- Paperback: 356 pages
- Publisher: Gotta Find a Home (June 5, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0989931897
- ISBN-13: 978-0989931892
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,676,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People Paperback – June 5, 2014
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The one who Mr. Cardiff encounters the most is Joy, a middle-age alcoholic who supplements her governmental money by panhandling. Joy struggles to find a permanent home, and she goes from place to place just to lay her head. She also has a myriad of health concerns brought on by her lifestyle and homelessness. Throughout their conversations Joy reveals she has five sons, used to be married, and owned her home, until her crack addiction took over. Unfortunately many of the people Mr. Cardiff meets share similar stories.
The cast of characters Mr. Cardiff encounters are nurmorous. There's Little Jake, a man with full-blown AIDS who has frequent run-ins with the law. There's Shakes, a man everyone worries is on his last leg. Most notable is Nick, a man who makes sandwiches for the homeless and is struggling himself. Most of the people Mr. Cardiff meets have histories of abuse, addiction, and mental illness. Many have places to live, but are still drawn to streets as they struggle with integrating after long-term homelessness.
"Gotta find a home" shows how humanity means all the difference when it comes to getting the homeless to open up about their struggles. Mr. Cardiff does not condescend or shame, nor does he expect nothing in return for his help. He is an ordinary man who wants to help a population that many ignore or are apathetic to.
The book is a series of conversations with and about the homeless people he encounters. Cardiff is also a poet and he generously sprinkles some of his poems through out the book that spans eighteen months of experience - growth, laughter, kindness, endless biographical information, and simply people who have no home but the street seeking some sense of dignity and understanding form those who have homes.
Early on in his book he lets us know how this concept originated: `2010 - How It Began - My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward the building where I work, in one of the city's grey, concrete, office tower canyons. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against a building wall. A snow-covered Buddha, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day. In the past I've been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place. I was told not to give money to panhandlers because they'll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, `The woman is probably hungry. Why don't you ask her if she'd like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?' That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, "Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?""That would be nice," she replied. When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, "Thank you so much, sir. You're so kind. Bless you." I truly felt blessed. This has become a morning routine for the past four years. The woman (I'll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I'll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.'
As a coda to this street symphony, Cardiff states: `After eighteen months of daily conversations with people living on the streets, in shelters or sharing accommodation, I have made the following observations. A full-fledged member of the street family is one who has been with the group for over ten years. Jacques and Joy are the matriarch and patriarch. Everyone else is a newbie -- on probation. To gain acceptance one must be vouched for and have proven themselves not to be an *******. The group expects honesty and sincerity. That may seem strange when you consider that most of these people have prison records. Many have been involved in scams of one sort or another, but if you're family they expect the truth. How else, they explained, can they help you? They'll share with you what little they have, even the jackets off their back. The same is expected in return. The people who come around only when they're in need of money, cigarettes, booze, drugs or food are soon put on notice. On check day, all debts are paid in full.'
These are the words of a man who cares, and in his caring and sharing we discover an entirely new outlook on the people whose street homes are beneath benches, in cardboard boxes, in doorways - any place that provides shelter. Dennis Cardiff brings them into our hearts. Grady Harp, July 14