Location: Intown Collaborative Ministries
Male, Age 59
“Mayor of the Hill
King of the homeless
Daniel Enger (Interviewer) Good morning, today is October 29, 2021, and we’re on Ponce in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. My name is Dan Enger and I have the pleasure of being here today with Joseph. Joseph thank you very much for taking the time to talk, I’m looking forward to hearing your story and learning from you. My question is a really big one namely, Joseph please tell the story of your life from the time you were a small child up to the present day.
Joseph: Good morning, small child well I was born in Greenville, Mississippi lived there for about a week my dad was in the Air Force transferred to Moody Air Force Base which was in Valdosta, Georgia. I lived there until I was about ten when my parents got divorced I moved to Gainesville, Florida which I had to move with my father and basically I called my hometown because that’s where I went to part of elementary school, junior high school, high school. I was there until I was about 25 years old where I moved to Jacksonville, Florida where I went to college, went to a small business college called Jones Business College. I did that part-time, I lived there 17 years then my brother, I have a brother who’s a US Federal Air Marshall he works for Homeland Security. He was going through a divorce he had two kids, he had custody of his kids and he needed somebody to be at home because they were underage and weren’t able to be home alone yet, so he needed somebody to be there to get em to school and be there when they came home from school, he didn’t want DFACS getting involved cause they were underage. So, I moved here I quit my job, I moved here to be I guess my brother’s house nanny, which I was for five years. I was in Lawrenceville, Georgia we lived there for five years. After that, that’s when he and I got into a big argument about a. . . he was home for a few days, and I wanted to come to Atlanta to check out Atlanta and go to the clubs and stuff, and I wanted him to give me some money cause he didn’t pay me money just gave me room and board and I ate whatever the kids ate and he wouldn’t give me no money. So, we got into a big fight so, he ended up evicting me he wanted me to leave immediately after we got into that big fight, so I told him I wasn’t going nowhere so he had to evict me. I ended up here on Ponce De Leon Avenue as a matter a fact is where I ended up at in Atlanta and I was out here you know walking up and down the streets it’s no longer Ponce De Leon Hotel, Georgia State University bought it I believe. I lived at that hotel for five years, Dax Porterfield heard about me on the street and called me in there and moved me into the hotel without any money gave me a room there he heard I had a couple of law suits I was waiting on and one of them was Social Security disability and one was workman’s Comp lawsuit. He knew I had money coming in the future so he brought me in there and I lived there for five years. After that they sold the place for $3.2 million dollars, I think is what it was he was a third generation running this hotel. His father and mother run it before that, and their mother and father owned it since 1930 somethin. So, the guy took me in, and he let me live there for free until I got my money in and I paid him his money when I got my lawsuit settlements. But then after that they sold it and I became homeless again things had went up in rent my disability check was not enough to cover rent by itself, subsidized housing I was waiting on it for years so rather than getting involved in it I went to the street. I been pretty much living on the street since then in a tent me and a few friends found us a spot over on Sidney Marcus and Buford Highway, it was like up a hill actually what it is, is the old interstate 85 it’s old rebarb and concrete that they pulled up I remember the highways used to have like tacks when you were goin down the highway you would hear ta dat ta dat ta dat going down the road because they had made it slabs of concrete. Well, they’ve torn all that up and put down asphalt and all that concrete that piled in a big ol’ pile on Sidney Marcus and Buford Highway a section of the highway threw some dirt on it and planted some trees and low and behold exploring around being homeless and having no-where to go you end up goin down cuts and trails all that stuff had set in and we found this place up the hill me and a couple other guys. So, we moved up there we moved the tent up there and the next thing I know people are my friends and stuff come over and tents start popping up all over the hill so I kinda become like the leader of the hill. Any needs or wants they always come to Joseph because I had a income and most of them had no income with my disability I was able to have things other homeless people didn’t have. Maybe some food, or some clothes, cigarettes, somethin to drink stuff like that. Where I come from I come from a middle high class environment the suburbs I’m used to living a certain way my tent was like a three room cabin tent I had three rooms to sleep in I used one for a closet two for rooms the community liked a living room so they all flocked to my tent I tended to have more than they considered me the rich homeless person. Anyway, being out on the street it takes a lot I couldn’t get an apartment by myself there’s no way and the waiting list for subsidized house it was so long and all