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 http://invisiblepeople.tv/

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

Support your local homeless and poor


As you might understand this is a subject close to my heart.. Being a former homeless man myself I have seen and experienced these things described in above song myself.

Let me give you an example. You probably all have seen people selling street papers like the Big Issue. In my town they sell “straatnieuws” (streetnews) and I have done so myself as well. Now imagine you stand in front of your local supermarket. It is raining, you haven’t slept all night, you are hungry and frankly…you smell a bit. The there comes a suit out of the store and you offer him your magazine just to be greeted by “get a job”

think about it………

Yes…. you just got told to get a job while you are making an honest living.

 

This, amongst other things, is what the homeless people of this world hear on a daily base. I have seen homeless being send away from stores because “the customers don’t like it”. I have seen homeless send out of church because people felt uncomfortable when praying. I have seen homeless people been beaten up just because they found a warm AC outlet roster on a building and tried to warm themselves while some “rich kids” where walking by and thought they could “clean the streets from this filth”

Somehow we all can feel compassion when we see people getting homeless due to a natural disaster, we are eager to draw our wallets to help the people of Haiti, New Orleans or Java. But on the other hand, if we look at the homeless and poor in our own cities, we kind of assume that “they did it themselves”

Of course, there are some that are to blame themselves for becoming homeless but to be honest, that is just a fraction of the number of homeless there are around.. There are a multiple of reasons why people can become homeless. Among those are burning down of your house, divorces, unemployment, release from jail (and mind you, not everyone going to jail is a criminal), Problems with family and many more. In fact I think that if you take 100 homeless people you will have at least 90 different reasons why someone became homeless.

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Now, how can you help

First, preventing homelessness

Tackling homelessness is not just about getting people off the streets. It’s also about finding lasting solutions to stop people from becoming homeless in the first place.

This is a job best done in collaboration with your local government, get them to build affordable housing, get them to help small and middle sized businesses to survive economic hardships, get them to start foodbanks, get them to provide small loans. Most homeless and those about to get homeless don’t need hand-outs, they need a chance!!! Give them that chance.

Other organisations important for the prevention of homelessnes are your local church, the salvation army, schools (frontline workers that can recognise those in need in an early stage) and of course social organisations that focus on preventing homelessness and helping those already homeless. Those can be helped by donations and believe me, if we all help the size of this donation doesn’t matter. even a few pounds/euro’s/dollars can then go a long way.

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How can YOU help yourself

Buy a street paper on a regular base, did you already bought the issue of this month how about slipping the seller a coin or two. A list of most street papers around the world can be found here so check that to see if a magazine is sold in your town.

Volunteer: there are many organisations that work in this field but they all rely on donations and volunteers to do their job. Giving one day or part of a day/evening probably won’t hurt most of us but can ensure the survival of these organisations, check your local volunteering office (if present)  or yellow pages for info where to go

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Let’s list all (or most)  options to help out

 

