A Month After It All Began

As you well know, homeless advocacy is not just about raising awareness of the homeless issue. After all, it's hard not to know it exists if you live in the city and see homeless people in the storefronts begging for change or dozens of them sitting in the park. Homeless advocacy is about getting results -- improving the lives of the homeless while they are in shelters and on the streets as well as getting them housed and changing the policies that create or perpetuate homelessness. This is true of all forms of homeless advocacy, even on-line advocacy and that which plays out in the mass media.

On December 13th, 2010 I found myself at the center of what would become a 4-week long media frenzy. It began with a Washington Post profile of me. That day I was also mentioned in the DC Express (free newspaper put out by WashPo), the Huffington Post (on-line newspaper) and did an interview on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) Radio. They all capitalized on my use of the internet to advocate for the homeless. Also on December 13th but for somewhat different reasons, I was on WAMU radio 88.5 FM and WUSA 9 News (CBS). A few days later, I was interviewed by Voice of America (twice in less than a week), MSNBC, CNN (for the 3rd time in my life) and eventually a second time by WUSA 9 (this time comparing me to TED WILLIAMS).

All of this raises the questions: "What has come out of all of this media attention?" and "Are we any closer to ending homelessness?" The answer to the latter question is "Yes, but not much". The former question takes a bit longer to answer:

A couple of my lady friends expressed discontent with the media coverage of my homeless advocacy (including the one who bought me the laptop that has been shown on a couple of the newscasts). Each one knows that I am about speaking truth to power and confronting the system with all of its injustices. However, they claim that the news coverage focused too much on me the individual and not enough on how others and I work together to combat these injustices.

One friend was so upset that I contacted NATHAN ROTT, the writer of the Washington Post article. He said what I already knew -- that the editor cut about half of his article away. (He handed in a 90" article which was cut to 47".) He also explained that political views get edited out of articles that are not actually about politics; because, many readers get turned off by politics being woven into a "feel-good" story.

That, of course, means that the media won't ever give the full story on my homeless advocacy. They'll tell of an exceptional homeless person who helps other homeless people (or one who has a "radio voice"), but won't discuss the government policies that create and perpetuate homelessness or what the "homeless homeless advocates" are doing to reverse those policies. but, for what it's worth, I'll keep talking to the media with the hope that this will change.

I called my mother on Christmas. She explained that she had been listening to the radio a few days earlier when the commentator on 97.3 FM mentioned Washington, DC. She then said, "As soon as he began to talk about Washington, DC, I said 'I know he's going to say something about Eric.'...and he did." She also explained that what he said wasn't good but it was only the commentator speaking. My mother was quite supportive of what I do to help the homeless and said that she, a public speaker, is waiting for someone to call her directly to talk about me and looks forward to the day when she might have to come to DC on my behalf and talk about the love of Christ -- like a mother/son tag team.

Though American media avoids covering the political aspects of what my associates and I do, the same is not true about foreign media. The Washington Post article was translated into numerous languages and published in many countries, including but not limited to Brazil, Italy, Argentina, Serbia, the UK, Korea and Australia. (I know this because I've gotten e-mails and/or Facebook messages from these and other countries.) And it has led to me educating other countries about American politics. People in other countries are under the false notion that the wealth of America's rich and of the government will trickle down to the poor -- that "the rising tide lifts all boats". I now have the honor and the privilege of telling them the TRUTH, thanks to the internet and the fact that I now have about 8,000 more contacts than I had on December 12th, 2010.

I was recently contacted by a man in Kenya who works with the homeless there. He needed computers on which to train them. as it turns out, I have a friend whose job takes him to Kenya every few months. He may be able to bring some computers when he goes back. It's good to know that my ability to help people doesn't stop at the border. However, I must acknowledge the fact that I work with many others and don't do it alone.

So, one month after it all began, I still have hundreds of unanswered Facebook messages. I have almost 500 friend requests on one of my two pages which I can't "confirm"; because, I'm at the maximum of 5,000 friends. I've begun a fan page (Homeless Homeless Advocate Eric Jonathan Sheptock). I'm working on the "OFF THE STREATS" campaign, because someone who saw me in the news reached out to me with a business venture. I'm spending long hours going to meetings and then getting on the computer so as to blog, e-mail and use Facebook as well as Twitter (sometimes waking at 6 AM and lying down at midnight). That said, I find myself buried in my work. At any rate, there's never a dull moment.

One might ask if all of this recent activity has had any affect on my homeless advocacy going forward. It has. I've reached my limit as to how much I can do. Large numbers of people have begun to look to me to help them. Though I've almost always worked with other advocates, it's now imperative that I put more effort into recruiting additional advocates. The harvest is plentiful; but, the laborers are few. However, I'm optimistic that we can and will take the fight for housing to new heights.

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


Paladin.Walker said…
As I said on FB, Thank you Eric for all you are doing, and thanks to those you're working with as well. One day there will be an end to homelessness, I just hope it is within my lifetime.

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