Location: Clayton County with Darryl Starks
Male, Age 51
“Reserved, Hard worker, Thoughful,
Peace Maker, but I’m also hard to understand”
Good afternoon, today is October 23, 2021, and we’re here in Forest Park, in Clayton County Georgia. My name is Daniel Enger and I have the pleasure of being here with you today, Mike. I thank you very much for taking the time to talk, I’m looking forward to hearing your story and to learning from you. Mike, my first question is a really big one namely please tell the story of your life from the time you were a small child up to the present day.
Mike: Good afternoon I’m doing well I guess (chuckle) Well the cliff note version is I was born in Jackson, Georgia I moved further down South to Fitzgerald, Georgia and that’s where I went to High School and my mom died when I was 12. I really didn’t know my pop, so I was raised by siblings and my grandmother basically different people. I really been on my own since I was 15 had my first job when I was 15 well before that I dropped out of high school, I made it to the tenth grade. Got me a job working in a tobacco field of all places they paid pretty good money. And from there I just been from place to place I really haven’t had a stable childhood young adulthood I guess my life stabilized for the most part when I had my first kid, that was my daughter Brittney. And I made some bad choices (long pause, Yeah) but for the most part; well, I have a son too, I have a daughter and a son, for the most part my daughter has seen I ain’t gon say seen has been through a lot with me. I started using drugs crack mainly it’s been basically downhill since (nervous chuckle) yeah. I get it together for a minute and end up relapses, had some good jobs, messed them up, but I really want to change and get back to normal quote unquote life, tired of being out here but that’s up to me doin it making a change, I’ll get there that’s the cliff note version. My kids they still love me, right before I came on, I seen um and they gave me a hug and told me they loved me. But I got my phone stolen and lost their numbers and stuff like that my brothers I lost all the numbers that I really needed hopefully I can get back in contact wit em. That’s about it… (pause, crying/sniffling) life is hard on these streets man streets is hard but dealing with the people in the streets is hard (chuckle, you know what I mean) you have different mentalities going on with different people. Some people are good people I ain’t gon say good some people are nice all of us got good in us it’s that some choose not to use it I guess it’s a form of survival for them you know, it’s hard to put your trust in any particular person you never know what’s on their mind or what’s their motive so, it’s hard to trust. I always personally been an alone type person anyway so when I do put my trust in somebody and they let me down it just pushes me further away from the person maybe I really needed to be close to, you know what I mean. So, I’m just ready to be happy man (long pause) well that’s just about it that’s the cliff note version. If you want to know in between there you can ask. (chuckle) I’m not really a talker.
Daniel: Thank you Mike, I really appreciate you Thank you. Tell me please of all the things you’ve accomplished or overcome in your life so far what are you most proud of?
Mike: My kids, both kids.
Daniel: Mike, I can tell you’ve gained a lot of hard-fought wisdom in your life through your experiences so far, if you were invited to share your wisdom with school kids at a school in your community, your invited to give school kids around here advice to live healthy, safe stable, and happy lives what advice would you share with them?
Mike: Well first and foremost be your own persons don’t get caught in the peer pressure situations, be a leader not a follower that’s basic, stay away from drugs simple, just say no.
Daniel: Mike, I’d like to shift to present day please. Tell me 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.
Mike: Well, I’m alive (chuckles) and I do have three childs I guess you call them that, and I clean up a couple of stores around here, and a I stock the cooler in the liquor store, so I make money just what I do wit it afterwards that’s kinda (laughter) keepin me the situation I’m in, you know. It’s not a lot of money but it’s enough to where I can change make me some changes motivate myself to go higher some constructive things in my life.
Daniel: Mike, you just mentioned some things that are going well for you today tell me how did that happen who or what has contributed most to your doing well these days?
Mike: God first and foremost, just different people in this little area for the most part the Indian guy’s word of mouth this is a guy you can trust so Imma give him a chance so that’s basically what happened. People in the area you know one person tell another person, this is a person you can trust let him do some work for you. That’s what I pride myself on even smoking crack you got different levels I pretty much haven’t let that change me I take pride in that you can trust me I’ve always said I’m not harming anyone else I’m just harming myself, I have to change that.
Daniel: Mike, I’d like to look ahead now please. When it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead?
Mike: Well, I know first and foremost I have to get off drugs stop doin that cause I’m never gon be stable if I don’t. As far as happiness man I (long pause) just want to be normal again. A lot of things that people take for granted normal watch TV, take showers, things like that. Homelessness is hard to do that. You learn in military I tell you that put a lot of your pride aside off drugs, normally wouldn’t do that working somewhere for the most part and other ways you can try and make money, but I definitely put my pride aside after that it’s a learning situation I don’t need a lot I just want to be normal. I would love to see my kids, love to see my kids but not like this I’ll get there.
