By Noah Wali
Hopeful Homeless (2) Special Edition
April 2016, Miami, Florida
Welcome to the second article of “Hopeful Homeless”, a project in the making. This is a project created by myself, Noah Wali, in order to raise awareness and share stories many people may never hear about our own Portland homeless community. I plan to interview as many homeless people in Portland as possible, sit down with them and have real meaningful conversations with them about their living conditions and their past. I will eventually turn this project into a book including interviews and photos, filled with happy, sorrowful, and often times frightening stories. I aim to have the project completed by the end of this year. The completed printed photobooks will be sold at various locations, and the money will be donated to all sorts of homeless like foundations across the greater Portland area. More information is yet to come in later weeks.
This edition is a special preview edition from a homeless fellow in Miami, Florida, in which I interviewed as a “mock” interview to begin things with my project. This is the first time I am publically sharing this interview. For the safety and happiness of the interviewee, he asked that I leave his name out of the interview. For that purpose, he will be named “Mike”.
As I walk down Lincoln road on a busy, bustling Saturday in the luxurious city of Miami, I come across a string of people lying on the ground. A few of them have wrapped themselves in blankets and are holding up well written signs asking for help, despite the 90 degree weather. Most, however, are taking a nap. I walk to the end of the string of people and I come across what I pictured as “The Golden Man.” He reminds me of the blue man, often seen in downtown Portland. I approach him, and he smiles as me as I walk past…. Wait. This is perfect. I turn around, walk back towards him, and begin to explain my situation.
“Hi, how are you today?”
I Wait to make sure he speaks English so I can have a conversation with him. He responds in a shy and quiet, yet surprisingly content voice.
“I’m good sir, and you?”
Before I begin the process, I ask him if I can help in anyway, with lunch or money. He politely asks if have some change to spare, and I offer him a couple dollars. I am pretty impressed so far. It seems as if my perspective on homeless people is shifting by the minute.
I will spare you the details and get to his story, the crucial part of this article. The story I am about to tell was told by Mike. There is no physical proof he was being completely honest. I am just telling the story.
Mike: (Mike) was born Atlanta, Georgia in 1956. He was living on the streets by himself by the age of 16. He grew up with his widowed mother after his dad left them when Mike was 2 years old. His mom had been a severe drug addict following Mike’s dad’s departure, and she pretty much abandoned him at the age of 16. He was homeless from age 16-22, moving around the city of Atlanta with no real life motive. He often searched through dumpsters or stole to find food, and Mike was very sick for most of his days. At the age of 22, Mike learned his dad was living in Miami, and he decided to sell all of his belongings and saved up money to buy a plane ticket to Miami. Apparently, one of Mike’s long time friends had broken the news to him about his father. Mike would not disclose how he received enough money for a ticket and clothes to board the plane, nor how he and his friend found about his father. Nonetheless, Mike continued his journey to Miami, once he reached Miami, he met with his long time friend who he had lost contact with, and mike prompted to follow his friend. His friend took him to his father’s apartment, in a sketchy area in Miami. Mike’s father opens the door and looks Mike right in the eye. Mike was shocked, and all he could say was “ I’m your son.” Mike’s dad closed the door.
Ever since then, Mike has been living on the streets of Miami. In 2006, his longtime friend died. Mike hasn’t heard from either one of his parents. Today, he roams the streets alone. He has never had any motivation to find a job, but he enjoys painting parts of his body gold for entertainment. Mike left out a lot of the grueling details because he told me he believes as a kid I shouldn’t have to hear about those things let alone experience them. Mike’s story is inspirational in the sense that the typical homeless person is blamed for being homeless. Often times homeless people have upbringings or situations that put them at a disadvantage in life and cause them to have to live on the streets.
I Hope to be able to share more stories in the year to come. Support homeless people.