Stranger 66/100 – Doug

Stranger-66–Doug.jpgWhat brings you uptown? “Just homelessness…”

Meet Doug.

How long have you been homeless? “This stint… I’ve been about three months out here.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Stay in school… I stayed through high school just enough to graduate, and then I had to get away… from my father. My mother had passed, and I got away from daddy. Anyway, I’ve just been on edge since then.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “My biggest challenge is staying warm. It’s nothing to keep fed in Charlotte if you’re homeless. They have so many soup kitchens, so many ministries that feed the homeless.”

“Finding steady, gainful employment that pays me what I’m worth. I can go to a labor pool and work for $7.50 an hour. I’m not going to do that… been there, done that. I just would like to have a job where I can make enough money to support myself, take care of myself, pay my bills and survive.”

“I’m from the old school, Dan. I was born in ’65…”

I was born in ’68… “Ok, well, we’re in the same generation. I’m an old school… you go knock on doors. ‘Hey Mr. so and so. How are you doing? Can I fill out an application?’ It’s not like that anymore. You know, you’ve got to go online, and I’m very computer illiterate. And I’m dyslexic in a way, so to go online and fill out these applications is just somehow overwhelming for my mind, but that’s something I’m working towards.”

I would think it’s hard to get a job while you’re homeless. “I don’t even have a phone. I fill out an application… phone number… none. Come on, who’s going to hire that?”

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about the homeless? “I wouldn’t call it a misconception, but just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re mentally deranged. What I don’t like is, Dan, when people perceive you and label you. You know, they see me homeless and they perceive me to be a degenerate, wacko, someone who doesn’t have any ambition to want to better themselves.”

There’s some people who say you shouldn’t give money to the homeless, and there’s other people who say you should. Why is there such a disagreement? “Because of the homeless that are out here, who are not mentally ill, they’re 99.8% alcoholics or drug addicts. Which I’m an alcoholic myself… I drink everyday if I can. You just got to be able to handle your disease as it is and maintain yourself. As far as giving money to the homeless, that’s not the way. Because 99.9% of the time, you’re throwing it away. You might as well set it on fire and throw it in the street. Because most of us are alcoholic and drug addicts, and what money we do get, we’re going to spend on alcohol and drugs.”

What is your passion? “Writing…”

“In Arianna’s Eyes
In Arianna’s eyes, I see light and hope
I see a woman and friend
I see a cold, hard reflection of a man I could never pretend”

{ Doug recited the entire poem, but didn’t want me to print the entire work here because he hadn’t copyrighted it yet. }

“It’s all a matter of perception and how you look at life and how you perceive your situation. A lot of these jokers out here, Dan, they’ve given up. They’ve just thrown in the towel. I’m only 52. I figure I’ve got 20 good years left if the good lord’s willing… But it was good talking to you man.”

Note: As a general rule, I haven’t approached homeless people for this project to avoid exploiting them in any way. In this case, Doug reached out to me suggesting that I should profile the homeless people of Charlotte.

Technical Notes: Doug was sitting in a poorly lit bus shelter. It wasn’t an option to move somewhere with better light because he had so many belongings with him. He was extremely backlit, so I used a strong reflector to completely light up his face.

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