  1. Understand who the homeless are – Help dispel the stereotypes about the homeless. Learn about the different reasons for homelessness, and remember, every situation is unique.
  2. Educate yourself about the homeless – A homeless person may be someone who lost their job, a runaway child, or someone with a mental illness. One of the first steps in helping people is to see them as individuals and to find out what they need. Notice them; talk to them. Most are starved for attention.
  3. Respect the homeless as individuals – Give the homeless people the same courtesy and respect you would accord your friends, your family, your employer. Treat them as you would wish to be treated if you needed assistance.
  4. Respond with kindness – We can make quite a difference in the lives of the homeless when we respond to them, rather than ignore or dismiss them. Try a kind word and a smile.
  5. Develop lists of shelters – Carry a card that lists local shelters so you can hand them out to the homeless. You can find shelters in your phone book.
  6. Buy Street papers – This newspaper is sold in almost every major American and European city and is intended to help the homeless help themselves. For every paper sold, the homeless earn money to better his situation
  7. Bring food – It’s as simple as taking a few extra sandwiches when you go out. When you pass someone who asks for change, offer him or her something to eat. If you take a lunch, pack a little extra. When you eat at a restaurant, order something to take with you when you leave.
  8. Give money – One of the most direct ways to aid the homeless is to give money. Donations to nonprofit organizations that serve the homeless go a long way.
  9. Give recyclables – In localities where there is a “bottle law,” collecting recyclable cans and bottles is often the only “job” available to the homeless. But it is an honest job that requires initiative. You can help by saving your recyclable bottles, cans, and newspapers and giving them to the homeless instead of taking them to a recycling center or leaving them out for collection. If you live in a larger city, you may wish to leave your recyclables outside for the homeless to pick up — or give a bagful of cans to a homeless person in your neighborhood.
  10. Donate clothing – Next time you do your spring or fall cleaning, keep an eye out for those clothes that you no longer wear. If these items are in good shape, gather them together and donate them to organizations that provide housing for the homeless.
  11. Donate a bag of groceries – Load up a bag full of nonperishable groceries, and donate it to a food drive in your area. If your community doesn’t have a food drive, organize one. Contact your local soup kitchens, shelters, and homeless societies and ask what kind of food donations they would like.
  12. Donate toys – Children living in shelters have few possessions –if any– including toys. Homeless parents have more urgent demands on what little money they have, such as food and clothing. So often these children have nothing to play with and little to occupy their time. You can donate toys, books, and games to family shelters to distribute to homeless children. For Christmas or Chanukah, ask your friends and co-workers to buy and wrap gifts for homeless children.
  13. Volunteer at a shelter – Shelters thrive on the work of volunteers, from those who sign people in, to those who serve meals, to others who counsel the homeless on where to get social services. For the homeless, a shelter can be as little as a place to sleep out of the rain or as much as a step forward to self-sufficiency.
  14. Volunteer at a soup kitchen – Soup kitchens provide one of the basics of life, nourishing meals for the homeless and other disadvantaged members of the community. Volunteers generally do much of the work, including picking up donations of food, preparing meals, serving it, and cleaning up afterward. To volunteer your services, contact you local soup kitchen, mobile food program, shelter, or religious center.
  15. Volunteer your professional services – No matter what you do for a living, you can help the homeless with your on-the-job talents and skills. Those with clerical skills can train those with little skills. Doctors, psychiatrists, counselors, and dentists can treat the homeless in clinics. Lawyers can help with legal concerns. The homeless’ needs are bountiful — your time and talent won’t be wasted.
  16. Volunteer your hobbies – Every one of us has something we can give the homeless. Wherever our interests may lie — cooking, repairing, gardening, and photography — we can use them for the homeless. Through our hobbies, we can teach them useful skills, introduce them to new avocations and perhaps point them in a new direction.
  17. Volunteer for follow-up programs – Some homeless people, particularly those who have been on the street for a while, may need help with fundamental tasks such as paying bills, balancing a household budget, or cleaning. Follow-up programs to give the formerly homeless further advice, counseling, and other services need volunteers.
  18. Tutor homeless children – A tutor can make all the difference. Just having adult attention can spur children to do their best. Many programs exist in shelters, transitional housing programs, and schools that require interested volunteers. Or begin you own tutor volunteer corps at your local shelter. It takes nothing more than a little time.
  19. Take homeless children on trips – Frequently, the only environment a homeless child knows is that of the street, shelters, or other transitory housing. Outside of school — if they attend — these children have little exposure to many of the simple pleasures that most kids have. Volunteer at your local family shelter to take children skating or to an aquarium on the weekend.
  20. Volunteer at battered women’s shelter – Most battered women are involved in relationships with abusive husbands or other family members. Lacking resources and afraid of being found by their abusers, many may have no recourse other than a shelter or life on the streets once they leave home. Volunteers handle shelter hotlines, pick up abused women and their children when they call, keep house, and offer counseling. Call your local shelter for battered women to see how you can help.
  21. Teach about the homeless – If you do volunteer work with the homeless, you can become an enthusiast and extend your enthusiasm to others. You can infect others with your own sense of devotion by writing letters to the editor of your local paper and by pressing housing issues at election time.
