Feb 8, 2006

A Few Days In The Life Of A Homeless Toledoan

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Photos by historymike

(Toledo, OH) Major Goodlow is upfront about the reasons behind his homelessness.

“What it really comes down to is that I have a problem with disobedience,” he said. “I know that I shouldn’t be doing certain things, but I wind up doing them anyways.”

Among those disobedient behaviors was a decision years ago that Major made to try crack cocaine.

“I was a star fullback and nose tackle on my high school football team, and the last person you would think would get into crack,” he said. “Then one day I tried smoking it at a party, and my life has never been the same since.”

Major is 37, and just celebrated his birthday inside the Cherry Street Mission, Toledo’s oldest and busiest homeless shelter. Originally from Providence RI, Major moved to Toledo with his parents in the 1980s.

As a child Major was surrounded by family members who sold drugs.

“My parents did not approve of it, but drugs were everywhere and there were a lot of members of my family who used and sold,” he said. “I’m not making excuses, but the real surprise was that it took so long before I tried drugs.”

After high school Major spent many years working as an auto mechanic.

“I worked at a lot of those oil and lube places,” he said. “I was a manager for quite a few years of one place.”

Major’s drug use seemed to go in cycles.

“I would swear I would never touch that shit again, and I could go for two years without touching it,” he said. “And then I would back into someone and the thing would start all over again.”

One of the worst parts about addiction, for Major, was his entry into criminal behavior.

“The way I supported my habit was through shoplifting,” he said. “There’s like a network that develops, and somebody tells you the item they want – like a leather coat – and you go into a store and steal it.”

This activity caused Major to be convicted of petty theft.

“I had never really been in trouble before, and then I thought: ‘I am now a criminal,’” he said. “When you start using hard drugs you lose your self-respect and find yourself doing things you could never imagine you would do.”

Major has a wife, and he has been married about three years.

“My wife finally reached the point where she couldn’t live with me using any more,” he said. “When she left me I hit rock bottom.”

Major and his wife are trying to work out the problems associated with his drug use; he is currently about six months into his current stretch of sobriety.

“I love her so much, and I tell myself: ‘You love her! Why do you keep doing this?’” he said. “I want to get back together, but she is not ready to completely trust me.”



The Cherry Street Mission

Founded in 1947 the Cherry Street Mission provides shelter, meals, and services to hundreds of Toledo’s homeless men and women. The 26-bed facility for women is called the Sparrow’s Nest, and it is expanding to a total of 52 beds.

The Mission served over 80,000 meals in 2005, and has 110 beds for men.

“We try to never turn anyone away, though,” said Reverend Dan Rogers. “We have mats that can be rolled out when we exceed the number of available beds.”

Funding for the Mission is an ongoing struggle, and Rogers said that people tend to forget about the year-round need for support.

“We get a burst of donations around the holidays when people are in a giving mood,” he said. “But we hope that people will remember us throughout the year.”

One of the most important sources of support comes in the form of food.

“We had a budget last year of just $20,000 for meals,” said Rogers. “But through the generosity of area restaurants and merchants we managed to prepare those 80,000 meals and stay within our budget.”

Major said that the prepared meals are not necessarily gourmet food, but they are enough to keep a person alive for another day.

“Look, I’m grateful for anything they give us,” he said, adding that the morning’s meal was one pancake and two link sausages. “But people think we are down here living like kings, and that is definitely not the case.”

Feeding and sheltering the homeless is only part of the work of the Cherry Street Mission.

“We try to get everyone that comes through our doors to make a commitment to our rehabilitation programs,” Rogers said. “We recently conducted an audit, and found that 74% of the men who completed the program avoided falling back into homelessness after one year.”

Major hopes to be among those successful graduates in 2006.

“I want this to be my last time making this place my home,” he said.



Life On Toledo’s Streets

One of the biggest difficulties for Major has been the availability of crack in the area around the mission.

“You can find it anywhere, but there are houses all around this place that sell it,” he said. “For people who are struggling with addiction it’s even harder to stay clean when you know that the drug is right around the corner.”

Being on the streets also means that homeless people are in danger of assault.

“If you are walking by yourself around here, you might as well expect to get robbed,” he said. “We also have problems with local gangsters who have an initiation ritual of attacking homeless people. They come flying up the street on bikes and beat on you for fun.”

Even the mission itself is not necessarily a haven from violence.

“Sometimes guys come in here drunk, high, or just angry,” he said. “There are fights all the time, even though they screen everyone before they get in here.”

