know, but as far as donations and
giving time and stuff like that you know yeah I would do that, but you cant help everybody
because you dont have resources yourself.
Interviewer: What are your views on the public, the City of Kalamazoo, when it comes to
helping the poor and homeless?
Interviewee: I think that its pretty cold man. I mean you got homelessness in a 7 block area.
And thats right downtown. And the powers that be from the city commission to the mayors
office to entrepreneursI mean man its not a big homelessness situation, but this situation of
homelessness in Kalamazoo could be eradicated if enough resources were pulled together. And
it dont take no one person to fund helping people. But what they doing now is just cold man.
Interviewer: If there is one, what is the best part about being homeless?
Interviewee: Best part!? (laughs) I dont know...I dont think there is a good part to being
homeless other than you dont have the everyday bills to pay, and responsibilities and keeping
yourself afloat. Thats about it. You dont have the everyday responsibilities and pressures. I
dont think there is an upside to homelessness at all.
Interviewer: Whats the worst and best thing that has happened to you while being homeless?
Interviewee: The worse thing I guess being caught up in what society things of homelessness.
People looking at you like you cant amount to nothing, and they dont know your whole story.
The best thing is you got to meet a lot of people you wouldnt ordinarily meet, and you got a
chance to understand why people are homeless. You meet people that you ordinarily wouldnt
speak to.




Transcription of second semi-structured interview:
Interview Respondent: Seven; Interview date: March 15
th
, 2014:
Character Summary: Seven is in my opinion one of the interesting men at the mission because
he is smart when it comes to physical sciences. We have had many discussions on things like
chemistry, biology, physics, climate change, etc. He tells me that he is currently trying to write a
book on trans-humanism, but as you can imagine trying to write a book and be homeless at the
same time is not the best of situations. He is in his late 40s to early 50s, white male, and about
56 if I had to guess. Currently he has been doing medical studies at Jasper Clinic, and has
plans to use that money to get an apartment.
Interviewer: Whats your experience been like at the gospel mission?
Interviewee: Well like a Holocaust survivor once said As human beings we can get used to
anything.
Interviewer: How do you get used to it?
Interviewee: You just have ahhlowered expectations. And once you get used to lowered
expectations you can take another step and another step, and another step. Thats basically the
way it goes.
Interviewer: When you talk about lowered expectations, what do you mean by that? You dont
expect much from
Interviewee: Life.
Interviewer: What are your thoughts on the staff at the gospel mission?
Interviewee: I just have to assume their assholes because theyve been brainwashed to believe
and contradict themselves; to contradict physical reality and the most basic ideas of decency and
morality. Slavery is wrong, mass murder and genocide are blatantly evil. I believe in those
values thats why I dont believe in that book.
Interviewer: How would you define your way of living at the gospel mission?
Interviewee: Theres no simple word for that pal? (laughs) Yeah its just gradual steps of
lowered expectations. You just realize the world doesnt give a shit about you cuz so many
other people are dying. I mean uhhat least were not living in Rwanda in the late 80s or early
90sduring the Clinton years. I mean at least we arent living in the 18
th
century. At least we
are not Native Americansliving on 90% of their land. Kalamazoo! Places in Michigan named
after genocide victims. My grandfather was born in 31 and Native American genocide occurred
up to his life time. I met him ya know? He was alive during the genocides ya know when all the
good Christians and the 7
th
Cav. gave us the land to use. The alienation runs deep.
Interviewer: What do you think about sleeping in 10-6? Do you find it safe?
Interviewee: Sometimes. When I yell at somebody to shut the fuck up at 10:30 at night, half an
hour after the lights go out, but other than that I have earplugs for the snoring and I put my shirt
over my eyes to cut out the light. The first few months that I stayed in 10-6 I had to use an air
mattress for my back because it wasnt comfortable at all. And eventually I stopped using one
because my back got fully adapted.
Interviewer: What is your typical day like?
Interviewee: Go to McDonalds or do my chore in the warehouse in the morning. And usually
go to the library a lot. The Colbert Report and the Daily Show help me keep my sense of humor
alive. Ive been watching more comedy than drama. I dont want to get involved in that
mindless drama ya know? Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, families falling apartI never got married
soDidnt think Id be that good of a father. So yeah uhhbasically its coffee shops and the
library.
Interviewer: When did you end up homeless?
Interviewee: After 2000. I stayed at the Holland mission after I got evicted. Then I came to the
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.
Interviewer: What was the cause of your homelessness?
