Location: Intown Collaborative Ministries
Male, Age 43
“Good friend / easey going, help someone/
Have a good understand with a few”
Daniel Enger (Interviewer) Good Afternoon, James, today is October 29, 2021, and we’re here on Ponce in Atlanta. My name is Daniel Enger and I have the pleasure of being here today with James, thank you very much for taking time to talk James. I’m looking forward to hearing your story and learning from you. My first question for you is a really big one namely, James, please tell the story of your life from the time you were a small child up to the present day.
James: When I was a child, I had three different parents raising me from my birth parent that had me, to a stepmother in the family, to a foster care mother, it was a odd relationship by me being small. Coming up through classes I was going through slow learning ABE learning how to read, learning how to spell and because my daddy was busy he was working you know, my mother . . . he would just come home and I had to be so young, I see him come in after work and he just go nuts on me and her both like wow what we did, what I do, I’m standing there as a baby just cryin don’t know what to do you know. So, I had a rough life coming up through being a child. I been institutionalized a couple of times here and there you know. I didn’t go to juvenile thank God, but when I got old enough they got me as a minor from learning from my parents and my father see, and they had a way as to how they wanted to do me and her both, and I got two other brothers by the same mother and father. And the other stepmother was just there because she just baby sit me so I can’t really say mother, but I had a foster mother also she took me when I was seven years old you know. And after seven years old I kind a moved up in learning I learned where the struggle came from so, I was feeling the pain from the inside struggle, from being loved, caring, hurt and you know. And then in a foster home you basically like what we goin through now, a lot of things were happening here in Atlanta, Atlanta think they build up they tearin down its new now. So, we movin forward to where okay you know the money, they got like he was sayin they got things building up tearin down to where you can get help if you want help. Now if you think you still behind slow and you can’t learn how to move forward and you can’t forgiving for what you done in 1991 (chuckle) and it’s 2021 when Michael Jordan and Michael Byrd was playin and Dominic Wilkins (chuckling). It’s basically what you learn from your parents and to when you get to your age having kids I start having my first child when I was 16, well actually 15 the mother was 15 and I still was a child then but when I got really to age of 18 to 24 it was like a struggle. And I was going in and out of jail who cares out here I do what I can people said they scared of this scared of me because of what I produced as a child, it took me you know time after time to go get locked down just to understand that this real life. You need to wake up, like here let me throw some water or splash some water in your face, or drink some coffee. You woke now what can we help you wit to move you forward now, that’s in the past you know. So, you got two different relationships you know your mother love you and she still wit you, and your daddy moved forward well he left after he raised me up to seven matter a fact he left and you know and went to jail hisself. He went through a alcohol problem and at the same time he had where he move forward and had a woman in that way, he wasted time with the first other woman he was dating with, 2 women at the same time and he had moved on to another State. After I got old enough, I didn’t know who he was after that. I heard how he was livin and what condition he was livin in so I started going through phases you know. It’s done changed out here so it’s things not as fast it is cause of Corona, housing, clothing, money, and things like that to where we have to come down to our level and understand each other before we move onto the step of the ladder to go higher where we need to be. If you was up higher step down to meet that person okay my name James your name might be James so at the same time James well okay we honor you into any roll in this situation. It’s a big thinking to the point to where housing, shelter, and group homes, and stuff like that, that I done lived in see I took a chance give myself a try like how we talking now well okay I can help you now if you honest with me, to see what the problems you need while you out here this long living like this (chuckle) you know. It’s everything we does with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine it’s abusive to us inside and it hurt the ones that raised us and leave us behind and we can’t catch up to the point when we do, we movin to fast for our self so we just have to take step by step day at a day you know hour at a hour. So, therefore, things happen for a reason to open your eyes up you can’t see maybe you know you can hear you know and things will be better in a generation at a time, even if you chose to move forward but if you chose not to you still gone be behind. See a lot of people been homeless for 35 to 40 years before they even thought about askin for help and they couldn’t survive no