Location: Intown Collaborative Ministries
Male, Age 66
“Im Tired of Prison and want to spend
The Rest of life free”
Daniel Enger (Interviewer) Good afternoon Danny, today is November 4, 2021, and we’re here at the offices of Intown Collaborative Ministries on Ponce in Atlanta. My name is Daniel Enger and I have the pleasure of being here today with you Danny thank you very much for taking time to talk. I’m looking forward to hearing your story and learning from you. And my first question for you Danny is a really big one namely, please tell the story of your life from the time you were a little boy up to the present day.
Danny: Good afternoon, I come from a broken family my mother was… I was the subject of a rape baby my great grandmother raised me my mother was a alcoholic. And I was up to age 10 before I realized that my great grandmother wasn’t my mother yo, and I never knew a day that she was sober in her life and she died in 1994. My grandmother died in 1973 and after that I was in and out of the prison system for a very long time. It took me away from society and everything and I kind a got behind in time. The first time I ever done was two years so I come back out to society after two years and I was homeless and it wasn’t like it was now a days people would help you out, people would give you stuff hep you get back on ya feet, give you housing to where you get you a job they let you stay at the house didn’t even have to know ya they’d let you stay there and hep ya get back on your feet. If you was tryin if a man really wanted to get on his feet back then he could. Now days this 2021 I hadn’t seen nothin like that I mean if a man wanna work which I’m 66 years old and I’m a retired criminal I’m not rehabilitated by a long shot. I just don’t want to die in the penal system and be buried on piss ant hill. I got out of prison October 14, 2020, through the pandemic they sent me to Atlanta bus station I won’t never forget it I stayed there three days I was scared to death to walk the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. I had just come out of the State Prison it was a jungle didn’t know where I was gonna get my next meal didn’t know nothin, yo. If you go try to use the bathroom somewhere “Oh it’s out of order” everybody was scared of the pandemic. Whatn no work going on so I become accustomed to that after a while but you know prison and drugs has really affected my life. Until a man get straight off drugs he really don’t know what the drug is doing to him. I mean he don’t know how to cope with life no more. He’s needs help in all kinda areas he’s growed accustomed to being homeless. People has beat him down so bad that he just give up on life, and he’s goin to soup line to soup line and I refuse to be that person, I refuse like I said I got out October 14th I been in the stretch one year. I been beaten these doors down yo when I first got out of prison, I stayed like I said I stayed three days at the Atlanta bus station I went to all the missions, Salvation Army they slammed the door in my face epidemic, epidemic, that’s all I heard epidemic. Damn me livin in the streets, in the cold weather, the rain, no clothes, got a monkey suit on, a pair of khaki pants, and a white shirt and a pair of bobo shoes when you get out of prison and $25.00 in my pocket that’s all I had, I was 65 when I got out. All my family dead I got no family members or nothin it was only me so I hit the streets. And I have tried, the first thing I wanted to do was get on SSI it took me eight months knockin on doors tryin to get people to hep me finally, I had to set down and call the SSI myself and figure out how to do it myself, I couldn’t get no help whatsoever from nobody I mean nobody had time for me. Then I kept tryin to get housing and finally I just said; sure they want to put me out in Gateway I can’t sleep in no open dormitory around people, I come from a prison system a total of 40 years I get paranoid real easy I seen a lot of things happen in my life in the prison system. And most of the homeless shelters around here they don’t have no security when you come in they say they go through your bag. You can get anything you want in a homeless shelter you take Gateway that’s a runoff from Peachtree and Pine that’s all that is all the trouble they had they wanna clean Peachtree and Pine up so, they done away wit it and opened up Gateway. Now if you wanna you can go to Gateway what good is it going to Gateway I don’t know the timeframe most of these shelters want to kick you out by six o’clock in the morning, it might be raining outside if you got you a job you got to walk to your job in the rain. Ain’t nobody gonna give you a Marta Card yo all the shelters and churches and everything I believe they designed to keep a man down, cause they feed lunches. . . all the hours they feed is in between when a man has to be at work yo. Have you ever tried to sleep out in the streets in the rain and the cold with one pair of pants and try to get up and go to work the next morning that job didn’t last too long did it? I know that scenario right there it’s like the system dropped me out here in the streets, we told you he’ll be back, well one thing about Georgia Department of Corrections that’s a guaranteed job