Denny Hartman, assistant director of men’s ministries for the Mission, is one of those responsible for checking in the men at night.

“We won’t let anyone in who we believe to be a problem,” he said, waving a hand-held metal detector over men entering the facility. “But even though we keep a close watch, sometimes fights still break out.”

There was a fairly long line of men entering the shelter on this night; Hartman pointed out that many of the men work jobs.

“Many people think that ‘homeless’ means ‘lazy’ or ‘bum,’ but a lot of these guys are working jobs,” he said. “They are working to get back into having their own place again.”

Having to accept charity was one of the hardest things for Major, who said that it “almost killed him” to have to go to a shelter.

“My mother was the one who encouraged me to go to the shelter,” he said. She knew that I needed help, but I could have never seen myself doing that, sinking that low.”

Major’s mother passed away over the holidays, and he believes that there may be something hopeful in a time of mourning.

“When she died, a part of me realized that I have to get serious about changing my life,” he said, adding that he traveled to Rhode Island for the funeral. “Maybe this was a sign from God to wake me up.”

This is a two-part series examining homelessness in Toledo, and also appears in this week's Toledo Free Press. Next Week: "Breaking The Cycle Of Homelessness.".

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a sad story, Mike.

Petrograde

Kathy said...

Thanks for giving me the link to this story - and for stopping by my blog. I look forward to reading the rest of it in the paper, but I should mention the link to the Toledo Blade didn't work.

Did you catch the series about homelessness that the LA Times ran several months ago? It was very compelling and eye-opening. Senior citizens ended up living on the street after suffering major medical problems that bankrupted them. Very sad.

http://stonesoupmusings.blogspot.com

Carrie said...

Thanks for the link. Great post; sad stroy.

Michael said...

Mike,
I'll chime in and also say it's a very good story. But, the link is off. It still tries to go to a blogspot site:
http://historymike.blogspot.com/www.toledofreepress.com

And, Kathy: The story is in the Toledo Free Prees; not The Blade.

Did you hear about what Mitch Albom and the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries did leading up to the Super Bowl?
See about it on my blog:
http://www.mikespoints.com/archives/001268.html

If Detroit can get a program like that to help it's homeless, why can't Toledo?
Mike

Lisa Renee said...

I've done that, he just forgot to put the http infront of the link.

It is a very well done article, hopefully the second part in the series will have good news for Major Goodlow....

historymike said...

Fixed the link - sorry.

Matt_Drudge_Jr said...

What do you expect from such a stupid subhuman nigger, Mike? He's just acting in his natural state.

historymike said...

Ah, Mr. Drudge/Daughtery, how nice of you to stop by. As usual, you find a way to inject your ignorant racism into an otherwise thoughtful discussion.

Dariush said...

I was listening to a program last week called "The Infinite Mind."

The topic of the week was mental illness and one of the individuals interviewed for the show was a Ne York district court judge. A Vietnam Vet, who "lost it" after his experiences there, came home, was shunned by his family and friends, ended up on the streets, proceeded from there to prison and from there to various mental institutions.

The details, gruesome as they may be, aren't as important as the fact that he was far from alone in his predicament. A large percentage of vets coming home from Vietnam (anywhere from 10 to 20, depending on your source) ended up in at at least one (and usually all three) of these situations: homeless, incarcerated or institutionalized.

Many of those returning home from Afghanistan and (especially) Iraq are already suffering the same fate.

Furthermore, as "outsourcing" and "free trade" and "globalization" continues to spread its tentacles, and as more and more jobs become eliminated or automated, there'll be more and more people like this all over the country. People who, never in a million years, would have thought that this could happen to them.

This gentleman and those who share his fate are the human detritus left to rot on the side of the globalization superhighway -- nothing more, nothing less. One day we may all end up joining them there.

Dariush said...

"10 to 20 percent" was how that should have read in the last post. I didn't proofread closely enough before I posted.

historymike said...

And many of us are only a couple of paychecks away from homelessness, Dariush.

Add some sort of calamity (severe illness, fire) and it's easy to see how people wind up in these straights.

Addiciton, of course, is one of the quickest routes to homelessness. Major was very candid about drugs contributing to his situation.

But not all homeless people have addictions, and some are just doing the best that they can.

Stefan Schmidt said...

Ah, Mr. Drudge/Daughtery, how nice of you to stop by. As usual, you find a way to inject your ignorant racism into an otherwise thoughtful discussion.
=====

This person is an imposter but to address his points….

