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Cries of solidarity leave this marcher speechless

 Street Roots (USA) 18 May 2019

(Originally published: 02/2010) “I was asked the other day by a very well-intentioned woman about the “face” of homelessness. She asked if I could describe a “typical” homeless person. I looked at her and said there’s no such thing, but if I must, then look in the mirror.” When US street paper Street Roots’ columnist Julie McCurdy took part in the San Francisco march for homelessness and housing rights as part of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, she didn’t expect to be as moved as she was. She shares her story. (495 words) - By Julie McCurdy

Street Roots (USA) - I was asked the other day by a very well-intentioned woman about the "face" of homelessness. She asked if I could describe a "typical" homeless person. I looked at her and said there's no such thing, but if I must, then look in the mirror.

 

With her slightly offended look, I touched her hand and smiled, saying, "I wasn't trying to be unkind, But I am the face of homelessness. That man to your left, sleeping in the doorway, and potentially you, me, we are all the face of homelessness."

 

After the conversation, we were both a bit more at ease with each other, relaxed. Which was a good thing, since I didn't want to be a bitch about it.

 

The reason I bring this up is because I just finished, not three hours ago, marching in San Francisco for homelessness and housing rights as part of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. You know those experiences in your life that are so powerful and moving, that they render you speechless? This was the WRAP protest for me. It's certainly a turning point in my life, because now I know that we are the only ones that are going to bring about real change. I know this because I got to see this up close and personal. At one point in the march I was just standing there, tears running down my face, thinking to myself that this is what the people in the Civil Rights movement might have felt during their long march to equality. This very moment, as I write this in a church in Oakland, California, with my friends who just marched right alongside me, I am overcome with emotion. What can I say? The majesty of this moment.

 

After a year of sleeping through thick and thin, on a concrete mattress in Portland, I had come to believe that the concrete bed that I made every night rendered me completely voiceless, powerless and invisible. And some secret side of my soul believed that people honestly didn't give a shit about me anymore.

 

Well, today, I saw the housed and the unhoused, rich and poor, standing together. Today, we shouted together, screamed together, laughed together and cried together. I realized that the very spot where I stood, the place that I was inhabiting, could be changed. And that together we could make a difference.

Still, as I write this, it's overwhelming, and the words come to the page without even thinking about them. This was my first protest, and it was special. I sit here still, huddled in the corner of this church where we will sleep tonight, under a warm roof, sobbing in joy and sadness. I weep for all the others who share that concrete mattress with me, not only in Portland, but around this country. For anyone out there who will read this column, who has ever lost faith in humanity, I found it today, it exists within us all.

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