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Sidewalks and Shelters

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SIDEWALKS AND SHELTERS

Sidewalks and Shelters

Anil Yesudas

North Park University

MA in Community Development

Submitted to: Professor Cynthia Milsap

June 29, 2010

Abstract

This is a study on homelessness to develop possible pro poor interventions for housing rights. The thoughts contained in this study, are those learned during my experience at the homeless shelters, city sidewalks and while working towards housing rights. Observing my late brother Rajeev John George (also known as Raju) had helped to shape, much of my thinking towards housing rights. My experiences in shelters and sidewalks have helped to set aside my past elite attitudes and have molded me towards a pro poor mindset. Much of what is written in this study is in first person, because it is an account of my personal journey and learning on the shelters and sidewalks. The purpose of this study is to encourage rethinking issues surrounding homelessness and possible interventions and advocacy roles that community leaders can take towards housing rights.

Acknowledgement

Due credit goes to my wife Christina, my daughter Faith, and my son David who tolerated my absence from home as I apply the Incarnational Principle towards Housing Rights Activism and Interfaith Activism. Thanks also to my in-laws who have extended much support.

I have learnt much through MACD faculty and classmates with whom I was able to interact and fine-tune my thought process.

Much of my learning has shaped on the sidewalks and shelters, which continue to be my classroom, where I learn directly from my friends who continue to struggle with homelessness.

Thanks to Sushil George, my elder brother, who laboriously compiled the life history of my late younger brother, Rajeev.

I am much indebted to my guide, Cynthia Milsap, my faculty thesis advisor, who directed me through this journey.

I dedicate this portfolio to my younger brother, late Rajeev John George (1970-2005), whose pro-poor action oriented lifestyle is stamped forever in my memory.

Preface

The following is the outline of the chapters contained in this study. The first chapter gives a brief introduction of my background and mindset.

The second chapter explains my plan for voluntary homelessness, for a specific period of time. It deals with how the idea germinated in my mind, and it also states my initial expectations out of this lifestyle of voluntary homelessness.

The third chapter describes some of my experience on the sidewalks of Kalamazoo downtown.

The fourth chapter contains the notes in my diary that I penned during my stay in the shelter homes.

In the fifth chapter I share some of my memories and thoughts that crossed my mind in the shelter home environment.

The sixth chapter contains some of the stories, of the people that I encountered in shelter homes, and on the sidewalks, some of whom have become my personal friends. It also contains stories of those, who struggle shoulder to shoulder with the homeless. The names of my friends who struggle with homelessness have been changed to protect their identity.

The seventh chapter contains brief information on KHAN Kalamazoo Homeless Action Network, a grassroots level social action group that fights for the rights of the homeless people.

The eighth chapter contains the history and formation of an advocacy group of which I had the privilege to be a founding member.

The ninth chapter outlines a sketch of the life of my younger brother, late Rajeev John George (1970 2005), who has been the source of my inspiration and motivation to choose housing rights among all the other social concerns that I could have taken up. The information contained in chapter nine has been compiled by Sushil George, by elder brother, in conjunction with my younger brother late Rajeev John George.

The tenth chapter, is on Reveille Agrarian Justice Union (RAJU), a not for profit organization that I have formed in memory of my younger brother, late Rajeev John George.

The eleventh chapter is a cursory view of the expert opinion on some of the activists and organizations that have thought long and hard on issues related to homelessness.

The twelfth chapter is a pointer towards the thought of evaluation of old paradigm and a possible shift towards a new paradigm. This chapter outlines my openness towards possible shift in my thinking and some of the major old and new thoughts that has gripped my mind.

The thirteenth chapter briefly mentions the change in my thinking as I walked along on the sidewalks and slept in shelter homes.