the paperwork you have to do to get it done was just too much because it takes all day to be homeless it’s hard work just to get a bath just to be able to get something to eat (pause, crying) sorry about that, it’s an all day job I mean they got soup kitchens all over town I tell everybody there’s no reason for nobody to go hungry in Atlanta cause there’s plenty of food out there. There’s plenty of charities and soup kitchens you can go to but when you go to these places it takes all day It’s not like your able to go get something to eat that day and fill out paperwork for subsidized housing because there just ain’t enough time in the day. Most of these people are mental health, drug addicts, not all but a lot of them are and most of them are not functional addicts some are dysfunctional addicts and chronic thieves is what I call them the whole thing they do is they spend all day tryin to get enough money or somethin to barter with to be able to go get high they spend all day doin this and that cuts out the food for them their not concerned about eatin their concerned about their next high so, that’s one of the main issues the time it takes for these people to get what they need to self-medicate themselves to make themselves feel better cause they all feel bad (crying) it’s kind of sad that’s why I’m so emotional about this I had a lot of friends out there that are kinda stuck in the rut they spend their whole life every day waking up finding a way to get enough money or some kind of product that they can trade to the drug dealer or whatever to get their fix so they can feel better. It’s sad I can’t believe I’m crying on camera, It’s a sad thing people don’t when they do find somewhere they can get housing they want them to go to some drug program the thing about that is these homeless people a drug programs not gonna help nobody I been to every program you can think of it’s not about doing steps or graduating from a drug program I know many people who have done that and they’ve gone right back to the street and got right back on drugs right after the graduated or completed their step program. It’s about desire that’s what it’s all about the person themselves have to lose the desire to want to get high anymore I mean to keep from being homeless I mean it’s a hard thing to do but it’s something that is within them I don’t know how you can create a program that’s gon reach somebody within themselves and say okay I’m tired of doin this I don’t have the desire to do this anymore. It took me a long time it took me about; I remember when I first moved here I was on crack I smoked crack for 16 years every day for 16 years and a lot of people didn’t understand how is it you can have that crack while sittin on that table and not smoke it, because I don’t let the drug run me it make me feel good for the moment that’s all it is it’s for the moment and I don’t do it because just knowing that it’s there and I have it was good enough for me at times is what kept me from going overboard and going to the extreme and kept me from being a chronic fien is what I call these people who spend their whole day doing nothin but getting enough money just to get enough, if they can get $5 or $10 their ready to go get $5 or $10 worth of drugs. That’s nothing, that’s gone in no time especially the crack world $5 or $10 is going to get them one hit and their going to feel good for a moment and the next thing you know their geeking is what you call it their tryin to find another way to get another hit you know it’s until people learn to not want to do that no more. I don’t know exactly how I did it because the first 5 years I was bad I mean I was really bad I did anything I would case the parking lots for receipts so I could go and have somebody to go inside and steal the products on the receipts so I could go and return it so I could get my fix all kinds of stuff we would do to survive but giving people some hope you know that it’s going to be better or giving them some reason to want to be better. That’s what I try to convince these guys out here on the street just do the right thing, just always do the right thing and your blessings will come to you. We all know right from wrong good from evil Okay we just always do the right thing and the good thing and your blessings will come and things will get better. Because I’m still paying back I’ve been a lot better the past I’ve been when I started this thing about doing for my thing I still have I believe in karma wholeheartedly you do wrong under somebody premeditatedly you gonna get your tenfold back and it’s gonna be 10 times worse than what you done with that person. Maybe you can bet you goin get all ten it might not be today, it might not be next week, it might not be next month but it’s coming. You’re gonna have 10 bad things happen to you only way worse than what you’ve done to somebody else. So, finally, after all these years I’m 59 years old and finally I feel like my blessings out way my bad Karma, I’m getting more blessings. Like today, I come from a good family I mean I was spoiled rotten I had everything I ever wanted, and then all of a sudden being out here on the street has taught me a whole new world of things about people out here, there was a time I wouldn’t talk to a hooker I wouldn’t give em the time of day I wouldn’t talk to a homeless person I’d been one of those people that went shhhhh whisperin and talkin about that person over there that’s homeless you know. Never did