Location: Clayton County with Darryl Starks
Female, Age early 50’s
“Quiet, soft spoken, spoiled, passive, giver
Daniel Enger (Interviewer) Good afternoon, I’m grateful to be here with you today, Joyce. Today is October 23, 2021, and we’re in Forest Park in Clayton County in metro Atlanta, in Georgia. My name is Daniel Enger and I have the pleasure of being here today with you Joyce, thank you very much for taking time to talk I’m looking forward to hearing your story and to learning from you. My first question for you Joyce is a really big one namely. Please tell the story of your life from the time you were a little girl up to the present day.
Joyce: Good afternoon, I am blessed and highly favored, grateful to still be above ground and not below, glad to see another day. I remember my parents telling me at birth I was four pounds two ounces I believe, premature. They were looking for a baby girl because my mother couldn’t have children not the one that gave birth to me. They said they went to look for a baby and looking and said we want that one right there. So, from birth I was chosen and I had the best life ever the best parents even though the parents that raised me are not my birthparents they still are my parents and they were the best I could have ever had, and I thank God for that. I think about who gave birth to me I would like to just see her cause I look around and I’m like could that be my mother, could that be my sister cause everybody said you have a twin are you so in so. I said no, and I tell people that too are you so in so, well you have a twin you look just like somebody, and I’m looking around like could that be my sister. But I had a big family my mother passed away when I was 15, I’m spoiled I can’t ask for anything more I was given everything. I had all the advantages, schools I went to a Christian private school for a little while, my parents were strict but they kept me close to them, I was very rarely able to spend the night at a friend’s house or go to this party or that party. There were special things they might have let me go to but academics and my education was very important to them, so I went to school and I was in after school programs things like that. And my father he’s the best father in the world I love him and I miss him my father was an engineer local 841 I remember that. He worked on big ol tractors and then he worked for local 841, he did Job Corp. When I came to Atlanta in 2000 with a husband in mind cause his mother was kind of ill and he wanted to be close to her so I came to Atlanta and I had never been to Atlanta and I said, “Hot Lanta” and I had never been to Atlanta so I said let me go with you to Atlanta. So, he brought me to Atlanta I came with him and we got married in 2004 or 6 I don’t remember but (Pause) a . . . I’m at a loss here. When I came to Atlanta with him, I like I lost my head or something I just ventured out trying to see like the Underground I know I was downtown for a couple of months or a year. Cause I rode with somebody somewhere downtown and I ended up staying downtown and it used to be called the Trophy Shop across from the Civic Center I remember that. I just stayed in this park and I know a lot of places they helped people downtown that were homeless. So, I went to the safehouse before, I remember the Ambassadors when you put your things up in the tree and they’d come by and make sure everything; churches would come by and give out blankets and food. And the Task Force I remember that place I used to go up there the ladies could sign up to be in the place that night, did you put your name on the list? think you had two or three chairs you could lay across when it got cold and you didn’t want to be outside. I noticed a lot of people would come down there to the place to the park where we would lay and they would pass out food, pass out blankets, people from the church would get to know you and say “anybody seen Joyce today we haven’t seen Joyce, we come by to see if she alright we haven’t seen her at church today” or whatever and that was the church they had buses I remember they had Jesus on them. They would come down there and pick us up down there cause I would go to a lot of different churches if they havin church tonight we’d walk down there to the church or go to the event that they were having a couple of us would walk down there cause they would give out things to the homeless. Downtown takes care of the homeless to me, it takes care of the homeless they give out things there’s programs to help you get your ID’s down there they know that you don’t have money to do what you need to do and they give you. Like Crossroads, I’ve been down to Crossroads before I mean I don’t know what to say (long pause) I don’t know what to say (pause) right now I just know it’s not easy it’s choices that you make, the decisions that you make. I don’t want to be