Amazing blog: Invisible People

Wow, I was doing a bit of blog hopping when I found a video containing the story of a homeless man in Chicago. the video linked to an account on YouTube that had a link to their site

The site is set up by a cameraman who has been homeless himself too and he felt the need to do something. as he tells it on his about page

The purpose of this vlog is to make the invisible visible. I hope these people and their stories connect with you and don’t let go. I hope their conversations with me will start a conversation in your circle of friends.

After you get to know someone by watching their story, please pause for a few moments and write your thoughts in the comments section, or maybe email them to a friend and link back to this vlog . By keeping this dialog open we can help a forgotten people.

I would like to share with you the video of Bobby, this is the video that have led me to this site

The video comes with a page on the site which you can find here


The most amazing man in my life

No this isn’t about my father or my foster dad. It isn’t about my brothers or Ghandi or Jezus. This is about a man I met about 22/25 years ago, I don’t even know when precise but it is at least 22 and at most 25 years. Without this person my life would have been very different and many of the things I have done would not have been possible if he hadn’t been around. This is the story of Willem

I met Willem somewhere in the early 90’s in the homeless shelters in Utrecht after I came back there following my unfortunate times in Arnhem. I am not sure what triggered our initial friendship but he belonged to the group of people I chose to hang out with.

Bunkbeds, Sleep Inn shelter Utrecht

Willem made money playing the Djembe at Hoog Catharijne (a for Dutch standards large shopping mall and main train station of the Netherlands) and when weather permitted on the city hall square. As a big supporter of anything that has to do with music in general and drums in particular this drew my attention and I decided that this was something I wanted as well.

A djembe called Ilse van Kampen

As luck would have it I had a form of social security through a special project and the first possibility I got I bought myself a Djembe as well. Willem was so kind to show me some basic rhythms and it was not long after that I joined him on a regular basis on the station and squares, banging my drum making some hard needed extra money. Of course not everybody at the station/mall was happy with that especially since we often got joined by other musicians with Djembe’s, Didgeridoo’s and other instruments however money was made, shared and spend and life was good.

Then came a time that playing in Utrecht (or rather earnings in Utrecht) went down. I guess the public by now knew our play and grew a bit weary of it. Then one day Willem asked me if I felt like going to Scheveningen with him to play there on the boulevard along the beach. I was the proud owner of a small dome tent at the time and since I was feeling adventures I agreed to do so.

When we arrived in Scheveningen (a suburban area of the Hague) we started playing on the boulevard to make some money. After all you won’t survive without food and drink and in our case we wouldn’t survive without the much liked greens (no not dollars, the Dutch greens of course). Playing went fine, money came in and we had our food and smoke covered after a few hours. The video below is the two of us together with some friends playing on the Djembe and Didgeridoo (not in Scheveningen. I have no footage of that unfortunately)

So it was time to eat and near the beach and boulevard we soon discovered a snack bar (as chips shops are called here) that looked like a good place to fill our bellies. We made a lot of great decision during our time in Scheveningen but the choice for this snack bar (called “pyramid”) has probably been the best decision we made out there.

Pyramid was owned by an Iranian guy with the name Maroes, he wa married to a Dutch red head and although a Muslim he made the best pork belly I have ever eaten. Now don’t confuse the Dutch pork belly with any pork belly from whatever country. Here the pork belly is not sold as a big chunk of meat but rather as slices of about 1 cm thick and they are called Speklap (lard cutlett)

Pork belly – Speklapjes

After we had ordered our meals we went outside to wait for it to be ready when the owner came and asked us what we carried in those big duffel bags we carried around. When we mentioned that we carried Djembe’s around the man went nuts (in a positive way) and asked us to play something. When we asked if other customers wouldn’t mind he grinned and told us to play regardless of what others thought. And so we where playing and eating and having a good time until it was time to find a place to sleep.

Normally in the Netherlands, if you have a tent you sleep on a camp ground but we figured that camp grounds could cost a lot of money and if we would take the trouble to walk a few miles outside town we should have no trouble finding a place somewhere in the dunes to set up camp and so we did. After about 30 minutes walking through the dunes we found a huge stair going down to the beach with a nice spot near the dune side of the beach and we decided that this would be the place where we would camp during our time in Scheveningen. We quickly made camp and went into our sleeping bags for a good night of sleep only to be given the biggest surprise of our life when we woke up the next morning and discovered we had set up camp on the nude beach!!!!