I think I’d be one of those people it happens. You gotta give people a reason to want to be better and not mislead and say we got this program here that’s going to get you up off the street you’re going to have to do this and you’re going to have to go through that program, you’re going to have to pass this and pass that, people ain’t gone do that it’s much easier to just walk away and say fine I’ll just stay in my tent you know like I say there’s fall backs to that just to get something to eat. The process of just getting something to eat takes all day you gotta get a ticket, you gotta wait in line all this big ol’ line that’s there, it takes three or four hours just to get breakfast. Or three or four hours just to get lunch or dinner. Then that’s totally different most of these people just go out and steal something to eat. People have got to lose the desire to get high and want to better themselves and they have to be given a reason to do that. How you do that I don’t know maybe I’ll leave that up to the professionals who study these kinda things but a there’s a lot of people out there that need help I know that 80 to 90 percent are mental health cases, mental health and drugs go together. Because they don’t feel good they want to feel better, they want to be happy, they want to have a good time and be able to talk with other people and communicate with other people. A lot of them don’t their standoffish they don’t want to talk to nobody they isolate themselves that’s one of the worst things people can do is they isolate themselves from other people, next thing you know their gettin high by themselves and now they’re stuck in their own little world. I got friends right now they’re on meth and I knew em before they ever, when they were good people nice, clean cut, sharp lookin could hold a good conversation, and now days they can’t even, they either won’t shut up or talkin all kinds of crazy stuff that’s not even real in this world it’s like they’re in another dimension or somethin. It’s to the point where they’re probably becoming a psychosis which is going to be a permanent thing in their mind. They believe everything they say is real and it’s not and it’s hard to convince them that’s it’s not, I forgot where I was goin with this (chuckles). The one’s that are out there on methamphetamine their losing their minds you have to have a very strong mind to do that kind of stuff and a lot of them don’t. I watched some of my good friends totally lose their minds where they should be in Georgia Regional actually gettin some kind of treatment or stabilization because none of them are stable, none of them are secure, they have nothing. They probably either stole or borrowed the clothes they have on their back they don’t have nothing at all. Of course, where I’m at now if I don’t take what’s valuable to me it’s gets stolen it’s like the predators are out there watching, you got homeless people robbing homeless people. You got homeless people that are predators too they’ll see that somebody homeless has got something that’s of value or something they ain’t got and they want it and they ain’t got no other way to get it except waiting for you to leave your spot and for them to come and steal what you got. How many times have I gone back to my spot and somebody has been there and gone through everything that I left there, so now I carry my backpack it weighs I say about 500 pounds but it’s heavy it’s very heavy I have everything in it that I want to keep. Anything that I have of value to me personally or otherwise I have to put it in the backpack and carry it with me everywhere I go. That’s real hard on people We often say the most important thing we have to do is take care of our feet, if we don’t take care of our feet then we can’t go nowhere. Your definitely stuck in a rut you’re probably just gonna lay there and die cause you can’t do anything. Our feet is something you got to take care of cause your on the street walking around all the time. A lot of people don’t do that either I’ve seen some rotten feet, I’ve seen some feet that were rotten. I know of somethin that maybe you want to help the community, there was this one place that used to do it you used to be able to they would wash your feet, give you a pedicure, and all that stuff for homeless people to help their feet to get around if you ain’t got that then you’re stuck. That’s basically what I been doin the place where I was at I became the Mayor of the hill that’s what they called me because if there was a problem, a need, or a want or anything like that they come see Joseph. There was time when there was 40 somethin tents up on this hill almost 100 people, and then all of a sudden things got really bad that’s when all this stealin started happenin. It supposed to be a community of people helping each other out but it turned out to be a community of homeless robbing homeless. Even people out there having unsafe sex I mean one of the guys up on the hill had sex with somebody and he contracted HIV from this person and he dowsed himself with lighter fluid and set himself on fire. When that happened this guy is running around like a human fireball and running through tents, that’s when I said okay I can’t do this no more. (crying) So, I said here’s what I’m going to do I’m going to leave my camping tent here when it get’s empty I’ll come back and get it. I knew as soon as I walked away from that place they would hit my place and take everything in it. And they did