around my family, I don’t have no reason; I just wanted to just jump out go, I chose to come out they kept me close, I just said I gotta go I can’t breathe I gotta go. But as time goes it’s like this isn’t me, this isn’t where I come from but this is my life right now. I’m makin the best of it but when it gets cold, and when it rains, and then they say I don’t know it’s just different, and then holidays it’s hard, it’s very hard. I’m a special person because I was chosen and I know that every choice you make has consequences it’s all about the choices that you make. You might say one thing and do another but you have to get real within yourself and I’m a scary person, I’m a spoiled person, I just would like people to be honest with me someone I could really, really trust and talk to then I wouldn’t have to tell exactly what I want a person to know. Not what I want a person to hear don’t know if they wanna really listen to me or if they’re not listening do, they really hear what I’m saying or are they gonna use it against me. I’m scared to tell a person my real name sometime because I don’t know if they would use it against me, I just don’t know. I think the ants and birds are listening, I think you know cause I had a cat, (excuse me for jumping off the story) but I had a cat and the cat would talk to me, I say meow, meow she say “meow, meow” I say mew mew she say “mew mew” but I think the birds everybody’s listening. but my heart goes out to I only tell people what it was, I been under the bridge, I’ve had my things stolen before, I’ve had new clothes, shoes, and everything but it’s about the respect everyone’s out there and they should pull together. Say for instance you have a place like a tent or something and this may be your tent but who’s to say your tent when everyone’s there and you want something from everybody. I don’t understand is that address your on this place tell me if I’m wrong, I’ll truly I can understand but I don’t know what to think about that and I just don’t know what to say I don’t like a lot of things, but I’m out here and it’s a choice I made to be out here. So, I just don’t know my story and I’m not making sense I don’t know if you understand. I’ve got a lot of hurt going on right now, I’ve got a lot of hurt and a lot of pain because a lot of things have been done, I take part in doing some things that I might should not have done I own up to those but my heart is a good heart. I have a good heart, I have a story to tell you can come out of this God can bring you out of this, you can come out you don’t have to stay this way, you can have your own home, you can have your own car, you can own your own it’s just all in the choices that you make. Decide and really make up your mind and just like Nike said “just do it” but it’s easier said than done it really is, (Joyce becomes very passionate) I feel abandoned out here, I feel abandoned I got a lot of issues, I have a lot of problems. I have problems or whatever, I have health problems and I really should be doing different, I don’t know if I’m making sense, I really don’t. But I’m a special person, I’m a chosen one, I’m hurting, I gotta laugh to keep from crying but I’m a crybaby, I’m a crybaby I take everything like that might be all I have I keep it with me, I travel with it I just ask all of you to watch this when I come back, I look up they might, (talking incoherent) where’s my things, “Oh so and so”, but I asked you if you could watch it “I had to go get me some soda” I would have brought you something, but I asked you please don’t leave my stuff “well such and such is there” so then I have to take care of them and take care of you for what I asked you to do . . . whatever. I don’t know I guess I don’t explain myself very well, sometimes it’s hard for me to put into words. I like to write, I like to read, I haven’t read a good book in a while, I like to write, I like to read, I like to learn, but I haven’t been reading or writing and I’m not being who I’m supposed to be. This is only a test I guess; this is only a test. If you have to go through the storm and through the rain (in a very sad tone with urgency she says “excuse me I’m hurting, I’m hurting”)
Daniel: Joyce, I have another question for you. Of all the things you’ve accomplished or overcome in your life so far what are you most proud of?
Joyce: (long pause) I’m most proud of, (pause) I really am, I like people a person I really don’t, I mean I’ve met a lot of people, I’m proud of I’ve met a lot of good understanding people, there are still good people in the world today. Not everyone is just like the next one there are good people really genuine people with good hearts that really understand, and really care, and really want to hear what you need and do to the best of their ability what they need to do to help you. There are still good people that have your best interest at heart.
