KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Gee: ‘Nice ride bro,’ the power of kindness to the unhoused

May 12, 2023, 8:48 AM | Updated: 12:45 pm

unhoused...

(Photo by Alyssa Schukar for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

(Photo by Alyssa Schukar for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

I used to spend evenings hanging out with friends as long as I could until it was time to turn in for the night.

There was a Dick’s Drive-In right next to the apartments where I would park my vehicle. I usually ordered a Dick’s Deluxe, five or six cheeseburgers, and fries.

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Bet you’re thinking about how much I was eating, huh? Well, food was my addiction. Food is how I would cope. If I thought drugs would have been better, I would have tried that. That’s just it, when you’re unhoused, you’re not exactly in a good place, so doing things to keep your mind off reality is a great possibility.

So the next time you see someone unhoused that might be addicted to drugs, remember how I was addicted to food. Addiction is when you’re addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. What we are addicted to is subjective, and hopefully, whatever it is, we can get ahold of it before it continues the spiral.

So how did I get there? There are many reasons, but ultimately, the decisions left me close to the edge until I fell. One minute life was one way, and the next it was another.

I’d love to throw in depression here, but I had no idea I was depressed. I just figured that I was a loser and my life would continue to spiral. I’d love to blame the Great Recession, but most people I knew weren’t unhoused during that time, so what was wrong with me? I was clueless and just about done with it all.

Before I go further, I want to explain to you something I better understand after all of these years. Folks living in poverty can struggle to afford even basic necessities like food, let alone the cost of housing.

So many in this country are one missed paycheck away from being unhoused. Many individuals and families find themselves unable to pay rent or mortgage payments, leading to homelessness.

Advocacy and policy change are also essential for addressing the systemic issues contributing to homelessness, income inequality, and the lack of affordable housing.

With the little money that I was making during that time, I couldn’t afford a deposit for an apartment. Even if I did have the money, by then, I didn’t have the credit.

When you think of someone being unhoused, what do they look like to you? I’m sure you have a visual of the folks that you see, but this blog today is about those that you don’t see. I was one that you didn’t see.

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By day I was driving this vehicle, and at night this was where I laid my head. So many compliments on this car. I specifically remember one night at Dick’s before bed; these teenagers said, “Bro, nice ride!!”

I’m sure those words got me through the night. Even at your lowest, kind words can be powerful.

Now let’s talk about the many people in this country that are on the verge of homelessness.

So many don’t qualify for the help they need to sustain housing until they are without housing. I still have a hard time understanding that. Let’s help folks before they are unhoused! (Sorry for yelling there, just got a little emotional.)

So no matter how much money is spent to help those that are unhoused, there’s more on the way. Why? Because there’s a hole in the boat. We keep scooping water out with buckets (addressing homelessness), but there’s still a hole in the boat (Income inequality, unaffordable housing, medical debt, student loan debt.)

So my goal right now isn’t for you to read this and find the answers. Truthfully I don’t have them. However, I do want you to come away with a better understanding that for every person that you see unhoused, there’s even more that you don’t see. It could be a family member, a close friend, or even a co-worker. Being unhoused is not exactly something that you brag about.

I want you to remember that the person that you might see has an addiction. Remember what my addiction was? I also want you to know that even though there’s help provided through non-profit organizations, government, and others, that’s not always the answer. Former NFL player Rob Sims gave me a place to stay. I was able to stay rent-free for over a year.

Even with all of that help, I still struggled. I remember one day being in tears on the couch. Rob came in and asked what was up. I told him that I was tired of being a failure. I’ll never forget what he said. “Bro, it’s not always gonna be this way. Watch, you’re going to rise up. I believe in you.”

Rob could have given me $10,000 to leave and be out of his house. Instead, he let me live rent-free and believed in me. That felt like a million dollars. I’ll be forever grateful to Rob, and without him, I’d imagine food wouldn’t have been the only thing I would have stayed addicted to. Who knows? To be honest, I’m glad I’ll never know.

Homelessness is a complex and ongoing social issue that affects millions of people worldwide. To effectively address this problem, we must work together to identify and address the root causes of homelessness, increase access to affordable housing and healthcare, and advocate for policy changes that prioritize the well-being of all individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Only when we work together can we hope to create a world where homelessness is no longer a devastating social issue.

Let’s start with how we talk about it. They are someone. They are people. Someone loved them. Someone loves them. Even if they were never loved, they deserve empathy. No matter what we believe. Maybe they don’t have a Rob like I did, but the energy of more love towards them really can’t hurt.

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Gee: ‘Nice ride bro,’ the power of kindness to the unhoused