Missions Accomplished.....And Those Yet To Be Accomplished

We all still have etched into our minds the vision of former president George W. Bush standing on a ship under a banner that reads,"Mission Accomplished". Seven years later, he is still mocked and ostracized for that speech as the Iraq War rages on. Then there is the photo of Bush flying over New Orleans and looking so distant as people suffered below. Thus, he continues to be talked about for his failures -- both foreign and domestic. Some would argue that he actually DID accomplish his mission in New Orleans by willfully ignoring people whom he considered to be second-class citizens who were unimportant.

This raises questions about the mission of any and all modern-day U.S. presidents and members of Congress. As a self-proclaimed Theistic Marxist, I see crapitalism and its kissing cousin named corporatism as the causes of many of our nation's societal ills. that said, I firmly believe that the governments of our nation DO have an over-arching mission and that each respective government also has its specific goals. That makes it imperative for us as American citizens to stop seeing the laws and policies that are created by government as separate initiatives and to see the big picture. And you don't have to be a Marxist to see that our nation's leaders worship the almighty dollar and look down on the have-nots. I'm inclined to believe that the powers that be are willfully ignoring the poor and the homeless in this the richest nation on Earth, hoping that we'll just shut up and go away. We can't allow this mission to be accomplished.

Then there is the media. They've covered the homeless issue extensively in recent months -- partly because homelessness is becoming a grim reality for an ever-increasing number of Americans and partly because they are finding a few of the many talented and exceptional homeless people that there are. I've done many news interviews and the reporter always asks, "How is it that someone as articulate and gifted as you can be homeless?" I've also had to defend myself against accusations of being homeless by choice. They seem to be willing to ask me the types of tough questions that they SHOULD be asking the president and members of Congress. It's not that I mind answering such questions; because, I don't. Nonetheless, I'm often left to wonder whether the media's mission is to compliment the homeless advocacy of someone who is himself homeless, educate the public about the homeless issue or ostracize me for "failing to do better for myself". It's probably a mixture of all three.

Regardless of what the media intends to do, the primary mission of my homeless advocacy is to educate the general public about the homeless issue until large numbers of my "students" figure out what they are able to do in their respective locales and they begin to take action so as to end homelessness. A couple of lady friends recently told me that my message wasn't coming across very well -- that the media was editing out the most important aspects of my message and making it seem as though I just enjoyed being in the lime light. One of them said that, even though my blogs and on-line accounts like Facebook and Twitter are mentioned, I should still say something about the goal of my homeless advocacy (which I always DO say) -- and tell them not to edit it out. Otherwise I may be ostracized and disliked by viewers who received the wrong message due to the media's antics and over-editing.

I've said much about missions that have yet to be accomplished. But, as it turns out, there have been some successes. The media has told people about my success at getting DC Government to perform needed repairs on the government buildings that are used as shelters. They've also mentioned my success at stopping a particular police officer from harassing homeless women from the Open Door Shelter. These are a couple of small victories that others and myself have enjoyed. But they are only representative of a much larger pool of small successes that other local advocates and I have had.

Just over a year ago, I was also instrumental in getting people from the National Academy of Sciences to fix the dozen computers in the computer lab of the CC NV (Community for Creative Non-Violence) Shelter, where I stay. Furthermore, they go to that computer lab M-F, 11 AM-1 PM and help dozens of homeless people to type resumes and fill out on-line job applications. As a result of my more recent media exposure, I was contacted by someone who works with the homeless in Kenya. He wanted to know if I could get computers for the homeless in his country. I connected him to a friend of mine who travels to Kenya on a regular basis as part of his job. That friend is working on getting computers to bring back on his next trip there. As you can see, much of what I do is to simply connect people who are able to help each other, after which I don't need to remain an active part of their interaction.

Following my most recent wave of media exposure, I was contacted by Global Flying Hospitals and its subsidiary Global Shelter Group and asked to become their paid spokesperson. My fellow-advocates and I are presently working on a campaign to bring the "Dome Home" -- a 320 sq. ft. fiberglass igloo -- to DC as an interim solution to homelessness.