After a good laugh we broke up camp for that day, went up the stairs towards the dunes and decided that carrying all our gear during the day was way to much work and so we dropped the tent and bag packs behind some bushes hoping they would still be there if we would get back in the evening.(In looking back a stupid move of course but to our surprise it has worked very well during the whole time we where there.) We hung our duffel bags with Djembe on our back, went into Scheveningen to first find ourselves a coffee shop for the much needed smoke and after that was sorted we went back to the boulevard and beach to play and make money.

This was one of the hottest summers in the history of my country so the beaches where full every day and most days we made a decent amount of money followed by a meal at Pyramid, coffee shop, walk to camp ground, setting up camp and go to sleep.

We met a lot of strange, funny, kind and happy people and as it goes in life also a few naggers, idiots and nut cases. One of the stories we still talk about till this day is about an old man that heard us play at Pyramid (we “had” to play every time we went there and we went there every time). He was drunk of his ass and kept repeating “you guys pl better than the Papuans in New Guinea and I can know that cause I have been there” followed by a slap with his hand to his forehead while shouting “BEER”. He even went as far as sitting on the ground straight in front of us, listening with wide open eyes occasionally slapping his head shouting “BEER”

not same man,

Then one day playing went great but money didn’t come. I don’t know why but we had played almost until our hands where bleeding and had made maybe 5 guilders (about 2 euros) and we where almost to the point that we thought about selling the Bongo’s (two small drums side by side) when a man came out of the Casino that is near the beach. He walked up to Willem with his hand reached out for a handshake and when he shaked he said “So, you guys have a good day as well” and walked off. Willem opened his hand and we noticed he had slipped a 50 guilder bill in there. Needless to say we didn’t sell the small drum set, went to Pyramid to eat and after that to the coffee shop.

When we came out of the shop later that evening because it closed for the day, we decided to roll one for the road and we sat down in a sheltered bus stop. Since I am the fastest joint roller on the planet it came down to me to make one. and I was busy doing just that when right in front of us, maybe 10 feet away, lightning struck. I swear, I haven’t moved a muscle but still I went up from my seat in the air at least a good 10 cm (while remaining in the same seated position as I was already in) and when I looked down the paper, tobacco and greens on there where vanished in thin air. It was not to be found on the bench, on the ground or any other place… it vanished…poof. At the same time the heavens opened up and a rain like in the days of Noah came down. We have waited there for a while and when the flood ended a bit we made our way to our camp site to sleep.

Of course many things have happened in Scheveningen and if I would list them all you would be reading till next week so let me just say that until this day I regard those weeks as the best vacation I have ever had.

Of course one day it was time to go back to Utrecht which is kind of funny when you think we are still talking about two homeless dudes however Utrecht was “home” so back we went. Of course during those weeks Willem and I had become even better friends then before and at least for me “friend” started to change in “bro”

I regard everyone able to become my friend but to become my bro… that is a different matter. When I call you bro I mean it. Bro for me is not something lightly said to just anyone like you see so often. I call you how I see you, simple as that.

Now bro is a very smart individual and besides being smart he has a big heart, empathy, kindness, generosity and a certain joie de vivre. (unfortunately he can be hard headed, stubborn and cranky as well…. still love ya bro) and he had started with some of his other friends with a plan to start a “union for the homeless in Utrecht” (for Dutch reader the UBD or Utrechtse Bond van Daklozen) and me… always in for something new, together with another friend thought “well you do that and then we join you with a youth division”( de UBDJ -Utrechtse Bond voor Dakloze Jongeren). Unfortunately bro had teamed up with the “wrong friends” and they went behind his back with their own project which has a story told here and here . I got involved, even asked for the “board of directors” but it took I think a good 2 years before bro finally got involved as well. During this time we had little contact especially since I was planning to move to Israel after I worked a few years at the shelter.

Israel… or there and back again 😉

When I returned from Israel I went back to the shelter and worked there again for a few months until I met my wife, strangely enough I got sacked (on false grounds) the same day Lijda and I got a relation and a new period of little contact followed.

It was a few years after that that bro started a foundation himself called Stichting Straat Advocaat (the streetlaywer foundation) basically fulfilling his dream of a union for the homeless and I decided to go and see if I could be of any help. Well that was a simple yes. Since I am very computer savvy I quickly became the one maintaining all the computer systems. well, to be honest it was someone elses job but they kind of sucked at it 😉 I have done that until a few weeks before the foundation got killed of by the city council due to them refusing to help fund it and some backstabbing from some of his “colleagues” however that was imo not my most important contribution.