about a week later I went back and it was completely empty there wasn’t nothing left in it. So, I left a little while the guy that I had up there we all had our own law up there we have rules and stuff, we used to have a committee of Elders who decided who could come to the hill and who couldn’t live on the hill and who had to go. Who was gonna leave and who could come and stay on the hill because it just got so massive. We had what we called a sheriff, we had our own little sheriff and if somebody caught somebody stealing from them they had to go we had somebody to put em out. I don’t know what you call em Bruno gone come and get you I’m not gone say no names about who the person was or who the person is but the sheriff at my place I called him Malgomer of the hill he’s up there running things now. I’m still part of that community I’m kinda like on the hill or was until today I’m on the edge of the hill it’s a retirement community, I don’t mess with that stuff you got a problem you go see the new mayor don’t come askin me (a lot of them still do) go see the new mayor tell him what your problems and your needs are cause I don’t do that no more. And as of today I definitely don’t do that no more cause I probably got me a subsidized apartment where now I can afford to live (crying) in my own place, so I got that today and I got my key to my new place. There’s still people up there that want the help and need the help and they’re not gettin it, which there’s a lot of people who don’t want the help you can’t help somebody who doesn’t want to help themselves. That’s been my life so far.
Daniel: Joseph, of all the things you’ve accomplished or overcome in your life so far what are you most proud of?
Joseph: Well, probably would be I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college is probably one of the most things I’m proud of. Even though I’ve done nothing with it after I graduated, things come to a point where that wasn’t even important, what was important that I was actually able to complete that and get my Bachelors degree and complete college is one of the most important things in my life right now. And then the accomplishments I had with being homeless being so called mayor of the hill that wasn’t somethin I chose to do or ran a campaign to get that position it was somethin that was just dumped in my lap. It just happened that way I guess because I like helping people I want to help other people their concerns come before mine. I don’t put myself first in any situation the only thing I put first is God nothing comes before God, I’m not a religious person but I’m a spiritual person. Yeah, that’s probably the most important thing graduating from college and being able to help these other people out there with what I can, with what I got.
Daniel: Joseph, you’ve gained a lot of hard-fought wisdom from your experiences in your life so far, If you were invited to share your wisdom with school kids in your community giving them guidance to live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives what would you tell them? What life wisdom would you share with kids?
Joseph: Just do the right thing always do the right thing, that’s the most important thing we’re all born innocent and we’re born to do the right things right already we’ve learned to be bad and do things wrong. What I would say to kids is always do the right thing you know good from evil you know right from wrong, so always do the right thing and always do the good thing. Be there for your neighbor love thy neighbor let me reiterate that a little bit you’ve got to love yourself before you can love anybody else. Love yourself, do the right thing, and you will have a fabulous life I guarantee you.
Daniel: Joseph, I think this is going to be a really easy question for you given the importance of today Joseph. In what ways would you say your life is going well these days? Please talk a little bit about how life is good for you at the present time.
Joseph: Well, considering I’ve been on Social Security Disability since 2008 and I haven’t worked since 2008 and me having my mental health issues I finally got my own life. Today I got my own apartment it’s a subsidized apartment but still it’s very nice, it’s a brand-new apartment, everything’s new in it, it was even furnished. Getting that apartment is probably the big thing for me today, getting off the street, four walls and somewhere to eat, I don’t have to buy the same things over, and over, and over again. There’s so many things I’ve had to buy over and over cause they get stolen or it gets damaged or ruined cause I’m carrying it in the backpack or because I’m living in a tent and it’s pouring down raining. So, I lose things and I have to replace the things I want some things I want for myself. Maybe that’s the only thing I put first is maybe my laptop and my cell phone if I don’t have those things, I can’t communicate with nobody I’m lost without my cell phone, and I’ve lost it I don’t know how many times it’s just par for the course you know what I mean. If you want to keep it you better carry it and even then it’s not guaranteed not to break. Backpacks they say they make them for laptops wrong I think I’ve broken every laptop I’ve ever put in a backpack. It’s been my purse for the last 20 somethin years I’ve carried a backpack on my back. And finally, now I don’t have to carry all that stuff no more (excited chuckle) thanks to my new apartment I got today with the rent that I can afford.