mo. Like he said earlier, I was listening saying here and the first guy really who just came in, he really decided like thank you like he really explaining the hard time of living in a big city like this. You want to say and you know burnin down, tearin down dividen so, you really you ask for help like okay help me to the point I can get out the weather and, let me get somewhere to sleep after rain and cold you know stuff like that helps. And this what happen in life sometime, it be the mental problem it might be the things you done been through that cause you to think before you act you might be done went through some struggle you might not want to go any further unless they really ask you what’s really wrong with you like you know. And that’s happened to a lot of you know brothers, football, players, basketball players and they got Oprah they got this you know they got different people to help you know. Like the program I went to the first time he owned a whole acre of land he will take you there and print you ID this same date and take you into a program and the only thing you got to do is accept him for what he know and how he does on his property that’s it, easy going you have to finish it. Once you get there you just can’t walk out and say okay like you livin in a motel or somewhere so okay I’m tired of livin in a motel and I think I’m gonna you know. So it does work if you really work it you know you got AA, NA you got rehabs you know if you really want help recovery for yourself if you think you gone on this, or you think you just in the street, you think you tryin to stay out here gone live on the street wit a you know the way you livin you really just sayin I’m given up just won’t move on but everybody else like okay cool. You come back to reality and you think like hey let’s get the man a meal he haven’t ate in about three or four days, or he done had the same clothes on two or three weeks, or he ain’t took no bath in three or four weeks (chuckle). And so they get to lookin here and like he say cops run you off they get a call such and such or we don’t want to do nothin for you or we thinkin whatever and that don’t be the reason is just what you done in your past, your past is your past, your future is your future. Say what you went to prison for, they say what happened if it did maybe we can help you get your income disability or even get you a program where we can sit you down and get everything really for you and get yourself situated to get in the program. Because I been out here really this time it’s really over three or four months, well, Imma say over two or three months altogether it’s been like six months. And you know I got my social security card now, and hopefully Tuesday if things don’t; but two days ago it was printed. Things ain’t there like store closing at a certain time and people ain’t there only one or two people working and this kind a ain’t normal for me you know I’m used to livin in a little county and if I’m livin in a big town and it’s small I knowed it’s time for me to let me feel my forehead my temperature and see (laughing) put a rag on my forehead or somethin man. I’m serious it’s really scary to some people they really are happening and stuff so you know and I’m askin I need to get off the streets I can’t keep getting wet, sleepin on the ground, and sleepin here and really don’t supposed to be there. People tell you you can’t be down there they can lock you up or they threaten you to do this and that. So it’s harmful inside for me and people might hear that like what he do so you know you really want to move forward since I came here today so glad I knocked on your door to get this help so you know.
Daniel: James, of all of the things that you’ve accomplished or overcome in your life so far what are you most proud of?
James: I’m most proud of that people been uplifting me well I’m proud that I can really salute them, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, you know what I mean. Today is where you can get help if you want help you can go to a placement, you can go to a shelter, programs if you got problems different things people can get you all the way through what you need. The guy asked me day before yesterday “you really want to get off the streets?” This guy got him a job I couldn’t believe it he actually got him a job, Saturday getting paid just goin to work and homeless. So, I know if he can do it, I can do it too, that’s how I look at it. I know the next brother been in the same situation been to health counselors and what not so you know it’s more interesting livin not just giving up in life. Some people just wanna just harm themselves and not thinkin or either they want to do drugs and overdose and are not thinkin or whatever. So, you jus have to put one and one together and two and two together, it’s gone add up every time, one and one is two, and two and two is four.
Daniel: James, through your life so far, 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? So, your invited by a school they want you who’s seen a lot of things in life to share wisdom with the kids to guide them what would you tell them?
James: Stay in school that would be the first thing stay in school and don’t drop out. (Long pause and laughter)
Daniel: James, 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 in the present time.
