Homeless Joe – in my neighborhood


I have seen this guy sitting out by the Interstate highway off ramp in all kinds of weather. He sits so quietly you might not even see him. He looks at you, past you, through you. And of course, we try to do the same as we pass him by in our safe warm cars. He’s asking for a handout. As I pass this guy I think about WHY would someone sit outside and beg?

Can’t he just get a job? Can’t he go to the Union Gospel Mission and get 2 meals a day? Doesn’t he have family? There ought to be a law! Why, why I ask myself.

I never even saw a homeless person until I was 30 years old. I grew up in and around big cities, so it wasn’t like I was sheltered. I saw prostitutes on the street, but never homeless people begging. But over the years, I have seen more and more of them.

He’s not breaking any laws. He’s on public property, he’s not offensive, he’s not aggressive. He actually looks old and frail. Does someone know where he is? Does he have a daughter that will be heartbroken when he finally succumbs to the elements?

But I don’t get any answers. I don’t know why this man is sitting out there hoping someone will give him a dollar bill. And I avert my eyes and drive on, feeling slightly sadder, not able to solve the problem, knowing that all is NOT right in the world.

This painting is for sale $150.00. for those of you concerned, I did pay the person in the painting a standard sitting fee.

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12 thoughts on “Homeless Joe – in my neighborhood”

  1. Mimi,
    This is my first time visiting your blog. I am very impressed with your art, and your insightful posts, such as this one. I love it!

    Thank you for stopping by my blog, and for your kind comment.

  2. I don’t think homeless people were as visible when I was young. I’m sure they were around, but you just didn’t see them all over the place like you do now.
    I am going to feature your blog in my Tossing It Out marketing series under P for painting. M and W were already taken.

    Lee
    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  3. It is a very beautiful painting, Mimi. I’m sure there are all sorts of reasons people are on the streets begging. A lot are suffering mental illness. Some, as was said, have lost everything and have no way of getting to a job if they actually got one. Someone in our city asked such a person why he didn’t get a job. His reply was:”Are you kidding? This IS my job.” The fact is that many actually make more money begging than a lot of hard working people, according to an article in our newspaper. I’ve always thought it made more sense to carry bottles of water or juice or granola bars and hand those out to them, rather than dollars. I think I am in the minority on my opinion, though. I’m so glad you paid him. That was ethical and the right thing to do.

    1. Many, many street people have mental illnesses, or drug or alcohol addictions. During the 1980’s in the US, under the Reagan administration, there were major cutbacks in medicaid funding, with the result that many state facilities were unable to meet costs and closed. So, many people ended up on the street; other in jail. There are people who *need* a supervised environment where they are reminded to take their pills, etc., and will do relatively well if they have one, but on their own, may forget to pay rent, become delusional, etc. http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/Mental_Illness.pdf

      A fair percentage of street people are veterans, suffering PTSD and other disorders that make it hard for them to find and keep jobs. http://www.nchv.org/background.cfm

      Thank you for the beautiful portrait, and for treating Homeless Joe like a human being, with dignity and kindness.

  4. Hi Mimi,
    Your portrait is fantastic. You’ve captured his despair yet left him his dignity. Very well done. I share your questions about what we should do. My first by-line came out on 3/3. I wrote a story that’s part of a coffee table book called “Until They Have Faces”. A professional photographer took either studio portraits, or set up his equipment right there. Those who wanted to be part of the book were interviewed and then an author wrote a word portrait to go with the picture. If you’d like to learn more about it, here’s my post explaining the project
    here
    I appreciate your honesty in your comment on the A-Z blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-Host of the April A to Z Challenge
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

  5. Mimi, I’d like to scoop this fellow up and bring him home with me…to love, nurture, give meaning to his life because I’d NEED him. You’ve painted him so well that I almost feel as if I know him. Thank you!

  6. Great portrait Mimi.

    I’ve heard that sometimes it is actually embaressment that keeps people on the streets asking for handouts from anonymous people rather than face a family or friend and admit they have lost everything, house, job, pride…etc. Plus it’s a circle, without a home you can’t get a job & vice versa, the soup kitchens/shelters have only so many places although they try their best. Maybe he wants to buy his own food, even if he pays with it with handouts? Anyway whatever his story I bet he was pleased with his sitter’s fee 🙂

  7. What a beautiful portrait and a sad story. How did he come to this lot in his life? Does he have a family and where are they? Do they know where he is? What will become of him? Beautiful Mimi! The portrait touched me as did your words.

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