By way of introduction
One Step Away is Philadelphia's street newspaper, produced and distributed by people experiencing homelessness. The monthly newspaper gives the city’s homeless a voice, and has been a driving force for change and an innovative way for more people to break the cycle of homelessness since it debuted in December 2009.
Producing One Step Away teaches job skills, computer skills and life skills that give people the tools to rebuild themselves.
The name One Step Away reflects the idea that each of us may be just one step away from homelessness, and each of the men and women producing this paper may be just one step away from independence and attaining permanent housing.
To kick off OSA joining Philly.com's roster of New Voices, Jessica has filed this blog post:
LOVE Park in Philadelphia has a million different meanings to a million different people.
The beauty of the LOVE statue and the fountains behind make a great spot to propose to that special person in your life, and I would not hesitate to guess that there have been numerous marriage proposals made at LOVE Park. I also would be willing to believe that it has seen more than its share of first dates and relationships begun. On a sadder note, I’m sure it has also been the scene of one or two break-ups.
LOVE Park is a beautiful part of our city and many skateboarders will tell you it’s their second home. I personally have found it to be a place where CEOs, janitors, lawyers, and doormen alike can all get together and have their lunch break in beauty and tranquility without being bothered.
For me, it has a totally different meaning. I see the word LOVE in all its colorful beauty and I see people taking pictures with happiness all over their faces and it lifts my spirits straight out of the deep hole of poverty I have fallen into — even if only for a minute or two. It can be hard to explain and hard to understand but ever since my husband was involved in a bad car accident that ruined his career, we slowly lost everything and became homeless. I guess I can only say I was naive or ignorant — he made so much money I had the attitude that homelessness could never happen to us and I was completely wrong.
Sometimes I wonder if that attitude let God know it’s our turn for a test? Because after one car accident and several years we went from everything to nothing and are currently homeless. If it is a test I hope we pass.
I still believe God is good and everything happens for a reason. I look at the LOVE statue and it just makes my heart warm for my husband, Matthew. He has taken it so hard that he lost his career and can’t support us how he used to. I can see it in his eyes; to have it all and then be injured so bad and slowly watch your entire being transformed – it changes you.
In his case he carries a heavier burden because although the car accident stole his career, the pain doctors stole his life. Prescribed heavy narcotics, he had no idea the medicines prescribed from licensed doctors might as well have been the same as what the heroin dealers sell on the corner, only more potent. Two years is all it took for him to transform from one of the most honest, caring, hard-working people I had ever met to a person who would trade his own sister for another pill.
It took almost three years and the loss of everything, all possessions, friendships, and family alike. It took his love of me and seeing the harm and sadness in my eyes and the realization we were now without a roof or safety. He also realized that I had lost contact with my family for over a year. He finally broke and sought help and got clean. It was one of the hardest things he had ever gone through, but after he regained sobriety he told me he felt like a zombie while addicted, not in control of his own body. And the worst thing for him was watching as he destroyed the lives of all the people he loved the most, including me, and the pain he just could not stop causing to everyone and the complete mental destruction of the loving relationships he shared with family and friends alike.
But the pain is still very evident with a simple glance deep into his eyes. The guilt is the easiest to see, but once you see past the guilt you begin to notice every day the glimmers of hope are more evident, the years of slavery have passed. He may never be able to have people truly realize the sorrow he carries for actions he took as a zombie, but I see the hope in his eyes for the future.
We repaired relationships with our parents again, spending many weekends with them making up for lost time. Sometimes we go to LOVE Park together and see the LOVE statue I tell him those simple words mean so much and after 10 years of him being faithful I will never leave him or forget how much I love him. Even at rock bottom there were always citizens of Philadelphia that showed us love and made sure we were fed. That’s why Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love.
Thanks to One Step Away, I feel the hope to make it through day by day. Because sometimes when you have fallen as far as we had, the opportunity to get any job is a miracle. Because it shows that we want to turn our lives around and shows our families we are willing to take any job that we can get until something better comes along. And with One Step Away we get to exploit our passion to write (especially about some of our experiences).
So the LOVE statue to me is an inspirational piece of art. It reminds me no matter how bad things have become even the darkest of nights end with a new dawn’s beautiful light.
Jessica and her husband, Matthew, recently attained housing using the money they made working as vendors for One Step Away