Daniel: Mike, what are some of the personal strengths that you have that you draw on as you pursue those hopes and dreams?
Mike: I’m an honest person what you see is what you get, no sugar coatin, ask me a question Imma give you an answer. Trustworthy, Imma hard worker I always been that first job in the tobacco field at 10-years-old develop habits, work habits, work ethic, have a strong work ethic, strong worker don’t mind working. It’s just after it’s what I do with the money afterwards that’s really getting me. It’s hard to stay motivated when you know at the end of the day that you end up frustrated, but I have to do it if you want something you have to get it done yourself. I like to do it myself I don’t like to depend on person/people I do it myself if I want something I go get it, don’t sit around and wait but it gets harder every day to do that. That’s about it I’m done.
Daniel: Mike, tell me please what are some of the challenges and obstacles that you see standing between you and the realization of the hopes and dreams that you told me about. What holds you back?
Mike: Me, I’m my biggest obstacle I’m my own stumbling block, me, that’s about it.
Daniel: Mike, what needs to be done so that challenge that obstacle can be overcome, and you can realize your personal hopes and dreams?
Mike: First and foremost, let go and let God. He has work for me to do and I’m running Yeah that’s about it let go and let God. It’s simple, life is what you make it it’s about choices, we all gonna have hiccups but that’s basically what it’s about life is about choices. You stay on the path you can do and be whatever you want to do it’s about those choices you can take the red pill or the blue pill it’s up to you.
Daniel: Mike, I’d like to ask you a few questions about your community now. Tell me please how would you describe your community, who are the people that make up your community?
Mike: Well, my community right now is right here on Old Dixie (laughter) you got different people that make up the community. You got some you can trust, some you can’t, you got different people who make up this community, I try and stay away from the chaos that’s created, different people make the community up. Got people out here that care about me I really can depend on you got some out here you would just rather stay away from (chuckle) but that’s what makes a community right, the good, the bad, the (chuckle) that’s what makes us people human beings. We don’t all think alike we think differently, different perspective on life, different perspective on anything else yeah.
Daniel: When it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life how would you describe the hopes and dreams of people in your community?
Mike: (long pause) I’m trying to figure it out. So, you askin me how would that affect me right?
Daniel: You told me a minute ago about your community and the people that make up your community tell me what are their hopes and dreams for them, the people in your community from your perspective, what are the hopes and dreams in your community?
Mike: Drug users like myself or just people in general they just want to be happy I guess that’s the hopes and dreams of everybody that I’m associated with, they want to be happy just like me they just don’t have a game plan yet. Everybody needs a helping hand as far as my little area they want to do it they just don’t know how to do it, what steps to take to do it. Don’t nobody want to be on drugs man, don’t nobody want to be homeless. Everybody handles their situation differently I wish the best for everybody out here man for the most part we are not bad people just make wrong choices. It’s kinda crazy when you on the other side of the fence you know what I mean. I wasn’t always homeless, I had cars, houses I had normal stuff but you couldn’t keep it (chuckles) people on either side of the fence they look at life differently like people on the working community they have their own places, cars, their stable they look at homeless people like he’s a bum, he’s worthless and they really don’t even know. Have you ever sat down and had a one-on-one find out what makes them tick, take time to do that every now and then don’t just shut us out. Like when I be working in the stores or whatever guy might come through and pumping his gas and somebody ask him for some money outside or something, they’ll come in and complain to me about it not even knowing that I’m homeless myself (chuckles) you know what I mean, if you really knew I’m homeless myself you never know they might want something to eat. Just because they ask for money don’t mean they want it for dope you know what’s a buck, what’s a dollar you spend more than that on a scratch-off (chuckles) that’s crazy, it’s crazy.
Daniel: Mike, you were just talking about community and now you’re talking about people who use drugs and people who are homeless. Tell me what are some of the strengths that people draw on as they strife to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? What are some of the strengths of the folks in the community that you just talked about?
