our final account of participating in the NW Arkansas Homeless Census from Scott Page... [box]
When the Census training started we were hit with the reality that the numbers were going to be up from the last census. Then skin was placed on reality, with a statement like, one local school system has 200 plus homeless kids, the forefront for the next few days was being set for me.
My first day was spent at a local soup kitchen that normally sees 150 to 200 people a day, numbers were way down because of the nice weather.
When I finished my surveys I wondered into the assembly hall, and looked around the room, and I noticed a man who looked familiar. I have known him most of my life, it was interesting I was being asked to do the census in my hometown that I no longer lived in.
I went over and sat down, asked him how he was today? He greeted me with a big hug. We haven't talked in about 5 years. He was my roommate as we traveled on our high school basketball team. He has seen very hard times, admits he made some difficult choices, but he and his friends (there were 5 of us that shared lunch together), are living in community together.
He told me about his family...Then he brought tears to my eyes as he asked me about mine. He hasn't been able to find a job, and has run out of his opportunities to stay at Salvation Army. He still had the same smile, and said "I'll be all right," but I left Central United Methodist Church that day, sat in my car and (cried, prayed, and just felt helpless).
The next morning I was one of the crew in the woods of Fayetteville. These were all camps that were around the Jr. High I attended as a youth. As we drove the streets with the Fayetteville Police Department, those were streets I ran with Jr. High off-season Basketball.
When I sat with the people that lived in the camps later that day at 7 Hills Homeless Center, with all their issues and perceptive on the world. Most are exactly like the rest of the world.
We have issues, we have our perspectives...the people I enjoyed lunch with that day were people who are survivors, they get work, that gets them along...I don't know what I would say a typical homeless person is, I wouldn't say I met anyone typical, just a lot of different people with different stories.
These days did a lot for my perspective, there are always things I want, and need to do to change how I am living.
The results of the 2011 NWA Homeless Census were released last week and the number of homeless in our community has grown +36% since 2009 to 2,001 homeless people.
For Scott Page, that number is no longer a statistics. It's a friend from high school.
For more information, please visit our previous post "Prelim Homeless Census Results"