Homelessness: Ernest and Tony

June 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

This week, I had the opportunity to visit Urban Ministries again to talk to a few people about my project and hold a few more interviews. From my research results, I was able to deduce quite a few statistics regarding the demographics of homelessness in Durham, as well as the mentality of labor versus staying unemployed for some of the homeless people. This week gave me an eye opening view of the different types of homeless people that are living on the streets and directly contradict the general tendency to group together all of the homeless in a specific social category. From my results, I was able to support the point that each person is different and comes with a different story, and that there is not one easy solution that can solve the problem of homelessness for all of Durham.

While visiting Urban Ministries, I first spoke with a man named Ernest Porter. A tall, forty-three year old African American man, Ernest met me outside of the shelter and was very open to talk. As we conversed, Ernest told me about how he had been arrested for drug charges in San Antonio, Texas and spent sixteen years of his life in prison. Upon leaving prison for parole, he moved to Durham when he began a relationship online and decided to move in with his Internet girlfriend. Upon moving to Durham, however, he was not able to find a job due to his criminal record. The relationship ended, and he found himself unable to make end’s meet. He then turned to the shelter for help and has been homeless for five months. Talking to Ernest, I began thinking about the statistics of homelessness and crime and the correlation between them. It was also interesting to see how this was similar to the same “rut” David spoke about and how it was tough to progress in the world when living on the streets.

The second person I spoke to was a sixty-three year old Caucasian man named Tony and stated he was the second oldest person at the shelter. Tony told me about how he was a Vietnam combat veteran for nineteen months, and how those nineteen months had degraded his life when he came home. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Tony suffers nightmares and panic attacks that haunt him for the entirety of his life and were the reason he is now homeless. Due to a panic attack, his wife divorced him, he was fired from his job, and the rest of his family found him “embarrassing” and subsequently told him not to communicate with him. He stays in Durham due to the VA Hospital, but he stated that he never pictured himself in this position at that age. Talking to Tony was a pleasure as he was a very friendly man, but it made me realize that homelessness is much more complex than being impoverished and without a job. Homelessness quite often is in a list of many other specific things that cause the general public to pull away or discriminate against these people. From this week, I was able to further emphasize this topic of a much wider spread of diversity among the homeless and their situations that entail.

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§ One Response to Homelessness: Ernest and Tony

  • ethnolust says:

    Interesting post. It looks like you’re getting some interesting life histories recorded. It’s important to get an understanding of people’s pasts, as it lets us see how “normal” life is quite precarious. At the same time, we can begin to think about how the events and conditions that may lead to homelessness are produced through power (the Foucaultian kind).

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