cause there’s gonna be criminals out here the way they run it. The counselors there they don’t want to do their job they won’t put you in for a halfway house, and make sure you got a place to stay or sign you up for SSI when you get out, or mental health status. Back to my mental health status I am mental health I spent 40 years in the prison system, I did some long stretches at one time, any man that does over five years in the prison system he’s in trouble to begin with because he become mental health yo. You lose touch with society yo a lot of people may not realize what that does to you. But if I go to the prison system and I do 10 years that means I’m 10 years behind time, and walking the streets of Atlanta I ain’t got 10 years to catch up on all the changes that was made I gotta do it fast and in a hurry. I’m kinda a slow learner yo, I’m self-educated, I love to read that’s hard to do, that’s really hard to do. What can Atlanta do? Well, they given all this money out for the homeless but who’s really benefittin from that money I wonder. Because you know I was told last year they were puttin people in hotels and everything like that, okay I go stand in line at five o’clock, at one o’clock I get into a hotel I stand out in the cold. At five o’clock in the morning they kickin me back out in the cold so what’s the sense of goin to the motel. I mean you get you two or three hours a hot shower or somethin other than that they you can’t get no rest there cause everybody’s in a uproar. I mean they wantin to get in breakin the line pushin there’s no supervision in the shelters period. I mean you take Jeffrey Street shelter used to be you go in there you betta tie your shoes to ya bed yep or leave em on ya feet if you want em the next morning. I mean that’s how bad the homeless situation is yo. And then back to the city givin these people money for the homeless, what the city should have done they should have appointed somebody to oversee what was goin on and to check in daily with them programs to make sure that all the people that’s drawin a paycheck from that money is doin their job or just out here beatin a bush. I sit sometime down there on the corner I have people come all over well we goin hep you do this, we goin hep you do that well the only thing they done was blowed some smoke up my ass and got my hopes up for nothin that’s the bottom line of what they done. They come out there interviewed me gettin a copy of my ID everything they went back and say I signed him up today I’m gone get him housing and you don’t never hear from them again yo. Just like my counselor which I don’t wanna call his name because I don’t know if he would approve of me speakin of him, because he goes far and beyond his call of duty. He’s the best man I ever met he’s really tryin to help me but the city’s got his hands locked too yo, I mean he just can’t go put you in housing a person like me I done done 40 years in the penitentiary I been out of touch with society for many, many years. Now I’m out here lookin for a house they don’t want my kind around yo. Ain’t no such thing as a I’m a good person anymore because if you ever do anything bad in your life, it’s always goin be remembered through the system, if you get that number you always goin be remembered in the system. You take a guy like me done all this time and everything I probably work a young man college degrees and all I’d work em to death at 66 right now, I’m in good shape yo. As far as he got the book knowledge of everything I got the experience of everything I worked mostly construction for 10 years, I do electrical plumbing, carpentry I love it. I can build just about anything just give me the set of blueprints. But because he got a little college degree ain’t never swung a hammer, ain’t never picked up a screwdriver, but he knows the technical part of it yo me I know the work part of it. So, there’s a difference between us but because he got that piece of paper and everything that the State failed to give me because they don’t want you rehabilitated they want that revolving door so you be right back when you come in you have to go back to the things that you done yo. So, after a while you get to knocking on doors and you say to hell with this here I know how to go get some money cause that’s the routine you in yo. I was a young man at 17 I was throwed in there with a bunch of predators, bunch of dogs animals yo I had to live like them. So, I became like them and it’s warped my mind pretty good I agree to that, I have to analyze myself all the time about the changes I have to make in society and a lot of people say well you institutionalized, no I’m not institutionalized I’m a survivor, I have to get in the mode to survive I do what I have to, to survive. But right now, I’m scared to spit on the sidewalk cause I have a record, they see me if I’m out there late at night runnin around they stop me, they ID me first thing I’m doin is I’m prowlin they gone say I done been there and done that so right back to jail I go. Public Defenders down there they don’t care if you guilty or innocent all they want is a guilty plea they want to win so they can draw a big paycheck it’s all about the money here in Atlanta, Georgia that’s for sure. Cause money is what