33% of Blacks live in poverty (as defined by law; 12.5% is the national average including all races). (http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-welfareblack.htm)

37% of Blacks collect welfare. (http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-welfareblack.htm)

The average IQ of a Black person in the USA (lower for Africa) is approximately 86 (average for Whites – 101). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_intelligence)

Blacks are responsible for almost 50% of all the violent crimes in America (12.5% of the population). (http://www.amren.com/color.pdf)

People can form their own conclusions from these statistics.

Stephanie said...

It is a sad story. I sincerely hope he'll find the help, hope and courage he needs to turn his life around.

Though, I must say, that I also hope he realizes that he became a criminal when he started taking cocaine, and not just because of the thefts.

His wife was smart to set limits. Hopefully he can use those limits to overcome this challenge and make a reunion with her possible.

historymike said...

True, Stephanie.

But I was a "criminal" at 16 for drinking, and I was a "criminal" when I spraypainted stupid stuff on an abandoned building when I was 12.

Unfortunately, crack is one of those drugs that is very seductive early on, but has the power to wreck your life.

historymike said...

Also, not that it really matters, but I would estimate the number of white to black homeless men as being at least 3:1 on the days I spent at the shelter.

Homelessness respects no color boundaries.

Stefan Schmidt said...

Homelessness respects no color boundaries.
=====

****
“The 1990 census found that slightly fewer than half of homeless in shelters and visible on the street are white, and only 36 percent are white males. Disproportionate shares of homeless are minorities. Blacks made up 40 percent of homeless in shelters for the homeless and for abused women, and those visible in street locations. Yet they comprised less than 12 percent of the U.S. population in 1990. Hispanics were 19 percent of the homeless in shelters and on the street, and 9 percent of all Americans.”
****

The article was: "Fact, fiction and homeless - Americans' perceptions about the homeless"

You can find it on this website:
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4021/is_n8_v18/ai_18538295#continue
====
Also, not that it really matters, but I would estimate the number of white to black homeless men as being at least 3:1 on the days I spent at the shelter.
=====
Yeah, it matters.
Race is far more than a ‘social construct.’ Certain races utilize a certain environment more effectively because of innate traits. Just as the differences between man and women do not stop at long hair and chest ‘size’; the difference between races do not end at skin pigmentation. Evolution has crafted us into remarkably different organisms with different capabilities; ignoring these differences is ignoring reality.

historymike said...

Your statistics, Stefan, fail to account for economic class.

Poor people of any color are more likely to have greater health issues, greater risk for addiction, and more likely to end up in the condition of homelessness.

Stefan Schmidt said...

What is your objection WNism?

What do you have against a predominately White homeland with less crime, more living space, shared values, culture and the like?

What do you have against a better public education system, better health care, and a de-monopolized media?

What do you have against the preservation of the White Western race and culture (and its homeland)?

Minorities can be peacefully coaxed from our countries. The races were never meant to be mixed (hence their presence on ‘separate’ continents) and the current ‘mixing’ will lead to the extinction of many of these races.

Sociologists have demonstrated that a group is more cohesive and productive with ‘similar’ members.

How many Black friends do you really have? Would you truly lament the absence of the colored races? How about the Jews?

Just imagine walking down a street without worrying about being mugged. Just imagine public schools that no longer lag behind Western (and even Eastern) Europe schools.

Just imagine all the slums and ghettos being replaced with neat low income housing.

There are two outcomes here: the end of the White race or the creation and the maintenance of a predominantly White homeland.

Which would you rather have?

Stefan Schmidt said...

Your statistics, Stefan, fail to account for economic class.

Poor people of any color are more likely to have greater health issues, greater risk for addiction, and more likely to end up in the condition of homelessness.
====

Did the chicken come before the egg or did the egg come before the chicken?

There is a reason why Blacks are poorer (on average) than the other races. I do not even tell you; you know the answer to this one yourself.

historymike said...

Yes: slavery, underdevelopment, and racism.

Stefan Schmidt said...

correction: I do not even have to tell you; you know the answer to this one yourself.

Stefan Schmidt said...

slavery,
====

140 years has been long enough, eh Mike?

====
Racism
=====

This is actually no longer true. Wikipedia (the same article about the average IQ’s) demonstrates that once you hold IQ’s constant the Black race does better financially than his White counterpart. Affirmative Action and other ‘reverse’ racism programs instituted by the government are to blame for this disparity.

=====
Underdevelopment
======

Now we are getting somewhere! I will need you to elaborate on this one a little more before I begin.