James: Well, I can’t say good right now because I mean just bein three years homeless total with six and a half or five and half weeks, months goin into three weeks of that bein homeless wit no ID’s, nowhere to live, no food, and money to survive it’s harmful, it’s hurtful it’s not joyful. You know joyful is around holidays time I’m not happy the way I’m goin through this the process it’s totally you know. It’s a big pressure, it’s a big thought, it’s a big thank you and it’s a lot more that I can put into it and not just say I’m takin out this basket and Imma give it to someone who’s gonna just tear my car up today, if I give you my car keys will you bring my car back today, somethings like that you know. So, same way with kids goin back to that I can’t see no kids just don’t have no parent and just say well I’m gone have another kid it hurt me every day with the heart. I have change from the time I have been experienced like you was just sayin you know, and it’s a big thank you a big step really to a small step made into a long step see what I’m sayin. Back to the long step like a large fry you not gone get nothin small you know you can eat more than a happy meal (laughter) or one slice of pizza seriously bein real, you need more than that.
Daniel: James tell me please when it comes to living a safe, healthy, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead?
James: To be well to the point that I don’t have no worries, my bills be paid, I don’t have to worry about my car note, or my rent, or how Imma get my groceries, or how Imma get my clothes, things like that.
Daniel: What are some of the personal strengths that you have that you draw on as you pursue your hopes and dreams? What are some of your personal strengths James?
James: My personal strengths are I work out a lot, and if I can’t lift weights I get down and do push-ups, my knees, and my feet bad now, so I really can’t do too much. So, I really just get in a little corner of my room and push-up, eat kind of healthy watch what I eat, watch what I drink, watch what I’m around, you know so, mostly you know not too much sweet, not too much food things like that for health wise you know. So, I used to work long years ago I haven’t work over like total since maybe around 2004, 5, 6, somewhere around in there. Everything else just been step by step here and there that’s why I had to change my life and people still to today test me to the point where they think that I still got that side, it’s like this I wanna be like this, I wanna be like this and you know it’s like a boat is it goin sink, no. It’s a lot of pain and suffering when you ain’t got a lot goin I got a lot of things goin cause I have family that I look up to for once and they been on they feet, and they been wanna move forward, and they wanna see they little brother or big brother do the same thing you know, ain’t tryna put pressure on them and you know and just be happy you know if you ain’t happy you can make your inside happy, you don’t have to show happy it gone show itself you know it gone show itself (laughter). So, I done been der and done that so, in the present here we talkin hopin for it things are where I need to be.
Daniel: James, what are some of the challenges and obstacles that you see standing between you and realizing your hopes and dreams? What holds you back?
James: People in society look at how you react to their asset, the way they dress, the way they walk, they hold me back and they language
Daniel: James, what could be done to overcome those challenges and obstacles so you can realize your hopes and dreams? You were talking the way people look, the way they talk, and the way they dress how can those challenges be overcome so that you can realize your hopes and dreams?
James: By you know not taking really from them in that area we can always keep things going and not tearin down and keep movin forward like the guy was just sayin. A million dollars wouldn’t last over 15 – 16 years wit you liven wit the background history wit the way you doin you liven too late. So, $2 million wit that can make it move up to a higher rank where you ain’t got to worry about the beat like energize you just can’t keep goin like energizer but as you go with the energizer you dare to move forward and not backwards you know. It’s like two highways you got one-way comin down and one comin back down, it’s basically sayin the same thing one goin and one comin (chuckle).
Daniel: James, I’d like now to turn to the community and I’d like you to tell me about the homeless community. How would you describe the community who are the people who make up your community? I’m thinking more about the homeless community.
James: Them the ones that done been through the war like prison like long-term, say them the ones; like as I’m speakin to you which I know by me lookin at you, me and you, you the type of guy who could put me where I need to be at see what I’m sayin or you could help me to get to a better decision you know what I mean. And most of that come from bein wise in wisdom what you got from me earlier. So, you put one and one together it’s gone add up two every time, every time. So, you know.
