Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I could have, but didn't.

"A news reporter's duty can sometimes be difficult. It is not easy to approach someone in such distress to seek answers to the questions that need asking. "
-Walter Cronkite from his book A Reporter's Life

"Can you just do me that favor, man?" the man in the red Quicksilver t-shirt said as the passengers in Transit Long Beach Bus No. 94 turned towards his direction. "I'm sort of homeless today and I need to store my stuff."

My instinct as a reporter was to get up from my seat and bombard him with questions. But the fact that I'm not currently employed by any publication or writing for the Daily 49er, I wasn't sure how to approach him without a paper to back me up. 

"I guess I'm going to stay at a shelter until I find a place to live," he screamed at the person on the other line. 

Here I had a possible feature story in my hands and I just let it go. I could have pitch the story to my contacts at The District Weekly (if they still remember me) or to The Beachcomber.

But he got off the bus and no contacts were made.

Then I get to school, log on to The District Weekly webpage and what do I find? A beautifully written story by the talented Jenny Stockdale about a Cal State Long Beach graduate who is currently homeless and is living in his car. 

Stockdale—a former Daily 49er writer, illustrator and an all-around amazing person—writes that "the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in 2007 that there are more than 750,000 Americans experiencing homelessness at any given night."

Dereck, the story's homeless graduate, says that his procastination is the only thing to blame for his current homeless situation.

I wonder what caused my Quicksilver t-shirt guy to end up homeless. He didn't look like a junkie or some sort of insane person. But shit happens.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was homeless for two weeks. She told nobody. She showered at the gym, eat at friend's house and slept in her car. For two weeks. 

My friend and her mother were renting a room in a house. Their landlady was actually a friend of her mom. But her alcoholic ways made it impossible to live at peace and my friend decided that enough was enough.

She finally found an apartment, but it wouldn't be ready for two weeks. My friend told her mother to move in with her brother and she'd stay at a friend's house. The deal with her friend didn't go well and she ended up with no place to live. That's how she became homeless for two weeks. Oh, and did I mentioned that she had a full load of classes at CSULB? 

"We're all seconds, or inches or dollars away from tragedy and failure," Stockdale says.
That's right. 

I'm not sure why I didn't approach the man. Not being employed as a journalist was not a good enough excuse. There are ways to get my writing out there. 

To go up to him in what could probably be one of the worst days of his life and ask him to tell me his story so I can write about it just seemed so selfish. 

Either that or I lost a chance to help a fellow human being. 

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