Daniel: Joyce, you’ve gained a lot of wisdom from the experiences in your life now imagine, imagine that a school in Atlanta invites you to come and talk to their kids so that you can share your wisdom and experience to give those kids guidance on how to live Healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives. What would you tell a group of kids in Atlanta to help them be on a good path of living a good life?
Joyce: Stay in school, and listen to the advice of your parents, education is very important, reading, writing, look up to whoever you might look up to as your mentor, just stay in school right now cause it’s all about the choices that you make. Every choice has consequences it’s all in the choices you have the choice to do right and you have the choice to do wrong it’s all about the choices that you make. And stay young cause you’re gonna grow up fast, you look up if you’re in the second grade you’ll grow up and you’ll be graduating from school before long. Time flies enjoy being a student, enjoy being a kid, enjoy being a child, enjoy being a student, enjoy your young years cause it goes fast.
Daniel: Joyce, I’d like to shift to today please. 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.
Joyce: I’m eating, I walk a lot, I greet people, I have a smile on my face, I know a lot of people some have my best interest and some might not but still they are sort a so-called family to me, and my good days do outweigh my bad days. It’s beautiful outside, it’s a good day, God woke me up, I can’t complain, I’m still here, I’m walking, able to say good morning even if you don’t say good morning back so my good days outweigh my bad days today.
Daniel: What led to those things going well for you, how did it happen?
Joyce: Meeting people, meeting people that knew people, people introduced me to these people can do this, these people can help you with that, these people bring food, this church brings food, someone that knows someone, that knows someone, and they introduced me to that one, and this one knows that one, and that person knows that one, just talkin about what I might need or what I might would need help with and you know a chain reaction different people know different people. This person might know that person, that person might know some other person some other place, you know talking to people I feel like a family I can talk to certain ones, at certain times, about certain things wow (chuckles).
Daniel: Joyce, Now looking ahead to the future. When it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead.
Joyce: I always liked to be independent but I would like to be a family all my own, to have my own you know being happy being with someone that I can love and who loves me for who I am and understands where I’ve come from unconditionally. That unconditional love okay not just because I was this, you don’t keep saying well you used to be this, well I used to be that yes, I did, but let me tell that. Someone who understands but doesn’t use it against me so to say. I Just be happy and have what I need to have, be able to buy what I need to buy, be able to go to the doctors you know, therapist, and be able to have insurance so I don’t have to worry, a good job maybe, if someone says your co-pay is, be able to pay the co-pay. To be happy where it’s about the inside it’s not about the outside, I just want people to be able to look at me and say she’s changed look at that, it took a minute but change is different, change is a process, but she did it. It’s been some years I was wondering was she locked up NO, NO I might not have been around here but no, no life is good, cause I can speak today, I can speak.
Daniel: Joyce, as you pursue your hopes and dreams the ones you just talked about what are some of the personal strengths that you draw on?
Joyce: I’m a good listener, I listen and I learn I sit back and I might listen to people talk I might not say much but when spoken to I speak, but most of the time I’m a listener, I learn from listening. People say well you don’t talk much, no, if I want to say something I know I can open my mouth and speak. No one has the right to say shut up or you can’t speak but I’m looking blind as I am, need glasses I’m looking, and I’m listening, and I’m not worried about that, no. Like for instance, something might go down, down the street and I’m sitting right there and I see it “I say you you might want to hold that down a little bit” you lookin steady in my mouth I just say okay maybe I’ll keep my mouth quiet. So, I guess I needed to see what I needed to see so I’ll just keep looking, listening, and learning. I like to read; I need to read more I wish I had a good book. Cause life has changes every day there’s changes, it’s changes this is a change for me being on my own so to say, but I have a family out here . A family is very rare I have a very close-knit family, I just want them to look up even though my mothers in heaven I want her to look down and smile she’s probably smiling but not a real big cheek to cheek smile but she’s smiling.