A side project of this foundation was “Amoras”. Amoras was a meal project with the object of providing a good meal 3 times a week for the homeless and anyone needing it….. free of charge. The name is taken from a comic called Suske en Wiske: op het eiland Amoras (Willy and Wanda on Amoras Island) by Willy Vandersteen. In this story it is about an island where two groups of people live. the thins and the fatso’s. basically it is about food. Besides that, if you read the name backwards it is Saroma which is a popular dessert around here. During the running time of this project bro (who had a cooking education) was the head chef, I was his sous chef and a few of our friends where the chopping crew.

During the lifespan of Amoras we have served thousands of meals in the sleep inn (another night shelter that kindly let us use their kitchen and main room) and I think we where the most poplar “restaurant” among the homeless and poor. This project has unfortunately also been killed off by the city council in favor of a christian organization that had it’s “own money”.

In between the NOIZ and Amoras I got married and bro I asked bro to be my best man. He kindly agreed to this and I hope I will one day be able to repay this favor. After all during his work for the streetlaywer foundation he met a woman online that over the years became the love of his life. I take a little credit for them meeting since he met her on a poker site I installed for him on his pc 😉

For some reason a lot of his friends abandoned him after the streetlaywer adventure but bro and me got only more close. Besides Djembe he learned to play the didgeridoo and we have played many times together. either the two of us or with some friends as you can see in next video.

Our relation together has evolved over the years to that of “two brothers from another mother. I visit him at least 3 times a week and we will play some shooters or Dynasty warriors (a hack and slash game) or I am just playing alone when he is chatting with Eileen, his lady from across the pond who has become a very dear and special friend to me and Lijda as well. We but mainly he had the pleasure of her coming to holland in 2012 and bro has had the pleasure of visiting her in the USA. I still hope bro will take the next step simply because I want to see him happy and together with the love of life. Of course that is not up to me and I guess everyone will understand that this is not a simple task if you both live 5000 miles apart.

This amazing man is my bro, my friend and my point of sanity in tis mad world, I wish everybody had a friend like I have my bro and I will love him (platonic)  for the rest of my life.

Bro, this one is for you, may we be friends till the universe collapses.

from left to right: Eileen, Willem and Lijda during the departure of Eileen back to the U.S of A

Every Day Heroes part 1: Alanya

Every Day Hero maart 2014


I know Alanya for many years now and although contact has faded away over the last years I still consider her an every day hero.


I met Alanya (in that time going by another (Dutch) name) when I was homeless just as she was. At that time she was hanging out with a group of people within the homeless community that was overlapping the group that I was hanging out and through mutual friends we got in contact with each other. I must admit that the moment I saw her I got a little crush on her and it was not difficult to become friends with her. (It too some time but I eventually told her about my crush which she appreciated but didn’t return)

During that time, which was one of the best periods in my street life, this group of about 10 people was supporting each other on the streets, we camped together on a camping ground, went to the nearby lake to swim or to the park to relax etc.

Then the time came that the N.O.I.Z was founded and she played a big part in that. She was the one that opened the door of the squatted building, she was one of the people talking to the city council, she arranged a lot inside the shelter and eventually she became a manager for the N.O.I.Z as well. Not a small feat for a girl who was taken from her country (Peru) and adopted at 9 months old and homeless since the age of 15.

(following part is taken from )

Back to Peru

With the foundation of NoiZ, Alanya regained control of her own life. Early 2000 Alanya heard about a “roots trip”. This trip offered adopted adolescents in the Netherlands a trip back to their place of birth in Peru. This was the occasion for Alanya to get back in touch with her adoption family and to together learn about her origin. Alanya left for Peru together with her adoption parents in 2000. Everything came together for Alanya at her motherland. This was her home! Seeing and experiencing the poverty, the beggars and the street children was not easy for Alanya, however. She immediately felt drawn to the street children’s fate. That is when and why she decided to do something for these children in her hometown Ayacucho.