makes it go around here in Atlanta if you got money you don’t get messed with if you ain’t got nothin you a bum, homeless, a hobo, ain’t nothin changed from the old days to right now but the names of things that’s the only thing changed yo. You take a garbage man he used to be the garbage collector now he’s in custodial maintenance dressed the name up supervision, janitorial Yo that’s all they ever do around here is change the names and everything stays the same. Sure, Atlanta has helped a lot of people get off the street but Atlanta’s a big city we got a lot of people comin to Atlanta, Georgia now It’s gonna be a little Hollywood before long. Atlanta’s changing tryin to push the homeless out outside the city limits Yo. People don’t come out any more like they used to feed maybe on the holidays they get within the spirit but because of this pandemic it’s hard on everybody. People been out of work been in house arrest they scared to go in the grocery stores and everything so I’m faced with something new to me right now I don’t know. Each day I thank God that I woke up and I thank him every night I go to bed because I’m at that age. But I been promised they goin get me a house before it get’s cold well it got cold last night I’m still out here, it started rainin last night and I’m still out here, it’s rainin today I’m still out here, but they gone get me into housing before it gets cold they tell me Yo. And I have other counselors other than just this one counselor that’s working with me. But the end result as far as the housing goes is Imma have to find me a room or someplace of my own yo because they have had a year to get me housing and yet I’ve had my hopes up but now I’ve done learnt in life if you goin do anything you gotta do it yourself, if you can’t reach out and hep yourself ain’t nobody else goin hep ya, and that’s about all I got to say about that.
Daniel: Danny, of all of the things you’ve accomplished and overcome in your life so far, what are you most proud of?
Danny: Being able to say that I’m a retired criminal and I won’t pick nothin up and I will die in society.
Daniel: Danny, you’ve gained a lot of hard-fought wisdom from experiences in your life so far if you were invited to share your wisdom with school kids in your community giving the kids guidance to live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives what would you tell them?
Danny: Get your education, work hard, and stay out of trouble cause the prison system is no place for a young man.
Daniel: Danny, in what ways would you say that your life is going well these days? Please talk a little bit about how life is good for you at the present time.
Danny: Well life isn’t good for me I make it good with the things that I do yo. I get up in the morning I go to church every day now. I’m too old to work anymore so I get up and I go to that church I’ve made my peace with God. I try to look at positive things, and even though negative come at me all the time every day every minute of the day somethin negative happens, but I try to turn it into somethin that’s positive and just try to maintain. I mean I’m not sayin every day in these streets is bad but it’s hard on a man that don’t have a bed to lay down in, don’t have a hot shower to go to when he get’s dirty and everything, you have to depend on other people and there’s hundreds of us out here in Atlanta, Georgia that needs the same thing that I do, so why complain about it Because ain’t nothin getting done in Atlanta.
Daniel: Danny you’ve just spoken about a few ways in which life is going well for you these days, tell me please what led to those things going well for you? How did that happen? Who or what has contributed most to your doing well these days?
Danny: Well, I have a counselor I don’t want to call his name but he talks to me a lot when I get in one of them old moods, and I have a pastor and not only is he my pastor he’s my friend. And then I run things by him ideas that I get and he advise me and I listen to that advice, he’s my mentor yo. And then I have a police officer that works at Publix and I talk to him about things because he knows that I’m walkin around here sleepin in the rain, and the cold livin yo, goin hungry some days he knows I’m tryin to do the right thing to stay out of the system.
Daniel: Danny, looking ahead please when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead?
Danny: Well, there’s no happy, stable life that’s a good one, happy just to have me a room somewhere where I can lay my head, a back yard where I can just set on the porch and look out at the season change. I have become an old man now I was very foolish in my young days and that has stayed with me all my life so now I just try to stay out of sight.
Daniel: Danny, what are some of the personal strengths that you have that you draw on as you pursue your hopes and dreams?
Danny: To maintain freedom in society, I hope that every day that nothin happen to me I pray to God or my Higher Power or whatever you want to call Him that He walks with me every day and give me peace, other than livin in a jungle with a bunch of animals.
Daniel: Danny, what challenges and obstacles do you see standing between you and the realization of your hopes and dreams? What holds you back?