Contents

1. Into the mold of an activist...Page 7

2. The Plan for Voluntary Homelessness.Page 10

3. Walking on the SidewalksPage 14

4. Sleeping in the SheltersPage 27

5. Shelters and Sidewalks, some memories.Page 45

6. Some Stories of Struggle..Page 53

7. Kalamazoo Homeless Action Network (KHAN).....Page 82

8. People United to Secure Housing (PUSH)...Page 87

9. Rajeev John George, Life sketch of a Housing Rights Activist...Page 94

10. Reveille Agrarian Justice Union (RAJU).....Page 145

11. A Cursory View on Expert Opinion.Page 147

12. Rethinking Paradigm....Page 152

13. Finally Friends..Page 161

Chapter 1

Into the Mold of an Activist

I was born in India on 24-Dec-1968, to my parents, George and Jane David. I was raised in a middle class religious family in India. I have many interesting memories of growing up with my elder brother, Sushil, and my younger brother, Rajeev. It was in 1999 that I first came to Chicago to join my wife, Christina. My educational background and experience had allowed me to have comfortable jobs at the pharmaceutical firms.

It was in 2003 that my job took me to a pharmaceutical firm at Kalamazoo, MI. While I did have a secular job, I already considered myself as an interfaith activist. I was negotiating with my church if they could endorse me as their commended worker. With my spiritual bent of mind I was contemplating to resign from my job in the pharmaceutical field to work as a commended worker on the full time faith basis in the spiritual field.

A commended worker through my church meant that while they would endorse my work, I would not be a paid employee either of the church of any para-church organization. Once I become a commended worker, my sustenance would come as small monetary gifts, without solicitation, from individuals or organizations that value my work. In our circle this lifestyle is called living a life on faith basis. All appeals or solicitation for personal sustenance is discouraged. We make appeals, for all our needs, directly to God. I came from a background where my maternal grandparents were commended workers on a full time faith basis. Also, I grew up in a family where my parents were commended workers on a full time faith basis. I knew that things could be much unpredictable and tough in that lifestyle. However, I was seriously in communication with my local church, Woodside Bible Chapel in Maywood, IL, for entering into such a lifestyle. I was willing to serve God and community, in richness or in poverty. It is a life of a possible voluntary poverty.

When I was considering becoming a commended worker in 2004, I happened to meditate on the story of Jesus Christ, when He was asked the question What is the greatest commandment? Interestingly Jesus answers that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength. However, what surprised me was that Jesus did not stop there. Although the question demanded just one commandment, Jesus goes on to say that, and the second is this, love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus gives out two instead of just one commandment. Not only that, Jesus goes on to give the parable of the Good Samaritan to explain the second commandment. The first commandment pointed vertically towards God, and the second pointed horizontally towards the community. While meditating on this I was convinced that when I come out as a commended worker on a full time faith basis, I would balance my efforts between both spiritual and the social action.

Much influenced with my Dad, George David, I had borrowed from him the idea of focused approach. As an interfaith activist I was focusing on fostering harmony and reciprocal dialogue between the Hindus and Christians.

I knew that I could not resolve all the social problems of the whole world, but I did know that I could possibly focus of a specific social issue to make a small impact in my lifetime. After much thought, because of the influence of my younger brother, Rajeev John George (1970 2005), I decided to become a housing rights activist.

I was endorsed as a commended worker, from my local church in November 2004. Later I resigned from the pharmaceutical line of work and I started my life as a full time faith basis worker on March 31, 2006, concentrating as an interfaith activist and a housing rights activist.

My name was Anil George. It was during late 2005, that I officially changed my name to Anil Yesudas. My last name Yesudas, means A bond servant of Jesus. My dad had used Yesudas as his pen name, for several for his articles and booklets that he wrote.

Chapter 2

The Plan for Voluntary Homelessness

It was sometime in mid 1992, when my younger brother, Rajeev John George, (also known as Raju) came to stay in the same hostel, called Johari Hostel, in a large city called Indore, in India. In that year I was supposed to graduate from my pharmacy studies. My younger brother, Raje