Getting back on his feet: Spare Change Vendor Considers Mistakes From His Past As He Looks Towards Future

Aaron James
Spare Change News

What does it mean to be homeless? It’s hard to come up with a definitive answer to this question. “The current HUD (Housing of Urban Development) definition of homelessness is limited to people who are on the streets or who are staying in shelters. This is being debated among many scholars in regards to its limited terms. If this were the definitive definition of homelessness, many people are missed, myself included. Am I homeless? Let me explain….
I do not want this article to solely be about me. This is my first article in ‘Spare Change’ and would like my customers to know a bit more about me. The focus, however, I want to be on the image and stigma behind homelessness. While I grew up with a roof above my head, I was never in one place for a long period of time. To clarify, I moved basically every year of my life till I turned fourteen and my family ended up in Westford, Massachusetts. My father’s job as a computer consultant had us moving all over the country from the West coast to the East coast three times before Westford, five different states, and dozens of residences. On top of our moves, a sibling of mine was terminally ill thus was in and out of the hospitable. I was shuffled from house to house when he was inpatient. I truly never was able to call any one place home.
I somehow graduated high school after many rehabs and detoxes. I then moved to Franklin, Massachusetts and studied Criminal Justice at Dean College. I graduated from there in 2005 with an Associate’s degree, and decided to continue my education at Suffolk University, trying to complete a B.A. degree in Political Science. That brings us to now. I am struck with poverty, living day to day, on the streets selling the paper. How did I get here?
I would be lying to you if I said I was not to blame for my current circumstances. Through all the moves and other trials and tribulations I became mentally drained and dependant on drugs. Drugs became my escape. They took me home. I have all but kicked my addictions. However, my stubbornness and hate for authority is still a work in progress.
Ever since I was eight I have been able to name all the Presidents. I still can and challenge you to put me to the test. If you see me on the streets, I will name them all for you. If you do not know them, I advise you have the list handy so you can correct me if I mess up. I will not, though! I have had the dream to be President since I was a child and still am grasping ever so lightly on that dream. If I want to achieve this dream, I need to become less stubborn and deal better with authority.
I have tried many jobs since I moved into Boston. I have worked for Public Outreach, who are the folks you see on basically every street corner in Boston asking for you to sign up for whatever organization they are currently working with. When I was there we were doing ‘Save the Children.’ Before that I worked the phones at Share Group and Telefund. I would raise funds on the phones for organizations like The Humane Society, and The Democratic National Committee. I enjoyed the work, however, I am stubborn. I also worked with Share Group, which was a Union job and I blew it off with poor attendance. I can never work there again. It had nothing to do with my performance, just attendance, which again I am only to blame for. The same held true for what ended my time at Public Outreach.
So I decided to try an outside sales job with Central Payment. It is a solely commission job and I simply lacked the work ethic to get enough sales to pay the bills. I truly have yet to find the right job for me. I cannot take out any more student loans because I failed to finish all my classes from last semester. It was a constant struggle between finding work to pay the bills and time to study and attend classes. I ended up not completing the semester and without a solid job. I am currently five classes from receiving a B.A. however I have no steady income. I am in a ditch. I made it and I know I can get out of it.
As for my living situation, I am now staying with one of my brothers. Thank the Lord he is still alive. I am trying to pay the bills. However, I cannot seem to come up with the funds on time or consistently. I have a roof over my head though I do not consider my current place of residence anywhere close to home. And the two of us are at odds right now, yes, over my pathetic situation.
I have always loved writing and I hope that Spare Change can become my outlet to do so. I have so many stories from all my moves that I cannot start to talk about all of them in just this one article. I have made so many mistakes. I cannot begin to talk about them in just this one article.
I never thought I would find myself on the path to poverty and homelessness. I can only blame myself. While I hated my parents for the longest time for making me move so often, I no longer do. I choose to eat the pills, smoke the crack and drink the beer, not them. And while these decisions were made as a result of never being able to settle anywhere, they were my choices. It was my choice to stop everything but drinking. It was my choice to attend the NA meetings and sober up to the best of my ability. It is my choice to still aim for the goal of being President.
As I have been out there with Spare Change I have realized how those who are better off really do look down at the less fortunate. I admitted I made mistakes. I deserve some scorn and humiliation, however, at the same time I am trying to make it right. Homelessness does not mean laziness or that one is a drug addict. And while I have been guilty of both it was long before I was struck with poverty or being homeless. Many rich and well off people are lazy drug addicts too.
The point is, the millions of homeless people worldwide are just that, people. We feel, think, ponder, cry, yell, scream, and love- just like everyone else. I appreciate everyone who buys the paper from me. Thank you so much. Even those who are tight on cash as well but still manage to give me a wave, head nod, “hello”, or “how are you doing?”- it means a lot to me. But those of you who hear me say, “Hey! How are doing today?” and look straight ahead as if I were not there are feeding some of the underlying problems that lead many of us to become homeless. We are not all bad people. We mean well, have tried hard, and deserve at the very least, some type of acknowledgement of our existence. I understand we all have bad days and the last thing you need is a homeless person asking you for a dollar. Come on, though. I mean, is a head nod that difficult on a bad day for someone with a home and better financial situation?
To my question, am I homeless? What does being homeless mean? I am no longer homeless. East Cambridge is my home. It could be a park bench, a curb, a piece of grass where I lay my head down to sleep. I love East Cambridge. I love the atmosphere, the people, the politics, the environment and I am proud to call East Cambridge home. Home is not a certain address on a certain floor. It never had been and never will be for me. If I ever do achieve the unlikely dream of becoming President then America will become my home. Until then, East Cambridge is my humble domain.