Interviewee: Just depression, giving up, and alienation. Not finding a decent job and being able
to stick with it. And not having the money to pay for an apartment. One way I deal with the
slow crushing horror of 10-6 is I stay out in the woods for about 4 months. Its about 7 miles
away from here, and the area is about 2 miles away from a large grocery store chain. I have a
bridge card and that helps a lot. I peddle down here to Jasper Clinic or something, but
sometimes its hard waking up in the cold in a sleeping bag. Thats the method of survival. I
found a tent while I was dumpster diving which is a great method of survival. And you also find
a lot of free alcohol, half bottles of wine, full bottles of beer, and unopened bottles of liquor.
And you find stuff to sell and a whole lot of other stuff like electronics, clothing, and hygiene
products.
Interviewer: Do you do this at retail stores?
Interviewee: No uhh 99% is at apartment complexes where students congregate on the other
side of Western or sometimes before Westerns police say dont do that I collect cans on
Westerns campus. And I usually do about $5 0r $6 a night. Now that I have enough from
Jasper Clinic I dont do that anymore.
Interviewer: While being homeless have you had any run in with the law?
Interviewee: No. Im actually glad the police are here because if youre travelling down the
mean streets you dont have to worry about some thugs beating you up.
Interviewer: How long has it been since you have been without a home?
Interviewee: Almost 3 years since I lost my apartment on Vine St.
Interviewer: What do you think about homelessness in general?
Interviewee: Well well never get rid of it. Some of its due to character flaws and some of it is
due to unfortunate circumstances like bad divorces, combination of an accident that will keep
you from working and not any money for the apartment and decent medical care. A lot of the
time its borderline mental problems; mental illness problems and these people are really never
going to hold steady jobs. And its private business ya know; its a dog eat dog world. Its
always going to be competitive in the private sector. And they have no compulsion to care about
that 5 or 10 percent, and so the homeless population are those 3and drug and alcohol addiction
well is 4. Were never gonna get rid of homelessness.
Interviewer: What is it like for you living in the woods for that amount of time?
Interviewee: Its actually a blessed peaceful relief except when the rain gets into the tent.
Thankfully I was able to get a thick enough air mattress to keep me above the puddles. And
there are a lot of spiders and other insects, and you know hawks and deer and a raccoon to keep
me company. I bathe in the stream; Id like wade in a few hundred yards so nobody could see
you. You know soap up and wash a few clothing items in the stream.
Interviewer: Have you ever had people walk up on you in the woods?
Interviewee: Yeah. I struck up a conversation or just said hello. Theres about 2 miles of trails
out there in 500 acres of woods.
Interviewer: What would you buy seeing as you dont have access to a fridge?
Interviewee: I have to like buy food every 2 or 3 days and I would buy frozen food that you can
eat just by letting it thaw out and warm up in the sun. So I would cook anything; Id buy frozen
food like t.v. dinners, burritos, Chinese and cook it in the sun.

Transcription of third semi-structured interview:
Interview Respondent: Sweet Asphalt; Interview date: February 16
th
, 2014:
Character Summary: Sweet Asphalt is a 60 year old black male that I have known for about 2
years. Since he got laid off from his last job a few years back, he has been in and out of the
mission; more in than out. In spite of all this he has a laid back personality and simply goes with
the flow of things. Currently he works through a temporary agency called Labor Ready.
Interviewer: You worked in the RV industry in Elkhart, Indiana for 10 years after which you
were laid off. Then you went to Texas to work for 9 months, and then ended up here at the
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission?
Interviewee: Yeah, I searched, I went to Texas doe work down there for about 9 months, came
back, then I really uhhcouldnt find work in 2011 so I knew I could see itit was gonna
happen so I just started planning on it; made calls, checked around different cities, but then I
ended up in Kalamazoo.
Interviewer: So you got down here in 2011?
Interviewee: Uh huh.
Interviewer: Summer, Fall, Winter?
Interviewee: It was Fall.
Interviewer: What was it like for you when you first came in?
Interviewee: Ahh its intimidating. Ya know you come inyou never expected to be homeless.
You never expect to be without work you know when youve worked most of your life. You
justyou justyou have todo what you have to do, and I knew it before I came to Kalamazoo
that I had a couple months. I could see the handwriting on the wall. I just accepted it but still its
intimidatingitsits humbleit humbles you for one. Ya know I think thats where most
menmen in particular struggle, they dont like that humbling feeling that you know cuz were
supposed to maintain our strength and all that, but if you accept it that thats the way its gonna be
and try to make the best of it. At first you know youyou go through through thiseveryone
goes through the guilt you knowthat kind of stuff, but ya just have to work through it. It
takesit takes work tototo be homeless; its not just a physical thing you know. It take the
mental work as well as the physical work to be homeless.