  22. Publish shelter information – Despite all of our efforts to spread the word about shelters, it is surprising how many people are unaware of their own local shelters. Contact your local newspapers, church or synagogue bulletins, or civic group’s newsletters about the possibility of running a weekly or monthly listing of area services available to the homeless. This could include each organization’s particular needs for volunteers, food, and other donations.
  23. Educate your children about the homeless – Help your children to see the homeless as people. If you do volunteer work, take your sons and daughters along so they can meet with homeless people and see what can be done to help them. Volunteer as a family in a soup kitchen or shelter. Suggest that they sort through the toys, books, and clothes they no longer use and donate them to organizations that assist the poor.
  24. Sign up your company/school – Ask your company or school to host fund-raising events, such as raffles or craft sales and donate the proceeds to nonprofit organizations that aid the homeless. You can also ask your company or school to match whatever funds you and your co-workers or friends can raise to help the homeless.
  25. Recruit local business – One of the easiest ways to involve local businesses is to organize food and/or clothing drives. Contact local organizations to find out what is needed, approach local grocery or clothing shops about setting up containers on their premises in which people can drop off donations, ask local businesses to donate goods to the drive, and publicize the drive by placing announcements in local papers and on community bulletin boards and by posting signs and posters around your neighborhood.
  26. Create lists of needed donations – Call all the organizations in your community that aid the homeless and ask them what supplies they need on a regular basis. Make a list for each organization, along with its address, telephone number, and the name of a contact person. Then mail these lists to community organizations that may wish to help with donations — every place from religious centers to children’s organizations such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
  27. Play with children in a shelter – Many children in shelters are cut off from others their own age. Shuffled from place to place, sometimes these kids don’t attend school on a regular basis, and have no contact with other kids. Bring a little joy to their lives by taking your children to a local shelter to play. Plan activities such as coloring, playing with dolls, or building model cars (take along whatever toys you’ll need). Your own children will benefit too.
  28. Employ the homeless – Help Wanted – General Office Work. Welfare recipient, parolee, ex-addict OK. Good salary, benefits. Will train. That’s the way Wildcat Service Corporations Supported Work Program invites the “unemployable” to learn to work and the program works! More than half the people who sign on find permanent, well-paying jobs, often in maintenance, construction, clerical, or security work.
  29. Help the homeless apply for aid – Governmental aid is available for homeless people, but many may not know where to find it or how to apply. Since they don’t have a mailing address, governmental agencies may not be able to reach them. You can help by directing the homeless to intermediaries, such as homeless organizations, that let them know what aid is available and help them to apply for it. If you want to be an advocate or intermediary for the homeless yourself, you can contact these organizations as well.
  30. Stand up for the civil rights of the homeless – In recent elections, for example, volunteers at shelters and elsewhere helped homeless people register to vote . . . even though they had “no fixed address” at the moment. Some officials would not permit citizens without a permanent address to vote.
  31. Join Habitat for Humanity or other comparable organisations- This Christian housing ministry builds houses for families in danger of becoming homeless. Volunteers from the community and Habitat homeowners erect the houses. Funding is through donations from churches, corporations, foundations, and individuals.
  32. Form a transitional housing program – One of the most potent homeless-prevention services a community can offer residents who are in danger of eviction is a transitional housing program. These programs help people hang on to their current residences or assist them in finding more affordable ones. The methods include steering people to appropriate social service and community agencies, helping them move out of shelters, and providing funds for rent, mortgage payments, and utilities. For information, contact the Homelessness Information Exchange at (202) 462-7551.
  33. Write to corporations – Some of the largest corporations in America have joined the battle for low-income housing. Through the use of the tax credit or by outright grants, they are participating with federal and state government, not-for-profit and community-based groups to build desperately needed housing in Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and dozens of other cities. Contact various organizations and ask them what they are doing.
  34. Contact your government representatives – Our legislators rarely receive more than three visits or ten letters about any subject. When the numbers exceed that amount, they sit up and take note. Personal visits are the most potent. Letters are next; telephone calls are third best. Housing issues don’t come up that often, so your public officials will listen.
  35. Push for state homelessness prevention programs – While states routinely supply aid for the poor and homeless, many do not have programs provide funds and other services to those who will lose their homes in the immediate future unless something is done. Homelessness comes at great financial and human cost to the families who are evicted or foreclosed.

thanks to justgive.org for providing this neat ordered list of ways to help.

 

I kindly thank all of you for reading my blog and I hope this has given you the inspiration to help out to the best of your personal abilities, don’t think I can’t…think “what are my options” and act. Not just during the winter months and/or holiday season, the homeless and poor need help all year round

 

With Love

Mavadelo