Danny: What holds me back from my dreams is, I done got to the age now to where I can’t do no more time, I’m too old to work now if it wasn’t for my age, it would be my record. I can’t get a job anywhere. Sure, people want to work me but they want to pay me under the table wages and benefit from my work, there’s no such a thing as fairness when a man is tryin to make some money, tryin to live cause when I was workin I was livin from paycheck to paycheck. If I got sick or somethin and lost my job I was back in the streets so that’s another scenario there yo. What holds me back now I just can’t get no help whatsoever from nobody, everybody I done went through about four counselors since I been out in a year they all pass the buck off on somebody else. It’s always somebody else’s fault sure I put myself in this situation I understand that, but I went to prison too and I understand that too and I paid my debt to society. But I do think the system owes me after taking me out of society for such a long period of time, to help me get back on my feet once I get out. Instead of just releasing me and sending me out here to a world I don’t even know anymore. And like I said I been a drug user for most of my life, now that I’m clean and I’m out here dealin with society I don’t know how to deal with a lot of things, there’s a lot of things that I have to sit down and really ponder on for two or three weeks tryin to figure out how I can get somebody to hep me figure it out. There’s no help for an inmate out here it’s like I’m on vacation right now from the prison system and that’s been the story of my life for the last 40 years.
Daniel: Danny, you just spoke about a certain number of challenges and obstacles that you face what needs to be done so that those challenges and obstacles that you just mentioned can be overcome?
Danny: Well first of all, when I’m dealin mainly with the prison system a lot of guys that come out of the prison system become homeless, they need to have some kind a thing at least six months to a year before you get out. You can go to a halfway house be in a stable community to where you got help once you get out. Georgia Department of Labor that’s a joke right there you go down there, you set down there all day long you might be number 75 time you get in there to talk to a representative they already tired they done been through so many they just they don’t have enough people there to oversee. I’m not sayin all these people bad they just got so many people to deal with one person. So, we need to be spread out more so, if a man was sent to a halfway house and limited spending like they do in the prison system he could walk out there and get him an apartment and everything, have em a job fall right back in and not have all the problems you have. But after you stay out here in these street so long getting you a boiled egg, and a hot bowl of grits, and a hot cup of coffee in the morning. Then you get two cold sandwiches from some soup line they set up to where if you goin to work you can’t eat you gotta make a choice for eatin or workin which one gone win right there I think your stomach will. It does wit me after a couple a days. Yeah, I want to go down there to the soup line and stand there and eat so when I go back down there to Home Depot or somewhere and try to catch work it’s too late. Don’t nobody want to start you out at eleven o’clock in the morning Yo you go to work between six and eight every morning most jobs. So, that’s a hindrance right there we need help in getting a man back on his feet here in Atlanta, Georgia once you get out. The Salvation Army’s good but your limited there yo you got this Marta System out here you try to drive around on a Marta bus in the traffic you can’t get to no place on-time during traffic hours that’s another hindrance. So, we need us homeless people we need help bad out here there’s people out here that’s tryin and tryin but they hands is tied because the big wheels is getting the money and they tellin the small people what to do it’s a story of life yo. It goes back to the Bible the old days the beggars and they was called beggars when they held a sign up in the Old Testament when Jesus come around you know yo. I understand there’s a lot in my life but this interview I try to keep a lot to myself too because it’s hard to open up to people that I can’t look at in their eyes, I like to see the expression on their face when I talk and tellin em things that I’ve seen in my life yo. This homeless situation I don’t have the answer to homeless because I’m homeless, if I had the answers, I wouldn’t be homeless. But I do know we need some hep out here we need some kind of committee put together to oversee the money that Atlanta appropriates to these people to make sure their doin their job to get it done in their area yo. You got East, West, South, and North why don’t you set up four committees, one for the north, one for the south, and then you have somebody to come around and check on these people to make sure that their doin their job the way their sposed to yo. You can do a number count well how they prosperin and everythin, what is the procedure yo, keep record on what they doing so they can’t get away with just stickin money in the wallet and doin nothin. Yeah.
Daniel: Danny, I’d like to shift now to the community and to a certain extent you’ve already made that shift. Could I please ask for your perspectives on the homeless community here in Atlanta starting with the following question? How would you describe the homeless community here Danny, who are the people who make up the homeless community from your observations?
