A afternoon spent learning about homelessness
I was honoured to spend the afternoon with Alfonzo, he is a homeless guy who lives in Hollywood. We had lunch together and he helped me put out some kind notes around.
It was really nice to be able to talk and ask deep questions that I usually wouldn't ask people I just meet. However, since our time was limited and I felt safe and comfortable in him company, I got brave.
I wanted to know how, he ended up on the street and why he can't get back up especially when he is not on drugs or dependent on alcohol.
He was a nice guy, clean and well spoken. The longer we were together the braver I got with my questions, I was sad that I didn't get our conversation recorded, we had planned to do an interview on camera but time didn't allow in the end.
I was mostly intrigued how Alfonzo kept himself clean. He explained that he pays a gym membership fee of $20/month and he goes and showers and take care of himself there. He really valued being clean and not letting himself go, he had a thing about clean socks.
I wanted to know how he makes money, as honesty was his next value. I loved his answers. He said he noticed that tourists are always struggling to understand the metro/subway so he offers help and people tip him (rarely) but he loves helping others. He helps people take pictures at the Hollywood walk of fame but people usually think he might steal their camera (He took all the pictures of me above) occasionally he sings on the train but again people do not usually tip.
I asked how much he made a day and a good day $10 or $50 on a really great day. Usually people are rude and unkind when he offers to help them. I wanted to know roughly out of 100 people how many were rude and he said 70% if not more.
I wanted to know how he kept positive and showing up everyday without turning to drugs or other things. He put it well! Don't ever let other people's bad behaviour piss on your camp fire. Don't ever let other people's attitude towards you, make you hate yourself! Wow that's deep.
He explained that he doesn't sleep at homeless shelters as there is usually some sort of drama going on and he didn't feel safe there. He stays awake all night then sleeps on the train but it's not restful sleep, he told me. He explained that he felt safe during rush hour on the subway, this is where he slept for a couple of hours each morning.
I took him out to lunch and he had a choice of going to any restaurant. He said he loved Mexican food so we went for a Mexican.
In the 1st picture with his eyes closed, he was saying a prayer to thank God for bringing a ray of light in his life today in the form of my time, he doesn't get to speak to many people and today was a rare treat.
We ate, we told life stories and we laughed. He was great company, he said he was really tired and asked if I could watch over him while he slept. I had some work to do so, I let him sleep for 2hours, then it was time to say good bye.