Faces of the homeless, previously homeless and those still struggling
by Lisa Kane of Akron Snow Angels
Two adorable Hermans in a row! (We featured a Herman in January’s issue.) I see the sweetest looking man walking with his cane. I stop and ask him if he would talk to me. He says “sure!” He’s bundled up so much he looks like Ralphie’s little brother from “A Christmas Story.” He tells me how he has asthma and the cold really makes it worse. He is a sweet man with a great smile and laugh, even though he is currently not in the best situation. He has these amazing blue-gray eyes that suck you in.
Age: 70 years
Hometown: Beckley, West Virginia
Lisa: What brought you to Akron?
Herman: I was living in Columbus. I came to Akron because my kids were here. I have 3 daughters who live here. I had a son too. He was killed in Columbus about 7 years ago.
L: Occupation/Previous Occupation/Source of income?
H: I worked for Stanley Works cleaning company in Columbus. I fell off a 20 foot ladder! It was Jan 14, 1991. You don’t forget something like that! It knocked all my discs in my back out of place. I haven’t been able to work since. I get disability checks.
L: How long have you been homeless?
H: I’ve been here at the Haven of Rest for about 3 weeks. Before that I was staying with friends, so I was still homeless.
L: What lead you to homelessness?
H: Well… drugs. I was messing with drugs. I’ve got to be honest about that. I’m not going to lie about myself. No more though! I’m doing great now! I stuck my head back in that bible. I got scared. NO MORE DRUGS!
L: Do you have family?
H: Yes. I have my 3 daughters and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
L: Where did you sleep last night?
H: The Haven of Rest.
L: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
H: Well, they have rules here. You have to be in bed at 9 pm and get up at 6 am.
L: I’ve heard from a lot of homeless people that they have to many rules here and that’s why they choose to stay in tents instead.
H: The rules don’t bother me. They’re just trying to keep everyone safe. Including yourself!
L: Do you usually have 3 meals a day?
Yes, they give you breakfast, lunch and dinner.
L: Do you feel safe?
H: Yes, I feel completely safe here.
L: What is your biggest fear?
H: I don’t have fears anymore. I put it in the Lord’s hands. He fights my battles for me.
L: What can people find you doing during the day?
H: Reading the bible. That’s my getaway all day. It gives me peace of mind.
L: What are some of your daily struggles being homeless?
H: Actually, I don’t really think about it. Most times when you don’t have anything and you need help, you have to get on waiting lists. This time God put it right here in front of me. I just had to do the footwork.
L: What 3 words would you use to describe being homeless?
H: Helpless, hopeless, discouraged.
L: What do you think is the leading cause of homelessness?
H: I think a lot of it comes from drugs.
L: How do you feel people who have never faced homelessness view the homeless?
H: They are judged in the wrong way. People put you down and don’t even know you or your story. You never know, it could happen to you overnight. People look down on you. You’re already down on yourself. You have all this burden on your shoulders. It just makes the burden harder to carry on your back. When everyone is putting you down and looking down on you, it makes you just want to give up. You say, “the hell with it! I’ll just keep drinking or doing drugs.” People should try to lift each other up. Give some encouragement instead. People fall, sometimes they need help up. God gave us a second chance. Who are we to judge others? Everyone falls sometimes.
L: Do most people show you kindness or treat you rudely?
H: Most people treat me good. They look me in the face. I guess they see something good in my eyes (laughing)!
L: What does the word “home” mean to you?
H: My own.
L: What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week?
H: I got an apartment! I found a place by the grace of God. I prayed about it a lot. It’s time for me to get out of here (Haven of Rest) so someone else that really needs it can have my spot. A friend knew the owner of a house. We got together and talked and are working on my security deposit. I should be able to move in next week.
L: Is there anything that you really need right now?
H: I could really use bus passes. I need to be able to get around to try to get food and stuff for my apartment.
L: What else do you want people to know?
To hold on and keep a positive attitude! Don’t listen to all the negative stuff people are saying to you. I stopped listening to all that! I stick my head in the bible and I use the word.