Richard, 61- Portland, OR

“My daughter died four years ago and I haven’t given a shit about anything since then.”


Understanding the breadth of homelessness can be near impossible. Statistics and research may be able to categorize the homeless efficiently on a mass scale and provide accurate data for causes but can not possibly provide explanations for the stories that create these statistics. Every story is equally unpredictable and each story poses as a unique challenge for forming a personal connection. Connecting to these statistics emotionally teaches an important lesson: every number has a story and no two stories are alike.

I met Richard at a point in his life where the journey forward ended long ago. Richard’s livelihood had been reduced to only a desire to exist and endure. Richard’s story invokes a heavy sense of sympathy. Though, pity is a long way from empathy. To connect and understand another’s emotions poses as an obstacle for those whose emotions have yet to meet a similar magnitude. I ask myself if I can truly empathize with Richard. Better yet, I ask myself if I want to gain the experience to ever be able to.


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“I started working at age 8 and over 50 years of being in a kitchen has taken its toll. I had a lot of big jobs: a chef for Walt Disney World, chef for commission officers club for Naval War College, cooked for Dolly Parton, cooked for Ron Howard, Alice Cooper.  It’s hard for me to get any other kind of work because they look at me and are like, ‘Your a chef why do you want to work here?’ I can’t work in the kitchen anywhere, I’ll work pushing a broom but I just can’t work in the kitchen.

I’m on the waiting list for government housing and have been over a year. In the meantime I finally found a few people to keep around for protection. We all need protection out here, everything I own has been stolen from me twice since I’ve been on the streets. You can’t blink, you can’t fall asleep. You need a group of people to have to take shifts watching each other’s stuff. Life isn’t easy out here and making friends isn’t much easier.”


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“My daughter died four years ago and I haven’t given a shit about anything since then. She died of a medication mix-up from her sleep apnea. She had two different doctors and she didn’t tell each doctor which medication she was taking so she was prescribed two that didn’t go together and she just went to sleep one night and never woke up. Just stopped breathing. She was 26. She was daddy’s little girl since the day she was born.”


 

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