Book is brilliant.
Written in a manner that anyone, even a young adult could read and come away with a clear understanding of life on the streets.
I had seen a documentary about the homeless living underground in NYC and it was incredible. The characters, the sacrifice, the tragedies. It was called “Dark Days,” and it may still be on Netflix. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Days_(film)
I also passed homeless when I worked in downtown NYC. Every day at lunch I would pass this robust black woman with all her shopping carts stuffed with stuff. She was the happiest person I ever meet on the streets. Always a greeting, always a smile. One day she had all her stuff spread out on the sidewalk and I asked her what was wrong? She smiled and said she was spring cleaning. Reminded me that even in her state of life she needed to be organized and rid herself of the unnecessary. A policeman walked by, he didn’t really hassle her but he said it was illegal to set up a flea market on the street. She responded that there was no sign saying this was a flea market. He added that no yard sales or garage sales were permitted. She said “are you kidding? Does this look like my backyard? Does this look like a garage? This is a sidewalk sale…and they have those up and down Seventh Avenue all day with their tables set up with books and art.” The policeman smiled, “you got me there. Just don’t block the walk way.” I thought he was done with her but just as he started to walk away he said “you just never know what you can find at a sidewalk sale,”
and he dropped a ten-dollar bill on her blanket. After a few minutes of silence, she said to me that the cop who just came by wasn’t a full-time cop…he was an angel. Told me he brought her coffee every morning when he was on duty and talked to her. This is why I can’t tolerate it when they bad mouth policemen. They don’t know the whole story. The relationship they have with the street. This homeless woman was also not stupid. She had a stash of books and she would be seen seated on a fireplug that comes out of a building wall and she’s be reading Hemingway. And I knew she could because she would engage me in conversations about literature.
But like you mentioned in your book, I didn’t ask her where she came from. But she was educated.
LIFE Magazine did an article on a bag lady who was found dead on a 1960 subway system platform. She had two shopping carts filled with
junk. It was springtime and she was wrapped in three coats, a sweater and a scarf. When the detectives finished fishing through her personal items they found three bank books that added up to over $235,000. Her ID gave her last residence and name. It turns out that she was once a very beautiful, highly paid executive secretary at EXXON. When they went to EXXON people who remembered her said she had gone to lunch one day and never
returned. Never went home. She was reported missing by her boss. She was unmarried. The pictures of her that LIFE Magazine was able to get were astonishing. She was beautiful. They think she may have had amnesia, or a psychotic event. She had been on the streets for over a decade. I’ll never forget that story.
Me? A vagabond of a man (I don’t like to call them bums) in Port Authority approached me and asked me for money or a cigarette. I ignored him. But then, while waiting for my late bus, I went over to the newspaper stand and bought some magazines, candy, cigars and lots of stuff I really didn’t need. A saint must have tapped me on the shoulder as I turned to walk away because I realized I spent over $12 on junk after refusing a homeless man. But, my Uncle always told me not to give them money because they would only buy alcohol. Instead, I bought a pack of cigarettes, a container of coffee, a Coke, and container of soup and a kaiser roll and a donut. I waited for the police to not be looking and as I passed him seated in an alcove I said hello again. A police man did walk over but I cut him off by showing him my WABC-TV identification card — I told him I was interviewing this homeless man and to allow us 15 minutes. He said ok. I gave all the stuff to him, then just as I was a
bout to leave I gave him a cigar for a special day. He never stopped telling me how he was going to share this stuff with his buddies. That’s all that mattered to him. Sharing it. Was he sincere? He was weeping. Every time I saw that man from that day on, I would slip him a coffee, or a pack of cigarettes (that was like money on the streets). He was the most polite person I ever met. Turns out….he was a WWII veteran. The humor? He told me not to get him cold soda — hurts his teeth. This will probably be the only thing I ever did that will help me get into Heaven. Though today, because I am still unemployed in my profession, I work with Special Needs Children. That’s a story in itself.
At the end of my long poem posted here on Writing.com called “Cradle of the Infidels,” I quote a Canadian homeless man who was interviewed by a Canadian reporter in 1983 and asked him why he was the way he was, and why others like him were as well. His response was: With all their education and diplomas, current psychiatry will always fail because doctors are unable to help us forget the past
I never forgot that.
I loved your book Dennis, the art work, the language. Great piece of work.
Good luck with it. God bless the people who are in it.