Daniel: Joseph, what led to those things going well for you how did that happen, who or what contributed most to your doing well these days?
Joseph: I started out with Outreach Tracy Thompson she did Outreach on her own she used to be homeless herself and was a working girl she was prostituting to make money to get the things she needed to pay for the drugs that she wanted, the thing that she thought made her feel better. She went through the program too I’m not sure which one she graduated and she’s clean and stable and she’s giving back, she goes out there and she gives back to the people on the street. Their all getting better getting off the street and stuff like that, she comes over there where I’m at on Sundays and Thursdays brings clothes and food and reaches out to the homeless people that are out there she goes to different places all over town just giving back. When COVID happened we had the Intown Collaborative Ministries they somehow heard about the hill they all come up there they had this big thing about getting the homeless people off the street from getting COVID, so they come up the hill and were picking people up to take em to a hotel downtown which is I forgot what it’s called now it used to be the Ramada Plaza hotel but I think the name has changed now to something else. But they took a whole bunch of homeless people there and housed them in a hotel the owner of the hotel gave them the hotel for the homeless people to stay in to keep from getting COVID they packed out that hotel with homeless people it’s like 400 and something people I think it was. The people that was willing to get up and leave their spots and go to a hotel room and I think they stayed there for about three or four months until the owner wanted his hotel back. Start making some money the other way I guess I’m sure he made something off the city for that I’m not sure what they paid him but he wanted his hotel back. A lot of those people are back on the street there’s a friend of mine I’ve been looking out for about 14 years now he was doing well there he’s got brain damage from a bad wreck he was staying there and never in a million years did I actually expect him to stay there, but he was staying there and he got a little down because the guy wanted his hotel Back and everybody had to move and he’s right back with me again and I thought thank God maybe I can move on and better myself and this friend of mine that I care a lot about and his family has abandoned him their here in Atlanta, one in Sandy Springs and one in Decatur and they’re just dead beat parents he might be 37 years old but he’s got front cortex damage he needs help you know, he has emotional and motor skill issues he’s extreme in everything he does. Intown Collaborative Ministries come and picked up all these people took em to this hotel and he was doing well there and then the guy wanted his hotel back I guess that’s what happened and they had to put him on the street. So, Intown Collaborative Ministries and another Foundation are the ones that helped me the most.
Daniel: Joseph, looking ahead when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead?
Joseph: Well, everybody gets the opportunities and chances that I’ve had before everybody else I’ve always put the other man first I don’t think of myself first I feel funny even now about having an apartment you know what I mean, I’m leaving all the people that I care about out on the street I just hope that there’s more outreach to go out there and really listen to the people and what their needs are, and what their concerns really are, and what their problems are that’s one of the main things. Homelessness is a choice, you can choose to be homeless or you can go to a homeless shelter there’s other programs out there that you can; their all required programs that you gotta do certain things to; you can’t put that on people for us to give you help you gotta do this, this, and this. What are you talking about you mean you can’t help me there’s always some kind of catch, well if you don’t do this, and you don’t do that then we can’t help you. That’s not good either you’re going to help somebody period or you’re not going to help them. It’s one way or another you can’t put demands on people to do certain things like go to a program or you gotta go to three meetings a week at the Triangle Club. I mean you can’t put that’s gotta be things they wanna do, you’ve gotta give em a reason to want to be better. Go ahead and give them what you’re going to give em, show them what they can have, show them what they can have in the future by bettering themselves not by a required program. We’re all capable of healing ourselves we gotta show people how to love themselves, and then they can love other people. If you don’t love yourself your just full of hate and mischief that’s what we call haters.
Daniel: Joseph, what are some of the personal strengths that you draw on as you pursue those hopes and dreams?
Joseph: Well, I’m kind of sensitive I cry I’ve been crying this whole interview I cry at commercials. Being aware of other peoples issues and other peoples needs and the things that got them there. I always say your path will dictate your future, you’ve got to listen to how people got where their at to get them somewhere in the future, you’ve got to get people to love themselves and not a material item or a substitute it’s got to be within I think if people would love themselves more they would love a lot more and the world would be a whole lot better.