Mike: Resourceful, you have to be resourceful, you have to be a strong person you have to be that because if you’re not you’ll get ate up (laughter) get ate alive. Resourceful that’s how I can sum that up as far as the people around me in my little circle. Resourceful, find ways to make it work. A person who’s not homeless I wish there was a way they could just spend one day and night in a homeless person’s shoes man (chuckles) you got to be resourceful, that’s basically how that sums that up you gotta be resourceful, you gotta be a strong person. If you could just sit down and listen to some of the stories of the homeless you got some very intelligent people out here. People could make a difference if given a chance that’s for real. You got ex baseball players out here and don’t even know it there’s a baseball player out here right now homeless and you don’t even know it. Alcoholism but that’s legal ain’t that somethin alcoholism is no different from anything else man I been there done that too. You know yeah.
Daniel: Mike, what challenges and obstacles make it harder in your community to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? What holds people back in the communities you were just telling me about?
Mike: Same as before themselves (chuckles) and for the most part that’s what it is you are your own obstacle it’s not people around you can side-step them stay away from them or whatever, but you are your own worst enemy the obstacle is you, me the obstacle is us. God said you make one step He’ll make two, yeah.
Daniel: What needs to be done Mike so that a challenge the obstacle you just mentioned can be overcome and people in your community can realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable and happy lives? You just said that the challenge the big obstacle is oneself what’s the answer what needs to be done in the community?
Mike: Prayer, you got to pray talk to God and be sincere with Him, I mean that’s first and foremost man I’m big on that to each his own but I’m big on that. If you’re a God-fearing person you’ve got to pray you’ve got to be sincere about it though. And if you make the decision you want to change and you in a position to change stick to your guns it’s hard any obstacle that gets in your way the first thing, you’re going to think about I need me a hit, or I need me a drink, just stay strong make it work and eventually I promise you. Everybody has a crutch everybody has something to take their mind off of their daily activity I mean as far as everybody has an escape. Your escape might be working out everybody has an escape, reading a good book, watching a movie or somethin everybody has an escape you have to; you have to, you have to do somethin. I can’t exactly explain it even you after a long day at work you have to have some type of escape when you get home your family might be your escape you have to have somethin. Out here man it seems like there is no escape as far as the physical and mental.
Daniel: I’d like you to imagine yourself as a really powerful leader a decision maker who can make things happen, how would you change the system to help people in your community to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? Imagine you’re a powerful leader how would you change the system?
Mike: (long pause) Assistance I’d make the world easier to get assistance regardless of what assistance you needed I would make it easier for a person to get assistance. Because how it works now if you don’t have ID, social security card or whatever, whatever it’s hard to get assistance you’ve got to prove who you are now I would just make it easier to get assistance, houses I would just make it easier. They’ve got some good things in place but it’s just hard (chuckles) you know that’s the one thing I would change just make it easier to get assistance. Phones, having a phone comes in handy so a person can get in contact with you, like the government phone that was a good plan they should have kept that I don’t know if it’s still there or not they should have kept that so everybody could have a phone, have contact so people can get a hold of you jobs whatever. Everybody needs a hand man, everybody needs a hand, I’m just speaking from a homeless perspective man right about now, assistance is different for different people every individual is different, but you need that leg up to get you up out there you know what I mean you be stuck in a rut for so long sometimes boy I know I been out here for a minute. There’s a guy been out here longer than me his thought process is man there’s no way out basically, just hanging on by a thread. I keep telling him just stay strong it’s going to work itself out just stay prayed up it’ll work itself out God has not abandoned you. God also said If you make one step, I’ll make two. So, you have to try, and keep trying. We as men especially here in the US we got this thing backwards man for the most part we selfish people man we just don’t know how good we have it yeah.
Daniel: Mike, could you now imagine that you have a million dollars that you could spend and help your community realize their hopes and dreams to live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives how would you spend a million dollars to help your community?
Mike: Shelter for one, provide shelter to people that needed it a million would jumpstart the process by giving people not everybody but for the most part giving people money that goes a long way having money I wouldn’t actually put it in their hands I know I wouldn’t put it in my hands (laughter) not right now, I’m getting there but not right now. I would spend it in a way that benefits them, I would spend it in a particular way where it could help them you know. Make life a little easier for everybody try to. Shelter make sure everybody has a place to go that’s a steppingstone itself once you have someplace to lay your head, take a shower, and feel good about yourself it goes a long ways people don’t know it make you feel like you somebody shelter yeah shelter. There’s so many stories out here man people done been through a whole lot. One thing leads to another you know what I mean your childhood people think it don’t affect you it affects you all the way through adulthood has a whole lot to do with your thought process man. Especially women man a lot of women out here listen to their stories basically all the same some type of abuse happened along the way, verbal abuse physical abuse both just along the way and that affects people in different ways man. Well, the answer to that question man would be shelter a place for everyone to go.