Interviewer: How do you mentally get through it? At least when you first got here?
Interviewee: When you first go through it you have to really slow down because youyour
first thing your thinki9ng about I think, and I dontI cant put a percentage on, but I think the
first thing that most people think about when they become homelessw and they come to a shelter
is they think about how to get out because its new to them. Itsitswell it was new to me. I
had never been homeless so itit was new to me so the initialyour initial thought was how do
I get back to the real world, you know...howthe outer world or whatever ya wanna call it, and I
think thats what people do, and then they getthey get in a burry ya know cuz they wanna
getthey dont like itits uncomfortable I mean how more unconfortable can you be? You
know your sleeping in a in a dorm, or if your in 10-6 your sleeping on the floor withwith a
hundred guys, or sixty, or whatever, from all walks of life, from different parts of the country ya
know? So you want to get out of itso you try to do it as you can, but thats really not theI
dont think thats the way to do it. You really gotta stop, slow down, you know basically catch
your breath as they say andand just you have to look around and slow down, get your
bearings, and try to figure out how I canm cope through theget through this thing and cope and
everday deal because everythings new.
Interviewer: Some of the guys differentiate between being homeless at the mission and the
outside world. What is the difference?
Interviewee: Well its the freedom. You dont have freedom when your homeless. Yo dont
have freedom cuz your dependent on your meal, your dependent on the system to help you cope
so youryouryourbeing feed, your being housed you know youryourwhat you do on the
outside is your free see? Your not free when your homeless even though you can come and go
as you please. When your freewhen your out in the real world cuz you know you can go and
unlock your door, and you can do all that. You dontyou dont own a key at the shelter. You
dont own shit just what you brought.
Interviewer: Now when you first got to the mission did you stay in the 10-6 room?
Interviewee: I never been in 10-6. Ive always been in the dorm.
Interviewer: What was it like for you? Your first time in the dorm?
Interviewee: You toss and turn cuz your sleeping on steel with a 2 inch mattress or a 2 inch
pad ya know? You toss and turn.
Interviewer: And what did you do those first days and weeks?
Interviewee: Just got your bearings; find out whats going on, where places are ya know?
People talkpeople tell ya things. They see that your new ya know? Ya got cats thatll help
you out, give you little tips ya know cuz they know theyve never seen you before.
Interviewer: How did you do things like wash your clothes?
Interviewee: You find out about places you know like Ministry with Community. You know
you find out you can wash your clothes there. You find out ummuhh social workers there, you
find out uhhthis and that, and you start sifting through what ya need you know? You sift
through ahhI need this, or Im gonna need that: I need to ear first, I need to rest first. Try to
ease your mind and you do that by getting good food in your stomach. Your not hungry ya
knowget your rest you know. Try totry toyouyouve gotta accept the fact your not in
your own dwelling. Your not in your own apartment anymore. You have to, you know, put up
with it. You dont have to like it but you have to put up with it, or if you dont then you just
cause more problems for yourself and thenand then you develop a strategy of how to cope you
know> Find your own spot, fin your pace cuz you cant just be helter-skelter all the time. You
cant just you know wonder what Im gonna do today. You must almost have to know what your
gonna do everyday. You know to find a nice even pace thats good for you. Your mind can
clear and you can think about whats going on.
Interviewer: Whatd you do for money?
Interviewee: I had money at first, but then theres, you knowyou can donate plasma. Stuff
like that.
Interviewer: So you do that besides working on and off through Labor Ready?
Interviewee: Right, right. Ya know I could work as soon as I found a job I went right to work.
Doesnt pay much but its better than nothing.
Interviewer: How do you survive during the winter?
Interviewee: You work as long as you can, and you donate plasma. Collect unemployment.
Whatever you can do. Thats how ya do it.
Interviewer: What is it like emotionally for you?
Interviewee: Oh, its a struggle at times you know cuz in the outer world we struggle with our
emotions. Even when youyour sitting down watching the Super Bowl at home, watching the
game show at home, or watching the news you still have the same kind of struggles. You have
different settings is all ya know?
Interviewer: Is it different in the real world compared to being down at the mission emotionally
or do you find similarities between the two?