Daniel: Joyce, you told me about your hopes and dreams now tell me what are the challenges and obstacles that you see standing between you and realizing your hopes and dreams? Another way of asking that question is what holds you back?
Joyce: I hold myself back, I’m my worst enemy, I’m my problem, I am. Because here it goes, I want what I want and I believe I’m entitled to it because I’ve been given all my life, I’ve been given you know. And so, it’s hard now like “Oh get a job huh” I would like to be independent I would like to work though, I like punch in a time clock, or I like even if it’s not punch in a time clock, I don’t mind working you know. To have my own, “can I have” I don’t like that. I had a car before, I want to have those things back, I want those back, (said very passionately) I want my life back, I want my life back. And I dream to go back and give back, when I decide to get myself together, cause I’m my worst enemy I’m holding myself back.
Daniel: Joyce, what do you think needs to be done so that the challenges and obstacles that you just mentioned can be overcome and you can realize your personal hopes and dreams, what has to happen?
Joyce: (Long pause)
Daniel: You told me about your hopes and dreams , you told me about what holds you back, what needs to be done so that those things that hold you back no longer hold you back?
Joyce: Actually, again here like you say I want people to hear my story, I might have heard someone’s story and someone else comes back yeah, they used to be homeless, they used to be on the street. I’m tryin to hear them but someone else is talking really a one-on-one with ones that have been, I might have time to come by tomorrow. No really talk to someone who has been out here and can help me now to understand where I’m coming from instead of everyone around. I’m really a one-on-one person when I’m talking about something like that and I believe that someone that’s been where I am can help me and that will stop. Because if too many people are around me; I know him too yeah, such and such knows him, no I want to talk to that person cause too many people are around when their . . . no, I want to talk to someone like a one-on-one that’s what’s holding me back because then I can express seriously really what I need help with. And what I would like help with I mean, and what I think needs to happen for me to be happy and successful. There’s a lot of people with stories but I’ve been told people been introduced to people that have stories that can help me with mine, I need like a one-on-one or maybe two people around not people that are where I am right now. I understand that cause I been with them I see you every day but I want the ones who been where I am that can come to me and take me to lunch so we can talk or you know for real that’s what.
Daniel: Joyce, my questions up until now were about you I’d like to ask now for your perspectives on the community. My first question is Joyce how would you describe your community? Who are the people who make up your community?
Joyce: What did you, I don’t . . .
Daniel: Do you feel that your part of a community?
Joyce: Could you explain community one more time, is that my friends, I’m here in Forest Park right now so what is the community is that the people, that questions got me.
Daniel: Joyce, how would you describe your community?
Joyce: My community is really close knit, like there might be some over here, there might be a group of people over here, there might be a group of people on this side of town. There’s homeless communities everywhere, like you might say there’s people over in this, and you go one exit down there’s people in that area, there’s a lot of homeless communities and everyone it’s sort of like a family, I haven’t seen such and such today, no I haven’t seen him either maybe he went over to the other side or something, I remember she said she was going . . . They might come out hey you didn’t come out yesterday “no I didn’t come out yesterday” it’s a close-knit community.
Daniel: When it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life how would you describe the hopes and the dreams of the people in your community?
Joyce: None of them have big dreams a lot of them want to do things you know and want to get away and don’t want to be in this same place for say this year, next year. Which is what I say too I wanna be somewhere else you know sort of grown so to say not grown but moved on doing something different hopefully, not still be homeless make choices to do something about where I am at this particular time as opposed to being not in this place in the same area next year make different choices, and done something different, done something else.
Daniel: In your community Joyce what are some of the strengths that people draw on as they strive to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives, what are the strengths that people in your community draw on?