Danny: Okay, ex-felons makes up the community as homeless people, drug addicts we need more drug counseling and everything, and that’s the most on the homeless man’s tip it’s easy to make money in Atlanta, Georgia but if you got a drug habit and you workin through a labor pool or somethin like that there you go out there and you work 10 hours crack cocaine and meth is one of the biggest problems in Atlanta, Georgia. You go out there and you work all day and you make you $50.00 well I’ve seen this first-hand and done this myself so I know what I’m talkin about right here. I go out there and I make $50.00 well, I take $10.00 and go get me somethin to eat wit and I got $40.00 left, I get me a pack of cigarettes, I get me three dime rocks and a straight shooter and I get high that night to be led out of my misery. And then I’m up again to do the same thing and I swear up and down the next day I ain’t gonna do it, I’m not goin do no drugs today I’m goin get my money, I’m goin get me some clean clothes put on everything here again I got paid and back to the dope man I run that monkey on my back got me when I got that green dollar bill in my pocket. And I can understand a lot of people do a lot of things it’s not the person it’s the addiction that gets em yo, and I understand that now after all the years that I done drugs that it was the addiction and I was scared to admit that I was a junkie. That’s the first step you gotta take note in that you’re a junkie and I tried to stay away from that because it’s warped my mind so bad that I was wrapped up in escapin my problems during my young life now that I’ve got older I just I don’t want that type of life no more.
Daniel: Danny, when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life how would you describe the hopes and dreams of people in the homeless community?
Danny: Well, the homeless community the guys that I know that have been out here I’d say five or six years they done gave up on everything, there’s been so many doors slammed in their face and been talked about, and belittled, they been down so much that they just wander from shelter to shelter and they get in the habit that they can’t break. And that’s the sad part about bein homeless they go from one soup line to the next tryin to get a hand-out. And It’s ridiculous because you got some good people out here come from a lot of good homes and they just gave up on life because they been beat down so bad by society.
Daniel: Danny, from your observation in the homeless community what are some of the strengths that people can draw on as they look to the future? In what ways would you say that homeless people are particularly strong?
Danny: well, homeless people are strong to begin with if they survive these streets out here on these cold winter nights in this rain and they can get up and go the next morning and bring a smile. But what give us strength when we look around and we see one man that we know that was homeless, slept out there smoked the dope wit us, shot the dope wit us, drank a beer wit us, and everything but all of a sudden he’s changed. He done got him a house, he don got apartment or whatever he’s got and he come back and tells his story to us, it gives us strength. The struggles he went through during his homelessness it gives some of us hope that somebody out there is goin do something for us.
Daniel: Danny, from your perspective what are the challenges and obstacles that make it harder for people in Atlanta to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? What holds homeless people in Atlanta back?
Danny: They can’t get no help whatsoever, I mean you go down to the Gateway, they tried to put me in the Gateway “well we’ll put you down at Gateway” why I want to go down there and be with a bunch of junkies, drugs in the bathroom and all in the system right there yo. I’m threw with drugs myself so I’m not a recovering addict there’s no such, to me you either goin do it or you’re not goin do it yo. I went down to my mud puddle I went down far below my mud puddle and I had a long ladder to climb back out of. And the reason why I went in that mud puddle was them damn drugs because I had to go steal money for a drug habit that I had. Because wouldn’t no body hire me I already had a record and everything, couldn’t get a good job so I turned to criminal behavior and that became a way of my life. And that’s the story you either gone become a drug addict, a drunk, or a criminal being homeless, because you just give up and you need some kind of chemicals to alter your mind so you don’t think about them things until you get back sober, and that’s the bad part of that situation.
Daniel: Danny, from your perspective what needs to be done so that the challenges and obstacles you just mentioned can be overcome and homeless people in Atlanta can realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? What has to be done to overcome the challenges and obstacles you just mentioned?