What I consider to be a more sizeable success is the increase in the public interest in the homeless issue. It has enabled me to address stereotypes about the homeless -- which other advocates I work hard to do as we speak at various high schools, colleges and churches through the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). I sometimes find myself explaining to people from other countries how it is that a person can be homeless in the richest country in the world, yea even the capital of that country. There's reason to believe that such conversations could culminate in numerous other countries exerting tremendous pressure on the U.S. Government to house its homeless -- beginning with those in Washington, DC. That's a worthy mission, by all means.

I've referred to the successes of other homeless advocates and myself as "small" for a reason. These successes have helped to sustain people who are homeless, but has yet to end homelessness on a large scale. (I've actually assisted at least a half dozen people in acquiring housing, but remain homeless myself.) What we've done so far (and what governments in this nation have done for the homeless) amounts to putting a band-aid on a tumor. Our fight is not over. We've only just begun. our successes don't give us reason to live off of our laurels, but rather, serve as examples of the bigger things that can be done if we stay the course.

So, let us not make the same errors as former (thank God) president George W. Bush by proclaiming "Mission accomplished" or by neglecting those in need. Instead, let us take heart and take part in effectively ending homelessness. Let us draw on the many resources of this nation so as to end what is essentially a gross injustice being perpetrated on the poor and dispossessed of the U.S.

Eric Jonathan Sheptock
Cell phone: (240) 305-5255
425 2nd St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-2003

Comments

Anonymous said…
Unless you are misrepresenting yourself in the media and in your writing, you are choosing to be homeless. You have said, explicitly, that you would not and will not accept a 9-5 job unless it is in the field of homeless advocacy- and even then, it would have to allow you to continue your work in the way you, not the company, choose and see fit.

On behalf of the millions of Americans that work jobs we're not crazy about... this is life. Most of us would be homeless if we refused to take a job that was not our dream job/first choice. Most of us would rather be able to advocate for others or blog about our passion, but are, alas, confined to our cubicles or work stations so that we can provide for ourselves, our families, and our homeless brothers and sisters who are unable to work or currently unable to find work. We use our evenings, weekends, and lunch hours to pursue issues about which we are passionate.

If you take the Kantian imperative and examine what would happen if every American behaved in this manner... walked out of their jobs to follow/lead a mission- albeit a good one, and relied on others who are working and earning a paycheck to foot the bill... you can see that would be disastrous.

While you live in a country and in a city that affords you this freedom, it is important to acknowledge your own choice in the matter, too- to be honest with those who look to you for objective information. I am not one who believes you are lazy- I think you work really hard and are very dedicated to the cause. But you are also making a conscious choice, and to deny that is doing a great disservice to the homeless men and women you serve who are trying really hard to earn enough money to move out of the streets and out of the shelter- those who are not choosing homelessness.
Safe Haven said…
Eric, I have scores of homeless people 5 miles from DC who are in need of email addresses, resume help, etc. Can you offer any assistance?
Eric Sheptock said…
In response to the anonymous accusation that I choose to be homeless:

I choose to end homelessness by addressing the systemic problems that create and/or perpetuate it. I can't effectively do that while operating within the established framework of our society. As a Theistic Marxist, I see fit to change the system. It, therefore, stands to reason that I wouldn't function WITHIN the system. Homelessness is the logical RESULT of my choice to help the homeless.

Thank you for acknowledging my hard work. I should point out that several opportunities have begun to present themselves. I might soon make a living wage as a homeless advocate. All of the publicity may have, in effect, employed me. I will soon begin to get paid by the OFF THE STREATS campaign. I may also begin to speak across the nation for the National coalition for the Homeless. Other paying endeavors have also presented themselves as a result of the media coverage. Stay tuned.
Eric Sheptock said…
Safe Haven,

What city are you located in? Most of my local contacts actually live and/or work in DC. However, I know a few people from the burbs. If you contactr me via e-mail (ericsheptock@yahoo.com), I can hook you up with a friend who has the capacity to organize people from his church to pick up the homeless folk you speak of and bring them to DC for a day of e-mail account and resume building. His name is Andre Hill. Feel free to call me @ 240-305-5255.
Anonymous said…
But it's a choice, nonetheless... you haven't been able to refute that, only to provide context and reasoning for your choice.

Again, if you're a Marxist I see why you feel this way, but living homelessness is certainly not the only way to work to end the cycle... social workers, policy makers, advocates, and other social services professionals do this every day. Many would argue that you are proving that the techniques or organizations that you are supporting are ineffective since you are their main spokesperson. Just some food for thought...

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