Daniel: James, when you think of other homeless people you know how would you describe their hopes and dreams?
James: We try to help each other out If I got somethin they got it, we’re not tryin to tear each other down, we helpin each other you help me I help you. We don’t try to look down on each other “he smell like this, or he diggin in the trash can, or he lookin in the dumpster, or he layin here” we don’t judge him by that, maybe he ain’t never had nobody to help him or her so you have to look at the outside and inside to judge what’s really happened. Some people been on medication so long until they mind frame is not right but the average doctor or judge can read you. So, they look at it two different ways here you know what I’m sayin, like I was sayin earlier.
Daniel: James, in the homeless community (James laughing) what are some of the strengths that people draw on as they realize their hopes and dreams? What are some of the strengths of people in the homeless community? People who are homeless.
James: Yes, they come from either the money or either accept abuse from bein well you been loved to a point to where you can breathe without a mask on too, you can take the mask off and some time you can put it on and then you can understand. So, now you can look at it like this you can look at some of these people out here they been out here since great grand momma or great granddaddy been here and they done left them everything so that’s the difference between homeless and homeless and shelter, shelter homeless. So that’s what I was sayin earlier you understand I’m tryin to put it together.
Daniel: James, for the homeless community what are some of the challenges and obstacles that make it harder for people to realize their hopes and dreams? What holds people back
In the homeless community?
James: ( hard laughing) What holds people back in the homeless community is substance abuse, mistreated for one, not even caring anymo, not eaten enough dietrician, no protein, so I just named three good ones.
Danie: James, let me take a look at those three please. So, you mentioned substance abuse, mistreatment and not eating enough tell me (James: exactly, and not drinking enough H2O, Vitamin C & D guarantee must have it) Daniel: James, you just spoke about three big challenges and obstacles for homeless people, substance abuse, being mistreated, and nutrition. From your perspective what needs to be done to overcome those challenges and obstacles?
James: Going back to adults or kids in school or just bein homeless from generation, generation, generation that type of could be ABC or either it could be 123. It such abuse that we go through it’s really love wit a heart, so, that gone carry you even further if they care about how you livin. You see a person layin out here with a 211 can of beer and cigarette in they mouth after you leave, not only that you go over to the bar you say I saw him at the game he look good with his old lady, wife or girlfriend and kids. (Incoherent, rambling and speaking) It’s
Really to the point we just be adults and own up to who we are.
Daniel: James, I have two more questions for you please, two imagination questions please. First of all, imagine James that you’re a powerful leader a decision maker who could really make things happen, as a powerful leader how would you change the system to help people who are homeless to realize their hopes and dreams? Imagine you’re a powerful leader and you can change the system what would you do?
James: If I was a powerful leader, I would mostly put the people off the street who I know that been through pain and suffering and abuse. Them the one’s I look at before I look at the ones who got millions of dollars you know what I mean. Like he been out here six years and 26 days so he not gonna wanna move in no house no Section 8 or no kind a placement. People have been waitin two years before you and you still here. Things like that I’ll come back to you to where you harm yourself inside to where you can’t take nothin much inside so you have to let it out sooner or later you really can’t hide anything. We just have to be honest and faithful about what we done been through, and once we does that people hears and the kids that they need to know better right. I’m not goin get in that truck so you got four people I don’t know nothin about so they goin get ready to jump out (laughing) it just ain’t like 35 years ago
Daniel: James, my last question for you please. Imagine you had a million dollars and you could spend it to help the homeless to realize their hopes and dreams how would you spend that million dollars?
James: I would get one you see this building here I would get one building like this and get people into it, and I wouldn’t have this and that and this and that goin on. I’d put rules and regulations just you asked me questions (laughing) (speaking incoherently) that’s it. That’s what I would do or something like I wouldn’t buy no carwash or nothin like that I really put like this condo right here something big like where people could earn they money wait on they check every month go out and do this and still have a place you know what I mean. And I’d try to find another one in another county somewhere like you know so that’s about all I can say.