Joyce: Different families have different people have come from different families and so they have a lot; you hear a lot of different views about how they grew up. This person might have close-knit family and this person might not have a close-knit family, or this person they had family reunions, some peoples families may not have family reunions. You know different people come from different places and so they might went to school, went to church every Sunday, might have been home schooled everybody has a different comes from a different place so their story is different. And you can hear “wow they came out of that, or they were able to survive that, or look at them now.” even though they be homeless they still come from somewhere you don’t know where everyone comes from.
Daniel: Joyce again, for the members of your community what are 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 from their hopes and dreams?
Joyce: Really themselves but they may not have transportation you know; they might not talk to the right person you have to keep on talkin until someone hears you. I guess, this person might have did that for you or they might have shown you that but things change that might have happened a couple years ago for you, but it might not be that actual same way now but I’m sure it might actually be close to that you know. Things close down, schools, agencies, you know shelters different things may not be there they may used to be there you know, oh that’s the place they helped me they may not be there now you know what I’m sayin they might have been closed down or they may have you know moved you don’t know the number now. Years ago no it might be different so need more information about where we can go and transportation to get to where we need to go you might be busy “Oh I’ll swing by and pick a group of yall up and take yall down there” come by everybody sittin up there dressed and ready to go all this and didn’t nobody show up, “oh yes something came up I’ll make plans to come by and pick yall up” I don’t know that’s it.
Daniel: Joyce, you’ve just spoken about challenges and obstacles that people in the community face now tell me what needs to be done so that those challenges and obstacles can be overcome, and people in your community can realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives. What needs to be done to overcome those challenges and obstacles?
Joyce: I don’t know you just have to keep on talking to people and see their views about what it is you need to do and make a choice about see someone else’s views about how it was and what they could advise on how they think or how they thought, and then you make your choice from there.
Daniel: Joyce, I’d like for you to imagine for a moment that you are a powerful influential leader imagine you are a powerful influential decision maker who can change things you can really make things happen. How would you change the system to help people in your community realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? As a powerful leader how would you change the system?
Joyce: Stop cutting back on the things like for instance food stamps, I mean they may not have a phone give them what . . . healthcare, things that people used to have don’t take them away now, don’t take them away now, everything cost so much now it’s just I know things have to change price of gasoline goes up goes down you know just . . . I don’t know that’s all I can say.
Daniel: My last question for you. Imagine please 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 a million dollars to help your community?
Joyce: I wish I could have like say I don’t know a big, big ol house if you needed somewhere to stay you could come and stay everyone work together if there was a place where you could just come in and take your shower, and if you needed to go to the food stamp office they would have transportation, I’ll give you a bus card. Like everyone’s working together, everyone gets their test for aids to COVID, everyone gets their doctor. Like the Atlanta Women’s Day Shelter, they bring you there but you can stay there you can’t stay there forever but that’s the daytime. Ladies want to go play pool , or go bowling, who’s got this bathroom, who’s got that bathroom , who’s got the lunchroom. You could come everyone can come in and you could save your money if you’re working put it somewhere you might have a few dollars you want to save buy you some cigarettes. A big ol house where everyone can come in and there’s people in that place that can help you this floor helps this, this floor helps this, you don’t have to worry about getting a ride to Gwinnett that person is here 3rd floor. Everyone’s in the place and this is the place where everyone lives, they might have a lot of rooms it’s available for anyone and everyone a lot of people so they can get themselves together and do what they need to do for them. And there’s people here you don’t have to you can make appointment cause they might be busy that day but their right upstairs, their right around that corner there, their right downstairs, oh you can come “no there’s a waiting list and you can’t get in” no you can get in cause everyone comes in goes out, one comes in and one goes out when you lose something, something better comes in. Like when you lose a parent that might be something else is coming up, what’s for you is for you and what’s not for you it’s not for you. It might be hard at first but it goes on it’s like a chain reaction and like a turnover this person they done moved on, they got themselves together, they got a good job, they wearin such and such and they moved on out. Yeah, I got room everyone can come there’s no denying nobody just everyone just come on in big ol family, big ol family no one has nothing against anybody.