"It is likely that you see a person experiencing homelessness almost every day, and yet, how much do you really know about what causes homelessness and the people who live through it?"
These are the words that greet me when I land on the Learn About Homelessness section of the Chicago Coalition for the Homelessness website. The organization continues:
"Homelessness is clouded by stereotypes, false assumptions, and untruths."
As I read this last sentence, I start to question my own possibly false assumptions about homelessness. I'm doing some background reading to prepare for the book discussion I'm leading on Thursday, November 12th at 7:30 p.m. The book is Breakfast at Sally's: One Homeless Man's Inspirational Journey by Richard LeMieux, which was selected as the book of the year for adults by the Suburban Mosaic organization, which the Des Plaines Public Library has been proud to participate in for several years now. Although I was pleased that Suburban Mosaic wants to illuminate the lives of the homeless, I wondered about the choice of Breakfast at Sally's. Specifically, the choice of a book written by a formerly homeless man who prior to becoming homeless owned his own business, "several luxury cars," three boats and more. Would it have been more appropriate, I wondered, to select a book by or about a "typical" homeless person.
Looking at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless website, I realized I really know very little about the homeless, and that perhaps there is no such thing as a "typical" homeless person.
Maybe that's why filmmaker Patrick Hennessey, producer and director of The Homeless Home Movie, chose to film five very different homeless people over the course of a year, from a 15-year-old runaway to a weathered Vietnam veteran, as well as a man who was bankrupted following his daughter's struggle against leukemia. It's a frequently poignant and complex look at homelessness that also portrays two very different advocates for the homeless: one who runs a traditional religious and charitable organization that offers temporary assistance, and one who has created a grassroots organization that organizes demonstrations and take-overs of HUD homes. Recommended by the National Coalition for the Homeless, you can view and discuss this provocative movie on Sunday, November 22nd at 1:30 p.m. Click here to register or call 847-376-2788.
Although the subtitle of Breakfast at Sally's is One Homeless Man's Inspirational Journey, the book is about more than just one man: it's also about the other homeless people LeMieux came to know and care about. In the introduction, LeMieux recalls being asked, as he was writing the book, what it was about. "Well, I'm not really sure. . . . Homeless people, I think. People I've met--interesting people. People living, laughing, crying, struggling--people dying." In short, it's about people whose circumstances may be different than our own, but whose humanity is not. Click here to register for the book discussion or call 847-376-2840. You can also register and pick up the book at the 3rd floor Readers' Services desk.
If you are interested in helping the homeless, PADS to HOPE "serves individuals in northwest suburban Cook County who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless." You can learn about PADS to HOPE including volunteer opportunities, how to make a donation etc. by clicking here.
If you are currently homeless, perhaps reading this at the library, click here to learn about the many services offered by the HOPE center, located in Palatine. Click here to view a list of PADS emergency shelters, which are located throughout the northwest suburban area.
To learn more about the Suburban Mosaic organization, which promotes cultural understanding through literature, book discussions, and other programming, visit the Suburban Mosaic website.