It’s time to do an interview, so I get in my car and start driving to downtown Akron. Everyone sees the people standing on the corners with their signs. I feel lucky that I have gotten to stop and have real conversations with them. I would have been afraid to go up to these people before. Now, I feel lucky. They’re not scary. Every person I have talked to has been extremely kind, funny, articulate and sweet. I hope reading about the homeless people in Akron opens your eyes to see them as the kind people they are and not just some person on the corner of a street asking for money. They don’t want to be there. Most tell me how embarrassing it is for them, how lonely they are, how hard they work to just get by day to day.
I see a man sitting in a chair on a corner downtown. I park my car and go ask him if he will talk to me. He says “Sure, but you be careful crossing these busy streets!”
Lisa Kane: Occupation/Previous Occupation/Source of income?
Jeff: I was a chef. Now I live off my disability. I panhandle to make ends meet and [to] be able to have a little something to afford some Dr. Pepper every once in a while.
LK: Why don’t you have “a job”?
Jeff: I’m diabetic. I have bad diabetic neuropathy. That’s why I’m sitting in this chair. It’s really hard for me to stand for very long. I have a lot of nerve damage.
LK: How long have you been homeless?
Jeff: It’s been about six months now.
LK: What led you to homelessness?
Jeff: Not one thing in particular. I actually like being at the Haven [Haven of Rest] now. I like being around the people. I’m not alone.
LK: Do you have family?
Jeff: Yes. I have a daughter and a granddaughter. I just talked to them a little bit ago. Today is my granddaughter’s birthday.
LK: Where did you sleep last night?
Jeff: The Haven of Rest
LK: How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
Jeff: I wear earplugs! They all snore there! I still probably get eight or nine hours of sleep.
LK: Do you usually have three meals a day?
Jeff: Yes. Today I went and ate up at [a] church called Jesus Said. I probably won’t eat tonight at the Haven. Unless they have pierogies and sausage!
LK: Do you feel safe?
Jeff: Oh, very much!
LK: What is your biggest fear?
Jeff: Being homeless, out in the streets.
LK: What can people find you doing during the day?
Jeff: This [panhandling] and going to AA meetings. I always go to the morning meeting at St. Thomas. I go to them every day. [Jeff shows me all his sobriety chips from AA and his coin from Dr. Bob’s house, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron.]
LK: What is the hardest thing about being homeless?
Jeff: I really feel for the people who are out on the streets. I have no fear at the Haven, but I really feel for the people who are out here on the streets.
LK: What three words would you use to describe being homeless?
Jeff: Fear. Scared. Hungry. I’m not hungry, but I know a lot of people who are.
LK: What do you think are the leading causes of homelessness?
Jeff: Alcohol and drugs.
LK: Do most people show you kindness or treat you rudely?
Jeff: Very kind!
LK: What does the word “home” mean to you?
LK: What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this week?
Jeff: Being able to stay at the Haven. We have chapel at 6:45 every night before dinner.