Founding Los Cachorros

Back in the Netherlands, Alanya gathered a few people and founded, with the idea of NoiZ in the back of her head, Los Cachorros on September 28, 2000. The following three years were all about fundraising, sponsoring activities, generating publicity and establish contacts in Ayacucho. It was until May 29, 2003 that the doors of the night shelter finally opened for the street children of Ayacucho. Since 2006, Los Cachorros also offers a 24/7 shelter. Apart from a house above their heads, Los Cachorros pays attention supporting street children in surrounding neighborhoods and offers education and information sessions at schools, police stations and other communities. What once started with sympathy for the fate of the street children in Ayacucho has grown beautifully into a successful shelter which has offered support to hundreds of kids in the past few years. Together with a team of streetworkers, social workers, psychologists, a nurse and teacher, Alanya is fighting for a chance of a better future for the streetkids.

(end of source)

As a foundation Los Cachorros (the cubs) is based in the Netherlands however the work is done in Peru of course. As non profit organisation it always can do with a little more help and fundings (yep here he goes again, asking yall money for poor animals or kids or poor people) but I figure you would like to know more about what her foundation is doing.

I think a worthy opener for my every day heroe section don’t you agree?

Los Cachorros – A home for street children . click the banner to find out how you can help

New Day. the Night Shelter part 2

This is part 2 of a real story that starts here

New Day–Patty LaBelle

Before we started with the N.O.I.Z, when it still was just a plan, one of the issues we discussed was which people would be eligible for a job as volunteer and what we could and should offer in return.The ideal situation would be that everyone that applied would be able to get a chance but we also knew that a lot of those applications would prove to be unrealistic. We knew that there would be people among it that had the intention to really change their life around but that there would also be a lot of people that simply wouldn’t be able to make it for a number of reasons. There where the drug and alcohol addicts. These people would have the first intention to do what is needed but their addiction would come in the way. Their where the mental cases which depending on what was “wrong” with them could work very well but could also mean they could be flipping out or snapping at a moments notice. There where the young kids aged 16 to 20 who came with all the right reasons but proved to lack responsibility and so on. Getting volunteers out of this available lot would mean a lot of talking and planning.

The first days we kept running the shelter therefore with the help of the squatters, some former homeless and a few people from the other shelters, meanwhile having interviews with the candidates for a place as volunteer. The plan was as following. The homeless volunteer would work shifts at the shelter, either night or day shifts, and in return they would have their own place to live. They would be able to apply for social benefits, get a financial aid to work on debts and if needed they would get help with other problems that they might have like addictions, reconnecting with family and things like that. We had come to an agreement with the city council that all who would come work for the foundation would get a priority treatment and the social security office and that they could work while retaining benefit (In the Netherlands when you have social benefits, you can’t just go out for volunteer work, you need to have permission or risk losing your benefits)

Of course applications for volunteer work poured in and after a lot of interviews we managed to form a team of volunteers that should be able to run the shelter day and night. It consisted mainly of young people between 20 and 30 years, some of them with light addictions but nobody with major issues. This was of course on purpose since our first weeks had to be about forming a structure, drawing out the lines on how the shelter and everything involved with it should and could work. During all this time talks with the city continued and the risk of us having to leave the building always remained in the background We knew beforehand that the building we occupied would be a long shot when it comes to getting it as permanent place so part of our “demands” was that we wanted a permanent place for the shelter and a permanent solution for the housing of the volunteers.Now, if the city wants something from you they expect that you do this within a certain time frame, for example you have to fill in forms and return them within 14 days. However when you want something done from city other means of measuring time seems to come in play. Maybe they have a calendar there that misses a few days after each page or they have clocks that run at a tenth of normal speed.. I don’t know. Fact was that this all went very slow

Running a shelter will cost money, even if you run a shelter in a building that costs you nothing. Just the mornings alone needed several loafs of bread, loads of milk, coffee and tea. Thins like cheese, peanut butter and other products to put on the bread. There was the need for soap , shampoo and toothpaste. Then in the evening people of course where hungry when they walked in so there was the need for a hot meal and again loads of coffee, tea, sugar and milk and then the next day rinse and repeat.

To be able to pay for (most)  of this a small contribution was asked. I am not entirely sure anymore but I believe we asked ƒ2,50 (we still had guilders back then) for sleeping and I believe ƒ1,50 for a hot meal. Of course (especially in the starting period) if someone didn’t have the money he was still welcome. The shelter proved to be a huge success and that winter we made sure nobody had to sleep outside.

