Homeless Outreach: Helping Good People Get Back On Track.



I work in homeless outreach…

… which is to say that I put myself in places where the poor and homeless congregate, and make myself available for practical advice and/or personal counsel. For instance, I worked at a food pantry this morning, hauling produce from trucks into the pantry.

A friend I’ve known for several years, who is living rough, told me that he wants to go back to where he grew up in upstate New York. So I’ll take him there when the time comes.

Many people ask me why I do this.

I’ll try to answer that here.

I do it mainly because I’ve been there myself — homeless — and I know that there are extraordinary people, like myself, who get into this situation.

So I’m really not about helping the homeless. I’m about helping good people get their lives back on track. Capitalism on steroids is not a social/economic system everyone can adapt to and succeed in. This doesn’t mean that the people who can’t deal with it are not talented, or skilled, or motivated in other ways.

The guy I’m taking to upstate NY worked as a mechanic for the US Army in combat zones. He had to be able to maintain vehicles, no matter what, and with whatever was available to him on site. Now he does the same for my vehicle.

How do I help people get back on track? I know how the Social Services system works because I made it work for me. I know how to go about getting nutritional food assistance (food stamps), cash assistance, and housing. I secured Supplemental Security Income benefits while I was temporarily disabled by severe anxiety, depression and grief.

I was deemed incapable of working during this period, though I still managed to get a book published and wrote many published articles about poverty and homelessness in America.

See it, see me, how you can see me, or want to see me, that’s your trip.

I am who I am.

And that’s my point. We are never who we seem to be to society, our families, our friends.

So be it. Be You! No matter what your situation is. It’s helpful to remember that all stations are temporary.

And, oh yeah, keep it rocking: You Better Start Saving For Things Money Can’t Buy.


James Abro
James Abro is the author of six novels, a few books and a couple of plays. His latest book, An Odyssey in the Great American Safety Net, is a personal memoir of homelessness and recovery. Mr. Abro is on a mission to end homelessness in the community where he lives. He is also a regular contributor to The Center for American Progress blog Talk Poverty, and The Nation magazine.
James Abro
James Abro
James Abro