Eugene Phoenix, AZ

Since starting Can You Spare A Story, a lot individuals I’ve spoken with have told me the same advice, “you can’t help those who do not want to help themselves.” I always took this advice with a grain of salt, powering on to serve anyone and everyone, until I discovered the large population of individuals who are chronically homeless. I, myself never understood the concept of loving life on the streets until I met Eugene.

Eugene recently celebrated his 59th birthday on the streets, the same place he has celebrated it since 1982. Eugene has been chronically homeless for 32 years since he got caught up in a bad loan which lead him to lose his whole life. When everything fell apart, he became depressed and angry, making poor choices and getting himself in trouble. He hung out with the wrong crowd on the streets and ended up addicted to drugs and a life in and out of prison. As Eugene has become older, he has separated with negative influences and has found happiness living on the streets. Although this may seem impossible to most of us, everyone has a different definition of what a good and meaningful life is.

Now that Eugene is older and wiser, he has learned how to survive and be successful within street life. He told me the importance of traveling alone and how the only person you should depend on should be yourself. Eugene is currently staying in the downtown Phoenix area and acts as a security guard for young women and children on the streets. He has learned from his past mistakes and enjoys helping other avoid the same situations. Eugene told me that he believes individuals struggling with homelessness tend to act crazy as defense mechanism so that no one will mess with them. He believes this is the wrong approach and is dramatically impacting the public’s view of the homeless population. He believes there are two kinds of homeless individuals: those who are anti-social and those who are seeking attention to receive help. The anti-social individuals are people who mind their own business and enjoy the worry-free life of homelessness. The attention seeking individuals are normally newly homeless and looking for a way to be saved.

From his 32 years on the streets, Eugene has thought of a multitude of ideas to successfully tackle the worldwide epidemic of homelessness. He has taken it upon himself to demand social change for the homeless population through sharing his ideas with anyone who will listen. He has written to state legislators, governors, and even previous President, Barack Obama. Sadly, he has never received word back. I was lucky enough to have him share a few of his ideas with me.

Eugene believes that the current system to address homelessness is backwards and belittles the individuals rather than building them up. He truly believes that knowledge is power and that by allowing the homeless to have access to computers, GED opportunities, and basic life skill courses will provide individuals the motivation to get back into the swing of things. He also suggested an alternative to the shelter system, we could take an empty lot and section it off into individual camp spaces for people to call their own. In order to gain your own space, the individual would have to work cleaning up the streets. This would allow for individuals struggling with homelessness to feel a sense of ownership while cleaning the area, costing taxpayers less money in the long run. Eugene suggests that if we encourage individuals living on the streets to take pride in the space they call home that less resources would needed to keep the area clean.

Eugene was passionate and creative with his ideas to address an issue that he has been living with for 32 years. His passion for others is wildly apparent and he is a natural born protector. I hope to one day implement these ideas and if I had the resources to do it now I would hire Eugene on immediately to watch his ideas come to life. Although most of us do not understand Eugene’s lifestyle, we should be accepting of his choices and be happy that he has found comfort in this lifestyle. Eugene is happy on the streets protecting others and that is all that matters.

Eugene, if you are ever reading this, I am so grateful for the opportunity to hear the ideas you have been thinking of for decades. I will do anything in my power to make these ideas come to life. Thank you so much for using your knowledge of the streets to protect others. You’re an unspoken hero and I loved getting to know you.

Thanks for reading,

Syd

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Mike (Rooster) Phoenix, AZ

Mike is one of those individuals whose creativity and compassion is contagious to all of those around him. As he was telling me his story, he spoke with his hands, which were filled with unique turquoise rings with a story attached to each one. Mike has been on the streets for a year but 2 months ago, he met the companion of his dreams. A beautiful girl named Delilah, with a white coat of fur and a wagging tail, she was the dream companion for Mike’s travels. Mike mentioned that all of his friends call him Rooster and that since we were now friends I was more than welcome to call him Rooster.

Mike grew up as a fun-loving hippie, who lived to beach camp in Stayton Beach and travel across the United States raising hell with his friends. As the years went on, the need to grow up approached him all too fast, forcing him to do physical labor roofing housing. He loved what he did and was grateful for the job to put food on the table but his body was overworked, leaving him strained. He began having extreme pain in shoulders, back, and knees, leading him to be prescribed morphine. Morphine is a highly addictive opioid which is used to treat severe pain. The opioid epidemic is huge within the United States, leaving people addicted and broke with nowhere to turn but street drugs. This is exactly what happened to Mike, morphine made his pain bearable and when the doctors stopped writing the prescriptions, Mike turned to heroin for a cheap fix. Mike mentioned that this was by far his worst mistake and if he could go back he would. His need for the drug became more important than paying bills and eating, making him lose everything. He was forced onto the streets after being short on rent.

Mike felt defeated and lost within the world until he met Delilah. 2-months-ago, Mike was sitting at a bus stop talking with a man whose girlfriend was attempting to make money to get food. Mike was fascinated by how beautiful their dog was and began showing interest in her. The man spoke about how they were barely affording a small studio apartment and how the dog was too large for the space. Mike had been living in an abandoned parking lot and had tons of space for the dog. Mike proposed a trade for some money for food and found his new best friend.

Delilah is a Pitbull-Labrador mix who is 7-months old. She is an extremely faithful companion for Mike and has even saved his life when he was having a seizure. Mike added that she stood over him only letting the paramedics get to him. She was a natural born service animal who is dedicated to protecting Mike. Mike shares all of his food with Delilah and even shared the pizza that we at Can You Spare A Story provided that day! The two are inseparable and are perfect companions for a journey.

Mike has recently bought a van that he lives out of and is trying to get his life back together. Today, he is no longer using opioids or heroin to ease his chronic pain but has instead turned to medical marijuana. He has found that his pain is bearable when he smokes and he can function better than when he was using harsher drugs. Mike believes that he has been protected by his passion and love for life. He is the kind of man who would give the shirt off his back for someone in need and I truly believe his kindness is genuine.

Mike, if you are ever reading this.. I hope you find your way back to the life you have dreamt of and I hope you continue to let your passion guide you finding friends along the way.

Thanks for reading,

Syd

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