Daniel: Joseph, what challenges and obstacles do you see standing in the way of you and your realization of your hopes and dreams? What holds you back?
Joseph: (big sigh) Congratulations! (laughter) I could sit here and talk about a million things I want to get done and their just words far as it goes. Just environment and elements that are out there the obstacles you gotta go through to get somewhere, or to get something done, or to get something that you need, It’s just too much sometimes for me you say I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna do that and 2-weeks later you still ain’t got it done yet. Not doing something right then and there when you say you’re going to do something do it. You gotta be a man or woman of your word if you say you’re going to do something then do it. Don’t’ hold back don’t wait just go ahead and get it done.
Daniel: Joseph, you just mentioned environmental obstacles tell me more about some of those please.
Joseph: Well, staying cool, staying warm, staying clean, these are some of the main issues having clean clothes to wear gotten rotten or mildewed, having a good pair of shoes to walk in. A lot of people are label hounds they only wear certain things because it has a label on it. Which is true I guess that why we have private schools where kids now can all wear the same thing and they ain’t got to worry about wearing labels. But still today people are materialistic they wanna fit in, they wanna be wearing the same things that the other people are wearing, the crowd that they’re with birds of a feather flock together. People of the same interest will be together and that’s why a lot of the homeless people in this community up on the hill I was telling you about it’s supposed to be a community of people helping people because we have something in common. We’re homeless, we all got a mental health diagnosis, probably none of us are on medication we’re self-medicating with street drugs. Yeah that’s some of the obstacles the heat, the cold, and just the environment itself is sometimes kinda harsh. Making it more comfortable would be a wonderful thing. People living in a makeshift huts, and tents and tarps it’s just not good, a tents much better I’ll tell you that (laughter). I’ve lived in huts, and old abandoned buildings and plywood huts believe me a tents much better mine’s got AC in it, I had someway of staying cool in the Summertime cause it can be really nasty out there you know. Concrete city you walkin on that asphalt and concrete it gets kinda hot.
Daniel: Joseph, I know you’ve already answered this question in part but I’d like you to talk a little more about it please. I’d like to turn to the community now, could you please describe your community I’m talking about your community on the hill. Who are the people who make up your community?
Joseph: Well, there’s a whole variety of people we’ve had people who were corporate attorneys who are now homeless, I mean we’ve had people who were nurses that are homeless it’s just a whole variety of people that have done different things in their lives and their homeless now they’re not doing it now. Like I said homelessness is a choice most of these people it’s not because a tragic thing happened to them and they became homeless most of us are homeless by choice. There is help out there you just gotta seek it out you gotta make your appointments, and fill out your paperwork, and you gotta do those certain things to get help. So, yeah, the makeup of our community it’s straight, it’s gay, its Bi it’s all those things it’s doctors, lawyers, it’s all that. It’s basically just like any suburban community it’s just that these people don’t have any income. Most of them have no income and even if they do have income like myself, I’m on social security disability but it’s not enough. My social security is not enough for me to get my own place and my own apartment, so I had to sit around and wait for subsidized housing. So, the makeup of the community is a variety of male, female and all sexualities and all types of occupations we’ve got it all up there.
Daniel: Joseph, 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?
Joseph: Well, they lose the desire to live this way they want better for themselves which all comes back to the same old thing I’ve been saying you’ve got to love thyself before you can love thy neighbor. People need to be … do more things for yourself to make you happy you gotta want to better yourself and wanna become a better person, you can’t help somebody who don’t want no help, you gotta want help and you gotta be able to ask for help and you gotta want to better yourself. I think we should give people a reason to love themselves.
Daniel: In your community what are some of the strengths that people draw on as they realize their hopes and dreams and live health, safe, stable and happy lives. What are some of the strengths of the people on the hill?