Slowly but surely winter came to an end but still there was no solid agreement with city council. this was the moment the sympathy and public opinion would probably turn from “it’s winter you can’t kick them out” to “I couldn’t care less” thus giving police the opportunity to remove us from the building without to much outrage.) Luckily however we had been successful in showing that our shelter was a viable alternative for the existing shelters, that our concept of “self governing” was working and that the city was indeed better of with keeping us alive so finally, a few day before winters end , there was some result. The agreement was made that we would close down the shelter for the time being after the winter while the city would search for a suitable building for us where we could return with the shelter the following winter. Also the city agreed to keep the current group of volunteers together. This was done by putting us into a cheap hotel until more permanent housing was arranged.

Winter ended and the shelter closed down. We all went into the hotel waiting for what more would come. days became weeks and weeks became months

Then, just a few weeks before the next winter the most important issue got solved. The city could not find a suitable building for our shelter so in the end they decided to build us one. On a vacant lot near the main railroad that runs through ton, and right opposite a police station, a pre-fab building was erected. You might have seen similar buildings on building sites. They often house the on-site offices and/or lunch accommodations for the workforce. Now they got used to create a shelter complete with kitchen, showers and big living area. It had 2 rooms for the volunteers (who still didn’t had their own housing) a room for couples, one for the woman and 4 regular rooms. Each room had beds for 8 persons. There was a special luggage room that could be locked and everything else you need or want for a shelter. From then on, the N.O.I.Z was an official night shelter, accepted by the city and police, loved by our clients and cooperating with other organizations like the Salvation Army and other night shelters.

Funny thing was that working in our new location proved to be a more difficult task then in the old location. The old building we had was of such a big size, that the volunteers could have their own space when off duty. They could have a good rest and relax a little while in the new building they didn’t have that privacy. I can recall many days that I came out of a night shift just to be awake the whole day due to noises of working people in the building. This was certainly not a good situation and thus tensions rose. We have had many little crisis during that first year but amazing enough they all stayed within the group. Our clients never ha to deal with them apart from them having to wait a bit because someone had quit and a replacement had to be “called in”. I have worked many shifts that where not mine due to things of that nature.

but then at last, , we got word that housing was available. City council had found two houses near the edge of town that was perfect for us. There where enough rooms to house all volunteers and it was accessible enough to be in town quickly if people had to go to their shift (where ever and whenever these would start again). Now the contours of our new organization took shape and our promise to the volunteers that they would be able to get a new chance to get off the streets could finally be fulfilled. Now with housing for the volunteers and a building to run a night shelter we finally had what we set out to accomplish. The N.O.I.Z was running and was there to stay.

This all happened long ago but the shelter is still running strong. I have worked there myself for a good 3 years in which I almost exclusively did the night shifts. This year it will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary and I am very proud of that. The pre-fab building have gone and the shelter is now situated in a nice building near the center of town. It has merged with one of the biggest organizations in regards to social work with homeless and addicts but is still true to it’s self governing principles. Every night about 30 people sleep and eat there, every day and night a group of former homeless is doing their shifts meanwhile working towards independence and a brighter future.

As you might have seen, this all took place in a period of my life that I was also enjoying the greens and some other things like mushrooms and mdma so the timeline could be a little off target. However all events have happened in this timeframe and I have told them to the best of my recollection. I have avoided names since I take privacy very serious and there might be people that do not want to be associated with the N.O.I.Z for whatever reason they might have. This article remains subject to corrections if I encounter major errors.

Moral of my story if there is any would be that no matter what your circumstances are you have always the choice to change things around. If even a homeless can house other homeless then others should be able to help themselves and others as well.   If you are in a situation that requires action, make that choice and act. I hope you liked my story and maybe we meet again in another blog


Always look on the bright side of life. My story

Always look on the bright side of life

I was born on Sunday August 18 1968 in Utrecht, a mid-sized city right in the heart of the Netherlands. I was the last of 8 children in a family where the father had left just 3 months before I was born. Needles to say I was one to many for my mother and thus my first 4 years where years of hunger and neglect until I got “rescued” by child protective services and placed in an orphanage / children’s home where I stayed for about 6 months until I got placed in a foster family.

I got lucky. My foster parents where kind and loving people who treated me as their own son. I got send to a good school, was a member of the boy scouts and a show band. Always enough to eat, toys to play with and after a few years even a little sister entered the picture. she was also from an orphanage although I was only in foster care while she got adopted. Not that my foster parents didn’t want to adopt me, it was just not possible at the time for several reasons.