Interviewee: Well yeah you do always have similarities between the two. Its just that you have
to learn how to cope with it differentlywhateverdifferent emotions because youyou
canyoullyoullyooull risk everything that you dont have you know if you react in a
negative way. If you overthink things or you just let your emotions get carried away with
youyou can get into a lot of trouble because again your dealing with a lot of different kind of
people, different walsk of life let alone you have stadd that you have to deal with everyday with
at the mission so you have to really keep track of what your doing emotionally more so when
your doingwhen you have a place ya know cuz/ when youif you get tired lets say if you got
your own apartment you can just either go lay down when you feel like it or youyouyou
know you can turn on your television or you can listen to radio. But in a homeless shelter you
cant do that so your emotions areyou really have to keep track of them although quite a bit
more when your homelessyeah cuz otherwise youll get runned over cuz ya cant get ya
knowyour not at home. Ia just dontya cant get go in and lock your door to the world.
Wherever you go in this shelter, this homeless situation, your always gonna be around people
somewhere. Now there are those that escape and they go sit under the expressways of go sit in
the park, but you gotta find your own little spot. Your own little peace and quiet spot you know?
Again that goes along with setting your pace; getting a routine. You cantya just cant be helter-
skelter cuz thats when you get into trouble. Thats when your all up and down. If you dont
have a spot where you can get peace and quiet then your gonna have problems.
Interviewer: Has anybody down there made you mad?
Interviewee: O yeah you getyou have things that could happen but you just have to realize
that///thjat you cant control other peoples actions cuz you can control only your own.
Interviewer: How do you control your actions?
Interviewee: Walk away. Bite your tongue. You cantyou cant react to everything, buit then
you couldnt react to everything in the real worldon the outer world you know.
Interviewer: So you moved in with a woman that you met on a dating service. What was that
like knowing you were getting out?
Interviewee: oh I feltit felt good you know? Of course it does you know when you get out
and you have alittle adjustment period back to that, but(inaudible) it was nice.
Interviewer: How long were you out?
Interviewee: 7 months and it was nice.
Interviewer: And when you came back what was
Interviewee: Oh I probably, I probably was more disgusted this time coming back then I was
the first time cuz you get alittle taste you know. Back to way thingsthey way you look at
life, the way you like things to be, but itbut again it doesnt take much longer to readjust. It is
what it is ya know? You just gotta make it; you gotta adjust to the situation. Adapt and thats all
it is.
Interviewer: Do you think part of coping down there involves forming friendships with other
people down there?
Interviewee: I think its just in our nature as humans. Thats what wethats what we seek you
know? And if you can find someone you can communicate with you know and thatyeah that
makes it alittle easier sure. Sure it does.
Interviewer: Have you ever felt guilty for being down there?
Interviewee: Yeah.
Interviewer: Why?
Interviewee: You always feel guilty because youyouyouyouyou never thought in life
that youd end up in a homeless shelter. Nobody grows up through their teens and twenties and
thirties and forties thinking you know that their gonna end up in a homeless shelter. Nobody
does that.
Interviewer: How does that make you feel?
Interviewee: Of course you theof course theagain whenyou dont feel good that were in
that situations. Long as you got fairly supportive frineds and family and they understand ya
know they know what its really about. They know that you may be donw, but your not out so
(inaudible) nobody speaks negative of it. They just want ya to survive it you know? Thats it.
Interviewer: You shower early in the morning. Why is that?
Interviewee: I always get up early since Ive been in there. I dont likeI dont like showers
with 20 other guys in there. I like it cuz you can go in at your own pace. I dont get up when
the rest of the people get up; its just too many. I just dont like showering with lots of men in a
limited space. When I get up I wanna go at my own pace ya know? I dont wanna havae to wait
to brush my teeth, take a shit, or whatever. Thats why I do it that way.
Interviewer: In terms of staff members how do you interact with them? Any problems?
Interviewee: I have no tension with any of them. No tension at all.
Interviewer: Whats your daily routine?
Interviewee: Go to the library as much as I can. Peace and quiet.
Interviewer: Do you think this experience has changed you?
Interviewee: Sure it does. If it doesnt then I dont know how it couldnt change a person
really.
Interviewer: Whats changed about you?
Interviewee: Everything. Ive become more patient. Im not quick to fly off the handle. I
never was like that anyway. I look at things differently and think of the long term consequences
ya know?
Interviewer: What have you taken from this experience?
Interviewee: Always plan for that rainy day. Theres no doubt about that cuz they do come.
Thats about it. Plan for that day and hope it never happens to you ya know? It may be the
farthest thing from your mind but it can happen. And Im not the only one it has happened to ya
know? It has happened all over America. Just hope it doesnt happen to you; thats all you can
do, and hope you make it. Doesnt matter how many cars, how much money, how many houses
you have. It aint shit cuz you can still end up homeless ya know?




























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