Joseph: Well they’re survivors that’s for sure It’s hard to live out on the street that’s and all day job. Being homeless is an all-day job, most of them are pretty much loyal to their other neighbors but there’s always a bad group in every crowd. There’s always a bad apple in every barrel, most of the people out there are very considerate help other people and will do anything for you if they can. They don’t have anything so I’m willing to give a man the shirt off my back if he needed it more that I need it I’ll give it to him. I consider myself I’m blessed it may be that I’m a rich homeless person I got everything I give a lot more than I take I don’t ask anybody for nothin, very seldom do I ask anybody for anything. I’m mostly giving to other people so if I got it you can have it the only thing I don’t like is for someone to lie to me, especially if they took something of mine, there’s a bunch of people out there that will take stuff and their pride won’t let you ask for it they’ll steal it first. Don’t do that just ask people for the darn thing I’ll let you have it I mean I was blessed by getting it in the first place. I’m a mean dumpster diver we go around people get evicted every day and you find all kinds of good stuff just by people being evicted. If somebody wants something that I got they can have it most likely cause it probably didn’t cost me anything anyway. It probably was given to me or a I got from dumpster dive as they call it. I don’t do that as much as I used to but like I said I started doing the right thing years ago so my blessings are outweighing my bad Karma now, life’s getting better. Maybe my last years will be golden I don’t know. (chuckles)
Daniel: Joseph, what are some of the challenges and obstacles that make it harder for people in your community to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? What holds people in the community back?
Joseph: (chuckles) The process I guess, the process of getting help it’s a long process, I’ve been waiting seven months now if I hadn’t stuck to making my appointments and getting my paperwork together all the documentation that’s required, I wouldn’t have this apartment today. I would have been taken off the list I’d be at the bottom of the list, I know certain things brought me up higher on the list every time like getting the Hud McKenny letter that letter brought me to the top and me a priority. They have a priority list and people who aren’t on the priority list they’re at the bottom of the list, it’s getting the documentation together and keeping it is really hard that’s probably the most important is getting your documentation together and sticking to the appointments and stuff. It’s a long process people lose hope real quick if it doesn’t happen like an immediate fix for some of these people then they don’t bother because it’s just the process is too long. Getting all the documentation and everything together and keeping the person in the same spot it’s hard to keep ahold of them because they move around a lot not by choice because the police run you off. I mean I don’t know how many times they’ve come up in the community I’m in and told us we gotta go. They’ve come up there with bull dozers and bobcats and backhoes and plowed everybody’s stuff under, I mean their tents the personal property I mean everything, they just turned it under and we didn’t give up we just turned right back around and went back up there and just rebuilt and put new tents and stuff up. They have come up there all the time and said you’ve got to leave this property, you can’t stay here no more. It never stops us from goin right back anyway (laughter) all they’re just doing is shifting us around we’ll be here in this area one day for a little while and they’ll come and run us off, then we go over here for a little while until they come and run us off, and then we’ll go right back where we was before, it’s just a vicious cycle. All their doing is shifting people around from place to place. Just like they’re trying to bring all the suburban people in from the suburbs into the city now by building all these new condos and trying to push all the city people out to the suburbs because they’re not going to be able to live here anymore within the city who can afford a million-dollar condo not most people who live inside the city. They’re just shifting us around instead of community where we’re all together and making it affordable and feasible for the whole community it’s only parts of the community, they’re just shifting us around from one community to another.
Daniel: Well Joseph, what needs to be done so that the challenges and obstacles 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?
Joseph: I don’t have an answer to that if I did we probably wouldn’t be having this interview so, I don’t know, I know there’s a lot of people out there that need help who want help and ain’t gettin help. You shouldn’t put restrictions on getting help you shouldn’t put restrictions on certain people if you don’t do this, we’re not going to give you no help it should never happen if you’re gone reach out, reach out and help people as fast as you can. Immediate fixes is sometimes a good thing cause if it’s not immediate they’re not gonna accept it their not gonna be there when you come back with that. They’re already gonna be gone somewhere whatever it is that it takes to fix this problem it’s goin have to be fast and quick. Look here we got this for you right now come here let me show you this, this is where you can stay now come get em and take and put em in. I think they should do the process of qualifying, and the documentation should all be done like Wham Bam Thank You Mam. If you don’t the rate of the amount of people that you help and the amount of people that you see is like gotta be really low. I say maybe 20 out of one hundred might stick around maybe not even that number then that’s too high to get the help that you’re offering somebody. All these charities and stuff they get all this grant money to help other people I think a lot of it might not be being used the way it should be, I think it’s being used up on labor cost, and overhead cost, and not actually going to the people it was meant to help. I think I heard one time that maybe 30 percent of the grant money that goes to people is actually used to the help people. The rest of it is used for overhead and labor cost, and people who are getting paid and transportation and stuff like that. I think an immediate fix is something somebody needs to work on something that’s fast and quick and go ahead and have the houses ready to go before you go out there talking to people about somewhere to live, have somewhere they can go right there and then right now.