Life was good for a while although at very young age I made some decisions I probably shouldn’t have made like starting to smoke the Mary Jane when I was 13 (and regular smoking about a year later) and starting to gamble at 15. For a long time I blamed the fact that I was a foster child for this behavior but in retrospect I can say that this was just a good excuse of course.

Then at age 15 I got the urge to find out where I came from, who my parents really where, what my sisters and brothers looked like…. well… I guess the normal questions a foster kid is asking him/herself at a certain point in life. I wish I never had done that. Yes I found my family and dang, was I in for a shocker.

Being raised in a decent Catholic family I was totally unprepared for what I met. An (in my eyes)  A-social family, uneducated, rough, a sister married to an ex-husband of my mother. Another sister married to a Muslim (not that I have anything against Muslims ), brothers that where borderline criminal (mind you, this was through the eyes of a “child” that had lived in a protective environment for the previous decade) and somehow I reacted to this in a way that was extreme.

I started to gamble even more, smoke harder stuff, I started to lie about almost everything, dropped out of school and started to wander the streets. My parents (foster.. but I always called them just parents) had no idea what to do with me and they decided that a special housing project where I could learn to handle my own affairs would be the best place for me to send and so they did.

Well… it wasn’t my time to learn to be a responsible independent person yet, all I wanted was to party, have fun and do whatever I dang well pleased and thus the project was a waste of time. Both for me and that project. So after about 6 months they showed me the door and I went homeless for real for the very first time in my life.

Being homeless was awful…..the first days…until I met some street-wise people who were willing to show me the ropes. I quickly learned where to go for food, shelter and money. How to get social benefits in several places at the same time, where to find the shops that had their produce out on the street before opening hours (you had that back then, shops that had fruit, veggies and bread behind the store out in the open for me to take) and so I got a “free pass” to live my life “however I dang well pleased” I really have been extremely lucky… I never got caught and because of that I have a blank slate till this day.

I traveled several years all through the country and Europe. I have seen the sunrise on Spanish beaches, picked grapes and oranges, worked for carnivals and the circus. I slept in fancy hotels when money allowed and in haystacks when it didn’t but in all my years “on the street” I maybe slept 4 weeks really on the streets. For the rest of the time there was always a place to lay my head, be it that haystack, an abandoned factory, a shelter or a shack. And above all… I always kept a positive outlook at the world.

I can tell you stories about going to bed in an old factory with a “junky” laying down next to me just to wake up with a dead person next to me, or about how several bosses kept denying me my pay for work done but that would make this article up to 4 times as long and is better kept for another occasion so let me just say that being on the streets was not all fun and games.

Fast forward to 1990, I went to Arnhem, a Dutch city near the border with Germany. A friend told me there was loads of work and in fact, he was right. I worked for a temp agency at a company that was in the business of making garbage dump sites “environmental friendly” Basically what they did was layering the ground with a sort of thick plastic that stopped the crap from sipping into the ground. Best job I ever had. We had to work from sun up to sun down but because it always was “on location” the company paid for a hotel and every day I got 25 guilders for meals. Since I did this together with that friend, we had 50 guilders and really only needed like 20 a day so in fact our boss paid for our marijuana as well. After 5 days of work we came back in Arnhem, went to our bank to collect the pay we earned the week before and then started to party until it was time to go to work again.

(yes they deserve a plug from me, You have a company in Holland in need of Technical Textile.. click the logo and check out their business)

Pink Floyd–Run Like Hell

Of course since this was a temp job it ended after a few months and since I am not a saver I ended up with nothing and on the streets again. Lucky for me I had gotten some connections in one of the coffee shops in Arnhem and they offered me a car that had no engine anymore to sleep in and after a few days they even got me a small room which I paid for by doing chores in the shop and around the house in the beginning and after I got social services I paid a small rent. Idiot that I am I fekked that up by being a bit….greedy… when it came to selling the greens (which was one of the things I had to do in the shop of course) and I had to flee (literally, don’t mess with drug dealers) Arnhem and went back to Utrecht

By now we have progressed to 1994 and we had a particular cold winter in the Netherlands and nowhere near enough sleeping places for the homeless. So me and a couple of friends decided to take things in our own hands and we squatted a place and turned it into a shelter. We did an excellent job I must say, we even made it on the mainstream news programs and since we where smart enough to do it in the Xmas season the city government didn’t dare to kick us out. It went very well, we had around 50 guests every night, we provided meals, had a sick bay and after a few weeks we made it into an official foundation with me as one of the founding members and member of “the board”. We even won two prices for volunteer organizations within our first year. I have worked there for a good 2 or 3 years until I met my current wife. I will address the shelter story more in-depth in following blog as well.