Danny: Well, we need an organization put together to where we got people to help us, we got counselors and stuff if you a drug addict we need to get you into some kind of rehab that would be only the first step. You go to that once you come out of that rehab, you go to that rehab you come out they get you a job, get you housing, that guaranteed upon release of that rehab. If you complete that program and then you need to be monitored to make sure you got your NAA or AA meetins or whatever and that needs to be a stipulation on that contract. You got to do what people do in society you got to be responsible because a lot of us don’t know how to be responsible no more. We out of control we done been beat down so bad that all we know is to get high. We live for the drugs that’s what we live for whatever our addiction is that’s what we live for. We need help we need professional people to deal with us because it’s not about being homeless it’s about what it does to our minds out here yo. If you tell me I’m not mental health something gotta be wrong wit me I done done 40 years I just keep doin the same thing over, and over, and over why am I doin that, is anybody ever asked that question yo. Yeah, am I crazy no I love me but you know I hate me at times too, I hate the way that I became in life so now I just try to be peaceful and stay away from everything I live in a shell .
Daniel: Danny, imagine please for a moment that you’re a powerful leader a decision maker who could really make things happen, how would you change the system to help people in your community in the homeless community in Atlanta realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? As a powerful leader how would you change the system to help homeless people in Atlanta?
Danny: Well, see being a powerful leader I couldn’t do that myself I could be that powerful leader but I need the homeless behind me I need to get every homeless man If I had the money, I’d go buy him a tent. I’d go down there on the Capital lawn set out that tent if it calls I’d be the front leader, if it calls me goin to jail or whatever. I’d ask my congregation to stay right there and demand fairness yo and justice for all. Not just for the rich, for the poor too I would put heat up under the governor yo, I would get the news media out there and get them to film the homeless and tell em what’s goin on yep. Because the deal in Atlanta, Georgia somebody’s got to take a stand somewhere. You take Martin Luther King he had a dream and he died for it and we got a lot of homeless people dyin, I can’t even call the names in the last 10 years of people that I know that died from being homeless yeah.
Daniel: Danny, my last question for you. Imagine you had a million dollars that you could spend to help the homeless community in Atlanta to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives how exactly would you spend a million dollars to help the homeless people in Atlanta?
Danny: Well, the first thing I’d do is go buy me a piece of land and build me a brick building out there and put bunk beds in it. And I’d open the doors up I’d have a shower, a check in booth . When you come in the first thing you do is check in they give you a towel and a wash cloth and go wash. Because bein out here in the streets you come up with a lot a kinda diseases, lice, scabies, stuff like that and you smell I wouldn’t want my people in the dormitory’s it’d have to be open dormitory’s. I couldn’t afford with a million dollars that’s just a drop in the bucket really for the homeless situation in Atlanta cause I’m gone to have ta feed these people I’m gonna have to have a kitchen there. My first goal would be to get these people off the street and find out what their problem really was, what type of hep do I really need to give them what doctors do they need to go to, what psychiatrist do they need to go to, get em interviewed by people. And get to the source of how warped their mind really are and then I could proceed from there knowing what I was dealing with yeah. Right now, I don’t see that happening in my life time, I really don’t cause that’s a big plate right there what I just said yo. You try to deal every day with the homeless people every day. It wear a man down to where you keep seeing the same man over, and over, and over, you just give up hope. Well, he ain’t gone change well the system hadn’t changed either so why should he change yo, the doors done been slammed on him so many times he just well I ain’t letting no other doors get slammed on me. I can screw up my own self and that’s a lot of peoples attitude right here it takes a lot to reach out. The homeless people need love, not hate, not bitterness that we receive yo, a lot of us didn’t ask to get in this situation it’s just the way life rolled on us .
Daniel: Danny, I really appreciate you taking time to talk, do you have any final things that you would care to share?
Danny: I hope this interview and the committee that hears it would call me and really talk to me on an in-depth basis bout the homeless problem in Atlanta, Georgia. Because I can take you places and show you things you wouldn’t believe that the homeless do. You have to be a strong man like I said I’m a survivor I been in that jungle in the prison system and now I’m back in the streets. But my main goal out here is every day to get my necessities my food, to stay in a dry place, and stuff like that. And then if I get sick, I have to put back food and stuff for them days when I’m not able to come out, and I don’t feel good. I bought me a little Coleman stove so I can heat my food up, I got a frying pan I try not to use it that often cause out there it cost money and money is one thing I don’t have, but I survive every day thanks to the Lord.