Hello, everybody. It’s an honor to be able to talk to you all again. I hope you’re all keeping yourselves cool and try not to complain too much about the heat. For we all know too well that the warm weather certainly will not be with us for long, and the cold weather will be back before you know it. But for right now let’s try to appreciate and enjoy the sunshine and its warmth while we have it.
One of the most frustrating things about being a vendor of a homeless paper is running into people who think they already know everything about being homeless based solely on what they have read and what they may have been told by the media.
As I go out and sell copies of One Step Away, my primary goal is to sell as many copies as I can and hopefully obtain as much money as I can. After all it is what I do for a living until further notice. But I also feel that it’s my responsibility to educate people about homelessness and clear up some people’s perceptions of homelessness as well. As you can imagine it’s not always easy.
One Step Away
Ending homelessness is about people. But it’s also about systems and giving people choices. Ending homelessness does not have a one-size-fits-all solution because people experiencing homelessness have that challenge for so many diverse reasons.
One person may have lost employment; others have illnesses and challenges with members of their family. A person may have few long-term connections or relationships to a community because of being raised in foster care. Others have traumatic experiences occur, and the supports are just not available to assist in recovery.
Whatever the reason, our community’s goal is for homelessness to be rare, brief, and non-recurring in anyone’s lifetime. A primary theme of Philadelphia’s behavioral health services, overseen by the Department of Behavioral Health & Intellectual disAbility Services, is to build services that are unique for each person.
One Step Away
At One Step Away we stress that there is no standard homeless experience. People fall into homelessness for a range of reasons and experience it in a variety of ways.
Public perceptions of homelessness are distorted by various forces, especially media, leaving many people with a very specific idea of what a “homeless person” looks and acts like. Often One Step Away customers do not even realize that the vendor selling them a paper is experiencing homelessness because the vendor doesn’t fit the image in their head. You can’t simply look at a person and determine whether or not they have a home.
One goal of One Step Away is to challenge people’s presumptions about what homelessness means. It does not imply any specific lifestyle. It is not a permanent condition for a person, but rather an experience, hopefully a temporary one. As a program, we hope to provide supportive tools to people going through this difficult time in their life, one that can be damaging to physical health, self-confidence, and social capital.
This is my story, the Jerry Tucker story. When I started out in 2012, a friend of mine had told me about the One Step Away paper, so I came down here and I started doing it. It seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere with it. I said that I might just hang in there and see what happens to me down the line. So, I hung in there and I just kept on doing it. I started out with 20 papers and kept doing that until somebody told me, “Man you need to get more than 20 papers.” So, I started to pick up more papers to sell and it started to work out for me. It helped me out a lot when I was in the shelter, food-wise and clothes-wise. After that, the years went by and I ended up getting into the 600 club, meaning I sell 600 papers a month and in return I have a permanent spot where I sell the paper. There are slow days and then some days I might sell 40 issues, but I make sure to sell at least 150 papers a week.
One thing I said to myself from the start was that I wasn’t going to give up. “If you believe, you will succeed,” and that is what I did. I came a long way with it now and I’m doing a lot better. I’m meeting different people and I’m going different places, so I thank God for One Step Away. I finally made it to my own apartment after a year in the shelter and eight months in transitional housing, I got my own place. Now, the money I am making pays my rent, pays my bills, and it helps me out a whole lot.
All I can say is this: Never give up, don’t ever give up. Whatever you’re trying to do in life, and it seems like it is going downhill, believe it or not, it is coming uphill and it is going to get better.
Hello and good day. My name is Chester, aka Skip, and I have been working with One Step Away for a little over two years now. Our organization is a godsend and a true blessing in so many ways. In a very difficult job market, One Step Away has made it possible to go out and contribute to helping the very needy and to have a way to provide for my girlfriend, myself, and our soon to be child. I can go out any day and have a way to keep us afloat so we are not on the streets homeless again.
If you truly have the motivation to better yourself and your family One Step Away can be a godsend. It certainly has been for us in these tough times and helps us get by. We still barely get by, but I’m grateful just for that. I also love this organization because it provides me an outlet to write and get things off my chest that I feel strongly about. One Step Away helps to create independent forms of responsibilities without anyone standing over us and controlling everything we do.
I have learned how to organize and maintain without having a set 9-5 job. It gives me the experience to handle life situations when there is not guaranteed money at the end of the day and to be self-sufficient in handling money and writing articles to help make the community aware of our organization and why we need the help. Best of all, I have something meaningful to work for, and the more work that I put in, the better outcome I will have. I put 100 percent effort into the work while I am also trying to obtain a stable job and get enrolled in school because I now have a family to take care of. One Step Away gives us the opportunity to get by until I can find a steady and stable job, and I can work around the things I need to accomplish to be able to provide for my family in the future. This has truly been a blessing for me and my girlfriend, “future wife.”
According to a 2014 report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, laws criminalizing homelessness have been spreading rapidly across urban areas of the United States. They criminalize behaviors and conduct that are often necessary for unsheltered and other homeless individuals, such as sleeping, sitting or begging in public, sleeping in vehicles, and food sharing in public spaces.
These laws make it very difficult for people experiencing homelessness to exist in the public domain and drive individuals from the cities, solely due to what is often a transient, vulnerable time in their lives. Further, these policies, especially laws prohibiting public food sharing prevent others from standing in solidarity with the homeless. This further isolates those experiencing homelessness and prevents them from building up social connections and support. According to the National Law Center on Homeless and Policy’s 2014 report on criminalization, 9 percent of US cities have passed laws banning food sharing in certain public areas. Further, a study published by the National Coalition for the Homeless in October 2014 has identified over 30 cities that have or that are in the process of enacting such legislation since January 2013.
As detailed in Randall Armster’s research on these policy measures, published in his 2003 article “Patterns of Exclusion: Sanitizing Space, Criminalizing Homelessness,” by criminalizing homelessness and eradicating unsheltered individuals from public view, the nature of this country’s democracy is changed. As a democratic country, the United States should allow and welcome all people to participate in public discourse and utilize public spaces. When forbidden to do this, homeless individuals are dehumanized, degraded, and shown that they are unwelcome and unworthy in such a “democratic” society.
For Joel, it’s a place to sit. The air from the heaters keeps the walkways warm and free of ice. The wind and snow from the streets are blocked by large, heavy doors. In this weather, the concourses under the city’s central business district become a safe haven from the outside world.
As temperatures slide back into the mid-20s again this month, Philadelphia’s Suburban Station is one of the few places where people experiencing homelessness can take shelter. Accessible 24 hours a day, the network of walkways and waiting areas offers an attractive space for those with nowhere else to go.
Noticing this pattern, homelessness assistance agencies joined together to open a drop-in engagement center called "the Hub of Hope" in the station’s concourses. The hub, which reopened this winter, allows organizations to provide services at a location that is accessible to the people who need them most.
One Step Away
By One Step Away Staff
On May 14, One Step Away will be honoring the life of Matthew Saad Muhammad with its fifth annual Knock Out Homelessness event, presented by Independence Blue Cross.
A former light heavyweight champion and member of the Boxing Hall of Fame, Saad Muhammad was a voice of homelessness advocacy here in Philadelphia up until his passing last May.