The light in my eyes, love of my live and thorn in my side Open-mouthed smile my wife

When I met my wife, I had just returned from a well-earned vacation to Israel and had just started running night shifts in the shelter again. One evening a girl who was a guest with us got a “love letter” from somebody and I heard Lijda (yep.. that’s her name) sighing..”I never get love letters” . Since night shifts are kind of boring and I had nothing useful to do I figured, you know what I write you a “love letter”

In this letter I explained to her the reason I wrote it but at the end I added that although it was not my first intention.. I would not mind exploring the possibility of us getting together. Well, she didn’t mind that either and we decided to try to see. Little could I know that less than 3 months later I would go down on my knees and asked her to marry me and she would respond with yes.

Now, I stepped into the shelter project with the idea that it would bring me an easy way to have a bed and breakfast while at the same time helping some other homeless friends as well. Never it was my intention to use it as means to get of the streets indefinitely, heck..I liked that freedom and was fully planning to one day go back and re-start my traveling But you know? I follow the principle that a woman does not need to be on the streets if she is with me. The fact that I don’t mind doesn’t mean that she has to feel the same and so we decided that it was time to find a permanent solution.

Now you must understand that being homeless is like an addiction and in a way has it’s own “twelve step program”. It can be 6 or 14 steps as well but the same first step as with any addiction. “acknowledge you have a problem that you can not solve without proper help” which trails of course step 2 “seek professional help” There is nothing more difficult for an addict then to acknowledge his problem and to seek help. Most of us have a healthy distrust and dislike for “social workers”, especially those “hugger types” (in Dutch we call them goat wool sock types because they seem to wear them a lot), those people who went to social studies thinking they can change the world while they never actually met the people they going to help, think we are all piteous, can’t think for our own and are helpless in general. They often work according to “what they learned from the books” thinking they do good while actually not having a clue at all.

We found an organization that was willing to help us with our financial startup and with a little help from the N.O.I.Z (the night shelter) we where able to rent an apartment in one of the suburbs of Utrecht. This worked all very well and after 3 years of being engaged we decided to get married. Our wedding was great, we had a nice wedding dress for my wife (red) and I had a beautiful cream tuxedo (which was actually about 2 sizes to big and tightened with a safety-pin on the back side), a nice wedding cake, a great diner and a lot of guests both homeless and family. AND they mingled together very well I must say. I will never forget how my mother was dancing with “ome Kees” (Uncle Kees)  one of the most well-known among the homeless and street paper sellers in town. A woman of good upbringing dancing with a hobo…. it was awesome Open-mouthed smile Unfortunately I don’t have any wedding pictures left, you will learn why.

After a few years in our new home, the organization that helped us with our finances cut us loose, we had to do it ourselves. Something I had never done before and something they didn’t learn me either. Of course this went haywire… within a few months I had a debt for rent, electricity and water and to make matters worse Lijda started to get problems with walking. These health problems got worse by the day and although the doctors searched and looked, nothing could be found. However it still got worse and worse and after about 6 months Lijda ended up in a wheelchair because even a few steps became a huge problem for her.

It soon went downhill from there and after a little while we got shut off from water and electricity. Now luckily I got a little wiser then I was before and I asked for help from a neighborhood Centre and although it was not really what they normally did they went out of their way to make sure my wife got a place in a sick bay of the Salvation army (you can’t leave a disabled wife in a house without heat, water and electricity, that’s just plain wrong) meanwhile I stayed in the house…..until they kicked me out due to the rent not being paid in time and I was homeless again.

I stayed a while in one of the shelters in Utrecht (I couldn’t go to “my own” shelter, pride got in the way Winking smile ) meanwhile working with the Salvation Army to “fix” the problem. They where able to find a place for my wife with the promise that as soon as it was possible I would get a place there as well which happened about 2 months later.