Daniel: Joseph, imagine you’re a powerful leader a decision maker who can really 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. As a powerful leader how would you change the system?
Joseph: Well, by being a powerful leader I would assume you would mean like a politician or the President of the United States that’s a powerful leader to me. The stimulus checks they had been doin during COVID that was to help people who were losing their jobs, maybe something of that nature but it’s going to be geared towards the homeless people in any community there’s homeless people all over the world. Homeless people get moved around a lot so, it would have to be something like a quick fix a quick solution what that may be, I don’t know that something that the study panels are for maybe to learn what that is I don’t have the answer to what would be a quick fix. It has to be quick whatever it is it has to be an immediate fix something that could be done right then and there. I mean like pick em up take em to the new place right then and there. They do the hotels a lot of charities have hotel rooms they pay for people I think a lot more of that needs to be done, giving people a hotel room to stay in rather than being out on the street and those are pretty immediate. They could be done the same day they walk in I have no where to go, I have no place to stay and they take em to a hotel that they get the rooms for. Or maybe even a boarding house that rents out rooms you know an immediate room shelter with running water, controlled environment, heating and air that would be my thing if we gone do this it would have to be an instant thing. This process of taking seven months like it’s taken me to get my place cause like I said there’s lots of people out there that’s not going to take seven months (laughter) they might not even live seven months much less stay in the same place that long, cause a lot of them come and go real quick. I hate moving when I find somewhere to stay I stay there until the police or the city run me off. Or the department of transportation cause some people live along the highways you know and they do that because that’s State property a lot of homeless people don’t know this but APD has no jurisdiction on State property, they can’t come up there and say okay you’ve got to leave they have to bring a State representative with them someone from the Department of transportation or a State Patrol officer. None of the State Patrol officers are going to come up there arresting homeless people they don’t get involved in that. Whenever they come to the place we call the hill they tell us you gotta leave we say okay whatever we ain’t goin nowhere, now when they come with that man from the State Department of Transportation wearing that neon vest we know we got to go now, we got to leave. Very rarely does the State get involved in that too much that’s why we like places like under bridges on highways and we had the hill and that was a place just waitin for homeless people to come to, it was calling our name and so, we got us a big space to live under without being harassed by the police department.
Daniel: Joseph, my last question for you, imagine that you had a million-dollars and you could spend it to help your community realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives how exactly would you spend that money?
Joseph: I might be selfish instead of selfless, I’d probably change my name and move if I had a million-dollars. (laughter) That’s a hard question, I’ve had a lot of money before but not a million dollars and a million dollars is not a whole lot of money so, A million dollars I’m not going to be able to do much with anyway if I’m planning on using a million to help homeless people or help people in need give me more money cause a million dollars ain’t gone be enough that’s not even going to be a tip of the iceberg that’s nothing. Now days that won’t go nowhere that would be gone in less than probably a month If I was going to reach out there and help every homeless person out there in need a million dollars is nothing. We’re talking about deficit money we’re talking about big money that going to take care of the homeless people throughout this nation it’s goin take a whole lot of money you know. They printing it off right now and it’s not even helping people print up some more for the homeless people. Them people out there need it they’re not as fortunate as other people are not everybody is born with a silver spoon in their mouth. The poor people out there need I mean they need things too and it’s going to take a whole lot more than a million dollars. A million dollars ain’t even enough to talk about we ain’t gone even bother with that. I probably take my money and run and change my name (laughter). I’d live on that million dollars cause that’s all it’s gone help is one person it’s not going to help a whole lot of people at all a whole lot more money is needed.