Reviews from Amazon.com
Canadian author Dennis Cardiff has a heart as big as all outdoors. He seems to be a pretty selfless guy as he doesn’t provide much personal resume on which to base a beginning to read his book and he contributesa portion of the proceeds to supporting the homeless. From references within his writing it seems he lives in Toronto and spends his walk to work each day talking to the street folk he has gathered into his circle of friends.The book is a series of conversations with and about the homeless people he encounters. Cardiff is also a poet and he generously sprinkles some of his poems through out the book that spans eighteen months of experience – growth, laughter, kindness, endless biographical information, and simply people who have no home but the street seeking some sense of dignity and understanding form those who have homes.Early on in his book he lets us know how this concept originated: `2010 – How It Began – My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward the building where I work, in one of the city’s grey, concrete, office tower canyons. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against a building wall. A snow-covered Buddha, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day. In the past I’ve been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place. I was told not to give money to panhandlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, `The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?’ That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?””That would be nice,” she replied. When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed. This has become a morning routine for the past four years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.’
As a coda to this street symphony, Cardiff states: `After eighteen months of daily conversations with people living on the streets, in shelters or sharing accommodation, I have made the following observations. A full-fledged member of the street family is one who has been with the group for over ten years. Jacques and Joy are the matriarch and patriarch. Everyone else is a newbie — on probation. To gain acceptance one must be vouched for and have proven themselves not to be an *******. The group expects honesty and sincerity. That may seem strange when you consider that most of these people have prison records. Many have been involved in scams of one sort or another, but if you’re family they expect the truth. How else, they explained, can they help you? They’ll share with you what little they have, even the jackets off their back. The same is expected in return. The people who come around only when they’re in need of money, cigarettes, booze, drugs or food are soon put on notice. On check day, all debts are paid in full.’
These are the words of a man who cares, and in his caring and sharing we discover an entirely new outlook on the people whose street homes are beneath benches, in cardboard boxes, in doorways – any place that provides shelter. Dennis Cardiff brings them into our hearts. Grady Harp, July 14
I have been very fortunate in my life to have traveled extensively throughout the world, and have also lived in Chicago, a city known for its homeless population and rampant issues of people living below the poverty line. I have seen thousands of street people in my life, but it wasn’t until I was considerably older that I began to genuinely consider what their lives might have been like. It is so easy to dismiss homeless people, as though they blend into the background of a city, like breathing architecture. This is a terrible viewpoint that hundreds of millions of people around the world share in some way.This book was a tremendous achievement and I have to stand up and applaud Cardiff for not only seeing the value in pursuing this subject, but approaching it in such a unique and eye-opening way. This book will absolutely change the way that you live your daily life and will certainly change your perspective on those less fortunate. He exposes the personality of his characters, befriends them, helps them, reveals the depth of their struggle, and acquits some of them of the unjust judgments that they have surely experienced for decades. Although it feels terrible to say, “I loved this book”, given how emotionally charged and challenging it was at times, I can’t deny it. Cardiff is a bold and passionate author who is choosing to use his gifts for the betterment of the people he has come to know as friends. Hopefully everyone that reads this book will re-draw the lines in the sand when it comes to their beliefs on homelessness – If we want to improve society, we will have to do it ourselves. Reading this book and opening your eyes is the right way to start.
Dennis Cardiff’s Gotta Find a Home doesn’t just put a human face on street people; it invites non-street people like me to wear a human face too. Short chapters grouped into months offer a diary of life walking the streets, as the author travels to and from work, helps in a food kitchen, and takes time to chat. Sometimes a gentle poem will lighten the mood—“I want to see your smile each day/A memory – it just won’t do.” Sometimes he offers the background story of one of the people he’s met. And sometimes readers are simply asked to listen to voices of strangers not so different from the rest of us; people who live in apartments, struggle with rent, read books, sometimes drink too much, may have suffered abuse in the home or in jail, may have children, grandchildren even, and might like a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast today.Joy isn’t always joyful, but the author’s writing shares his delight when she is. The dog might bite. The law’s long arm might threaten. Tempers can flare. And yes, this friend might drink too much, that one take drugs, another make foolish financial r social choices. But these people are friends with loyalties and an oddly different sort of hope. Cold in winter, it angers them if someone freezes to death. It should anger us too.“I’ve been sober for two days now.” Sounds good. “I’m on the second floor of the Salvation Army.” But even shelter life isn’t easy, and fear of crowds might keep a friend away. Meanwhile the author doesn’t judge; he just joins in, like an outsider gaining entry to the family. He finds a willing ear to listen to his worries, as he listens to theirs. Then worlds that might seem far apart grow closer than we think. And I read his blog to learn who’s still alive and who is gone.Gotta Find a Home is a must-read memoir of real people, real needs, real streets, and a real world we too easily ignore. So go read it!
Disclosure: I was hooked on the blog, signed up for a giveaway, and was given a copy of this book. Thank you Dennis, and I offer my honest review.
The author has done a great job allowing us a glimpse into these peoples lives, and experiences.
By Shb on June 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
5.0 out of 5 stars ~ By Karen on June 6, 2014