Stefan Schmidt said...

Oh,

How many genuine ‘racists’ do you know? I personally do not know any.

Stefan Schmidt said...

Before you pounce:

"If stating the truth means that I'm a racist, then so be it." -David Duke

Ptelea said...

Thank you for a very well written story. When I read this story I gained a better understanding of homelessness in America (with a human face). I don't feel the need to make excuses for Major Goodlow nor do I feel the need to denigrate him for the mistakes he has made or for the color of his skin. I simply wish him the best and hope he has the strength to overcome his problems.

Stephanie said...

Mike,

"But I was a "criminal" at 16 for drinking, and I was a "criminal" when I spraypainted stupid stuff on an abandoned building when I was 12."

Yes, but in the article it seemed he was saying he was a criminal for stealing, which leads to the assumption that he didn't take the criminal activity of using cocaine as seriously. While granted the addictive and destructive aspects are more poignant, in my experience with addicts the more strongly they clung to the notion that it's illegality wasn't an issue the more susceptible they were to the addiction itself.

One person I know continued using even after he went to jail and got out. His thinking was that he'd gone to jail for stealing, so he had to stop stealing. As long as he didn't get caught using it wasn't really illegal.

Now he's dedicated himself to stop using and he also admits the illegality of it matters. He told me that he couldn't really think about it being illegal (other than taking measures so that he didn't get caught) until he'd committed himself to change. Other recovering addicts I've talked to concurred with him on this, so it seems like it might be an important step in recovery.

Mrs. Phoenix said...

The solution: prevention and treatment services. No, prevention would not help this gentleman at this point of his life, but prevention could help the increasing amount of at-risk youth, especially the ever increasing amount of CSB children. But this city continues to cut and decrease grant money to public service agencies. Another population that is growing is the mentally ill, crossing into drug addiction. It is affecting our youth, and yet the public are blind as bats to demanding our public officials to fund proven programs who can deal with this population!

imightbeinatree said...

i saw that you left a comment leading here on my blog post (well mostly i just quoted what he said about homelessness) about malcolm gladwell's article, i come to your site and its rather funny to notice that your name is michael brooks, my first name is michael and my middle name is brooks. your middle name wouldn't happen to be "orr" would it?

historymike said...

Ha! Small world. Nope, my middle name is not Orr.

Glad you stopped by!

Michael said...

People like Mr. Schmidt make me laugh. Obviously, he's good for research and can find enough facts and figures to support his beliefs. There is no use debating with people like him because there is no convincing people like him.

The jist of today's world is that, for the vast part, people are free to move about where ever they please. We are a free society (generally speaking).

If the different races were truly meant to be separate and live on separate continents, then modern man would have evolved after Pangea completely split and the continents formed.

However, since I believe the most commonly accepted theories about mankind are that modern man originated in Africa (or Asia?), then the concept of separate races is not valid.
-- Mike

Stefan Schmidt said...

People like Mr. Schmidt make me laugh. Obviously, he's good for research and can find enough facts and figures to support his beliefs. There is no use debating with people like him because there is no convincing people like him.
====

This last statement is very ambiguous and (at least in my mind) can be read several different ways. Do not be afraid to be blunt; I can take it.

=====
people are free to move about where ever they please. We are a free society (generally speaking)
======

Human ingenuity has allowed for such ‘free movement’ to occur. Be mindful, however, that not all outcomes from this ‘free movement’ are positive (diseases, for example, now can travel and infect their hosts much more easily).

=======
If the different races were truly meant to be separate and live on separate continents, then modern man would have evolved after Pangea completely split and the continents formed.
========

I believe they did…..

========
However, since I believe the most commonly accepted theories about mankind are that modern man originated in Africa (or Asia?), then the concept of separate races is not valid.
=========

And why did these ‘sub- races’ evolve? Because they were isolated and thus natural selection took its course among many smaller groups instead of just one. That is why there is such diversity as of today in the Human race (and many other ‘animal’ races for that matter). Bringing them together will ‘mold’ all theses ‘races’ into one uniform ‘mush’; something WNs are against (call us conservationists).

========
Mike
========

How many ‘Mikes’ frequent this blog?

Hooda Thunkit said...

Major Goodlow's story is indeed a sad one Mike.

I hope that his new determination is enough to enable him to break the bonds of addiction.

The biggest problem facing Major isn't the physical or psychological grip that addiction has but the social aspects. He needs to find a place that distances him from the patterns of everyday life that are the crack "culture."

I wish Mr. Goodlow well...