I pretty much was on the streets at least 15 years. It's quite easy to get on the streets. It's quite difficult to get off. The difficulties I have now particularly in regards to cold weather affecting me I couldn't see it at all being outside in the winter.
Pathways is marvelous in what they do and their whole idea was, "Yes, let's care for those who need care, let's make sure they are out of the weather, let's get them in a situation where they feel wanted." Housing first, that's the philosophy of Pathways, let's put this ceiling over their head, that makes people like me feel better. The benefits involved in having housing are far and away better than having no housing. It's almost unanswerable, it's laughable in that when its 20 degrees outside I'm in a place that's almost 70 degrees
I don't think it really gets much better when a person with as little income as I have is able to live, I think I live damn well. I'm a pretty lucky guy. I have good people working to help me. I'm tickled pink that I do have those people there. I'm think I'm as good as can be for right now. Who knows what will happen next? I might get a lot better.
That's what you see here, what you see is what there is. Me. A crippled up old man laying on a couch in a dirty little apartment. Fortunately a few people care, Pathways to Housing, they care. They knew about us. They came to see us.
It becomes very obvious that for the most part if you were in a program of some sort and it was being administered by county personnel, any of the programs available to the homeless by the county of Philadelphia or the city of Philadelphia, the people who worked there, they despise you. And they despised me much worse than anyone else there. They'd say, "You have all of these abilities, you can do this, that, and the other, how come you're not king?" I've actually had that said to me. My answer to that is, "You're right, I outta be." Of course, I would say to them, "You know what the first thing I'd do if they made me king? I'd have you hanged." What's the point of being king if you can't have all the people you don't like hanged? That's the idea, isn't it? Then, of course, on top of everything else, they thought I was a barbarian for having attitudes like that, which, of course, I didn't have. I didn't want to have them hanged. I wanted to have them beheaded. They have no class.
Most of the people who work with populations like myself, although I'm still trying to figure what population that is, have no sense of humor whatsoever. I didn't want to hurt anybody. It's pretty clear, I've got too much ego for pretty much any social program to work.
If the infection had gotten into the blood stream I could have possibly gotten gangrene. I had this from ankle to knee in varying degrees of depth. It was not a condition to have when living on the streets in all types of weather. What he's doing now is, the term is debriding, you know? That's like torturing like innocent, helpless people who approach them, senior citizen status, torturing them with like steel devices.
Scott's like, I have such respect for somebody like him. You know, you know, like he's a brilliant guy, you know? And really easy-going, you know? But they don't pay him dick, you know, to do this, right? And he's got to go from here to there to put up with assholes like me, you know? Since he took over my home care, my nursing care? I have like no infections whatsoever now. And a lot of healing and a lot of good advice, you know, eating and hygeine and every other damn thing, you know? And he puts up with the situation here, you know, where a couple times basically, you know, he's come here and the situation is, I've been kinda crazy, shall we say?
You know, so like, I'm so much better off physically and I would say morale-wise because he comes, you know? And we talk, you know, and he brings me literature, you know, and he stopped and got me stuff I asked him to at the store, you know? He took me downtown to a medical appointment. We had a good time, you know? And, you know, it's a pleasure having him as my nurse, and I'm really glad, and I'll flatter the shit out of him. I'll be able to work him for more things, too, you know. So, we have to do jobs and just think what we can, like, get off of Scott before he leaves.
When one looks as pathetic as I usually do, it brings out the best and worst in people. Either they detest you or they want to help you. The vast vast majority of people treated us well.
One little girl wanted to give me a dollar. And her mother gave her a dollar and said, "Be very polite to this gentleman and call him over," and she said, "Sir. Sir. Mister Bum." Another time a lady calls me over to her vehicle and says, "My son has something he wants to say to ya." Little boy, maybe six, seven. She says, "Go ahead and talk to him." He says, "Sir, I asked Jesus Christ to give you a house." I was done. Done. That was it for me for the day.
I have a subscription to the Economist, one of your intellectual type magazines, not as entertaining as the New Yorker might be. I have some popular literature to read. Usually I have good religious literature. I always have my Bible right with me.
[Do you miss anything from being on the streets? Or, is it all just good riddance?] It’s good riddance. I miss one thing. Guy Thompson. I love that man. You know what I'm saying? When I think about Guy you know what comes to mind? That old song. Sunshine, you are my sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. If you only knew Guy how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away. I love that man with a passion. How could two men meet at the age of 50, non-gay men, and develop as close a personal relationship, only separated by death. I miss Guy Thompson. I want my buddy. I want to be with him. Will it happen? I don't know. We are not given to know these things.
I am so thankful to god for sending an angel to me. He was my angel. I have his photo on the table. I talk to him. I get up in the morning and I still ask him for coffee. He's been dead since September. He carried me in his arms across the street, cooked my dinner. He would have wiped my ass if I needed him to.
From the day I met him we became inseparable friends. I hope and I pray that in death that we will not be separated. We were two sides to the same coin. I loved that man. I never had a better friend. I am so thankful to God for sending an angel to me. I'm in mourning. I'll wear black for the rest of my life. I consider it, with the death of my parents, the most grievous loss I have ever had in my life. There will never be another Guy Thompson. I don't know if I deserved what I had with him. If it was a fool's paradise.
There's an ancient Greek story about 2 friends Damon and Pythias. They were in a Greek city and the guy who ran the city in those days was called a tyrant. He tried his best to break up the friendship between Damon and Pythias. The gods didn't like his attempt to break up the relationship. The gods put in his mind that his life was hanging by a thread because of his treatment of these two friends. He realized that Damon and Pythias were the wealthy people and not him, even though he owned everything in the city.
Many people wanted what Guy and I had. We had nothing financially. We lived on the street. We slept outside in every kind of weather. With rats and everything else. I ended up with so much more. Many people became angry at us because they could not have that. How dare these two bums, as it were, how could these bums have this friendship? They have dick else. I had Guy Thompson. I was gifted by God with the friendship of an angel.
I'm almost 63 years old. I've only got a couple years left. If I even have that. Everyday I wake up and I'm like, "Shit, another day." About a week ago I was getting pretty upset. I know how to do this. I know what to do. I'm done, right? Then I said, "Wait a minute. I'm a Christian. Can I commit suicide?" The obvious answer is, "no." [...] On my table you see right there a brown book. That's the Holy Bible. It hasn't been more than five feet away from me in the past 20 years. I believe in the teachings of the Bible and I'm a Christian so unfortunately I'm stuck on this earth until the Lord calls me home. I want to go be with my friend.
Sometimes I need to call someone up. I need to get solace. I'll call my friend Francis and say, "Tell me everything is okay with my buddy, Guy Thompson," and she tells me, "He's in a better place than we are." I have to believe that. It better be true. Anyhow I'm just a big old pussy. I can fight like a tiger even in a wheelchair believe it or not, but I'm really a pussy and I don't know what to do with myself.
Pathways to Housing was founded by Dr. Sam Tsemberis in 1992, and is widely credited as being the originator of the Housing First model of addressing homelessness among people with psychiatric disabilities.
The Housing First model is simple: provide housing first, and then combine that housing with supportive treatment services in the areas of mental and physical health, substance abuse, education, and employment. Housing is provided in apartments scattered throughout a community. This "scattered site" model fosters a sense of home and self-determination, and it helps speed the reintegration of Pathways clients into the community.
The Pathways model has been remarkably successful in addressing chronic homelessness. Since its founding, Pathways has housed more than 600 people in New York alone, and the program maintains an 85% retention rate even amongst those individuals not considered "housing ready" by other programs.
For more information: http://pathwaystohousing.org.