A life-long resident of Charlottesville, who for years has drifted in and out of homelessness, has found a home in the heart of his community.
UVA students and Charlottesville residents alike frequent the Corner, yet not everyone pays attention to those that are there everyday looking for a bite to eat or for spare change. I had the fortunate opportunity to talk to one of Charlottesville’s homeless residents about his experiences in his hometown.
“In Charlottesville I never go hungry, you can’t say that about other towns.”
David (whose real name will remain anonymous) holds that just about any time he asks for help getting some food, our community graciously strives to satisfy him. However, finding food isn’t what he feels is his most pressing concern.
“Hunger isn’t the issue for me, but sometimes it’s respect.” Everyone needs to support themselves financially before supporting others, but giving respect is free he says. Some days David hardly collects any money, but what really wears him down is that quiet isolation creeping in between dusk and dawn. That being said, on most days several other homeless residents affectionately check up on him to see how he’s doing. They understand each other more than most of our student population understands them.
“You don’t know me until you’ve walked 200 miles across Virginia in my shoes.” Despite the fact that it can be difficult to find a deeply mutual understanding with his demographic, he feels that even the acknowledgement that he’s there is enough for him.
When asked if he would mind if students simply said hello to him instead of handing him a dollar, he replied, “that helps just as much if not more. I’ve always said that you’ve got to treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Although we all want to be treated with kindness and consideration, it is hard not to see their circumstances as distant, improbable circumstances that we would never find ourselves in. When four other homeless residents on the corner were asked about the chances they agreed, “it can happen to anyone.”
David says that though some people bring homelessness on themselves, a domino effect of unlucky circumstances is typically what causes homelessness. Luckily for Charlottesville residents who find themselves homelessness, they have support, particularly at The Haven where food and shelter are provided.
David is a longtime admirer of Tom Shadyac, the UVA alumni who founded The Haven. However despite having this support system, he still sometimes feels what is missing is the respect from others that makes him feel like a person.
Whether they appear perfectly presentable or not, all of the homeless residents of Charlottesville deserve to be afforded human dignity. As David described, a simple hello acknowledging another’s existence does in fact go a long way, and it can be just as helpful as donating a few dollars.
There is also the opportunity to get to know our homeless population by volunteering at The Haven. Located at 12 Market St, Charlottesville, VA 22902, further details can be found on their website http://www.thehaven.org.
The Charlottesville community understands what this lifelong resident emphasizes the most, that “every life matters the same.”