While all of this was going on, my “brother from another mother” who was also a former homeless, had started “stichting straat advocaat Utrecht (Street lawyer foundation Utrecht) which had as purpose to help those homeless that had trouble with city and social services, where booted from shelters for something silly, help with income and more of those things that are completely normal for “housed” people. Since I was knowledgeable with computers I joined his organization to do some network and system admin duty’s soon followed by joining one of the projects of the foundation called “Amoras”

Amoras was bro’s initiative (actually, the N.O.I.Z was also his idea, unfortunately things happened which caused him not to be present in the founding period. The complete N.O.I.Z story and Amoras story probably will be told in another blog)

During a food festival cooking some lamb, that’s me seen on the back

Same festival, Bro showing his ribs Open-mouthed smile

Amoras was all about enabling the homeless and poor to have at least a few hot meals each week. We cooked 3 times a week for about 100 people, everybody regardless of where he/she came from was welcome and the costs for them where 0. Although it wasn’t “Gordon Ramsey” food we provided good nutritious and yummy food which was well received by our guests. Basically bro was the chef since he had been send to cooking school when he was in the army, I was his sous chef and then we had 2 or 3 friends that helped us chopping veggies and doing mise en place (for those not knowing this phrase, it’s french and has nothing to do with mise or places it means making things ready). Meanwhile in the “dining room” we had some friends handing out the food , coffee and tea. We have done this for about 3 years until the city council stopped the sponsoring in favor of a Christian group that promised to invest (but never did)

Meanwhile me and my wife where living at this organization where we had our own rooms, Lijda got help with her “new” disability and we got renewed help with getting out of the financial problems. We have lived there for a good 4 years while getting back on our feet. I must say I had some good times there but I was happy when after a few years they came to us telling they had an apartment for us where we could live indefinitely. It had an elevator specially for wheelchairs, a nice balcony and best of all, it was situated right on the border of one of the biggest canals in the country. right on the edge of town but still close to everything we could need like a shopping mall, hospital and public transport.

That high-rise right on the water front is where I live and following picture is the view I have when standing on my balcony

And so we are completing this “short” version of my life. My wife and I are nearing our 15th marriage anniversary, we have become debt free and basically enjoy live. We have kind of given up on finding out what is wrong with my wife (although a recent conversation with Shaun from has given us some new ideas to pursuit), we have a cat, friends and are slowly getting out of this homeless surroundings. Lesson learned I have still kept my financial aid person to help me make sure all bills  and we still have food when the month is nearing it’s end. But for the rest we are on our own and doing well.

Like I said, being homeless is like an addiction and the bad part of getting clean is the following: If you have been an addict for (say) 5 years, your road to recovery takes at least 10 years. If you have been homeless for 5 years the same is true…. me and my wife have been homeless for over 15 years so logic tells us our recovery could take up to 30 years, we are not in the safe zone just yet. However… to get back to the title of this blog… Always look on the bright side of life. We have gone through hell and back, we have grown and learned. We have become older, wiser, more responsible and above all more in touch with ourselves. In the end it all comes down to choices. How do you choose to live your life and how to make it better. Even when in deep doo doo you have the choice to do something about it but maybe you need to swallow some pride and ask for help. This counts for many situations, not only for those homeless and/or addicted. Together we stand strong and with a positive outlook on life the help will be found.

Some of the things mentioned in this blog will be elaborated more in future blogs, maybe I will even tell some of the things that didn’t make it to this blog. Some events and/or persons I have left out due to the fact that privacy is a good thing and me posting things others can recognize and fit on to certain persons is something I like to avoid.

I thank you for reading this and hope to see you again for another blog, lots of love also from my wife to all that read this

Mavadelo aka Martin

Mavadelo, an introduction


My name is Martin

I am born at 18-08-68 in Utrecht, the Netherlands as the last of 8 children in a house bearing number 8. Guess what my favorite number is ;)

I have had a live that some of you would call difficult, I am an adoptive child, I have been homeless for many years, have done drugs and am currently taking care of a dissabled wive (whom I met while homeless btw)

many of these I will probably discuss in this blog but if you have any questions feel free to ask.

Although using the nick Mavadelo here (which stands simply for MArtin VAn DEr LOuw) I am better known under the nicknames Whizzy (my öfficial” nick for over 30 years), a1Whizzy (youtube), daWhizzy (severla gaming sites) or Wh1zzy (twitter) so feel free to drop me a line if you encounter those nicks somewhere


you can view this info also on the about page