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“Do You Have A Home?”

May 26, 2015 Downtown, Featured, Homeless, Steve Patterson 7 Comments

Living at 16th & Locust is very convenient to the downtown central business district (CBD), central library, city hall, numerous MetroBus lines, Washington Ave nightlife, etc.  It’s also very close to where many of the region’s homeless hang out — not a problem for me. In fact, when I’m out in my wheelchair I’m often mistaken as homeless. My white middle-class neighbors ignore me on the sidewalk, church groups passing out food from car trunks/vans offer me a meal, the homeless ask me if I have a cigarette or light.

Part of it is that I rarely dress to impress, shorts/faded jeans  & t-shirt are common. Another is the wheelchair. My power chair is now seven years old, it’s showing its age. Still, few disabled homeless have power chairs, most use manual wheelchairs. Still, I think many assume a person in a wheelchair passing the library is a homeless person.

Students return to Lafayette Preparatory Academy from outdoor time at Lucas Park's playground, August 2013 photo
Students return to Lafayette Preparatory Academy from outdoor time at Lucas Park’s playground, August 2013 photo. Click image for school website

As is often the case I was returning home from Culinaria as grade school students were returning from recess in Lucas Park. The Locust sidewalk is narrow next to the building so I waited as they passed by, many of the kids said hello as they walked single-file past me. But one girl asked, “Do You Have A Home?” Caught off guard, I quickly replied, “Yes, a few blocks away — a nice loft.”

I didn’t expect such a question, earlier that morning I attended the ULI presentation on the Railway Exchange Building (see What To Do With 1.2 Million Square Feet In The Railway Exchange Building) — I was dressed my best that day: new jeans, white dress shirt, custom-made sport coat. Weeks later is still bothers me this little girl thought I was homeless.

A 2011 interior photo of our loft
A 2011 photo of our loft, I’ve lived here since November 2007

I do think kids raised seeing all facets of society will be better prepared for life when they go out on their own, those raised strictly within their economic class will need to adjust more as adults. I’ll likely email the staff at Lafayette Prep to inquire about their conversations with students about homelessness.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    Art Linkletter used to do a show called “Kids Say The Darndest Things”, and Bill Cosby resurrected the concept in the late ’90’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kids_Say_the_Darndest_Things . Read what you want into the question, but my wife remains amazed about what comes out of my mouth, at times, even at my age. The facts that you weren’t working a “normal” 9-5 job and that you were an adult travelling on a sidewalk, and not driving, especially in that part of town, along with your willingness to yield to the children (kudos on your good manners), probably had more to do with the “homeless” assumption/question than how you were dressed or your disability.

    • Kids today aren’t like when you were their age, they have no illusions about Ward working 9-5 M-F while June is home cleaning & cooking in pearls. Inner city kids today have parents that may work 2nd/3rd shifts.

      Downtown it’s not uncommon to see well-dressed business people walking about during the day — perhaps going to a meeting or retuning to work from lunch.

      • JZ71 says:

        I wasn’t making judgements about their parents, nor about the whether it’s “uncommon to see well-dressed business people walking about during the day” it’s an observation about context and curiosity. The students at the school are encouraged to be curious*, and I’m pretty sure that they know that there are a lot of homeless people who frequent the area, so putting the two together would not be a stretch, even for young minds.

        *from the school’s website: “We encourage curiosity and thrive from challenge.” and “Our philosophy is centered on service learning, being part of the city, and having our students draw connections from the classroom to the real-world. We believe students should be critical consumers of knowledge and problem-solvers.” and “Utilizing standards-based lessons focusing on inquiry, Lafayette Preparatory Academy’s grade school will emphasize
        the process of discovery, the important and operative facts of life and each subject area, and the necessary tools
        for creative and critical thinking. Students will grow to become confident, self-motivated learners with a thirst for
        knowledge, a burgeoning desire to solve problems, and a developing ethos for their communities and social change.”

  2. dick says:

    I just think its impressive that she cared/bothered to ask. Gives me hope. These kids, going to school in downtown STL will be much better prepared than the suburban kids at the good county school (where they will be indoctrinated into the County terror of the City). Its really sad really (for suburbanites).

    • Fozzie says:

      Good grief, Charlie Brown.

    • I agree, I love that kids feel free to ask questions. And yes, suburban kids are too often sheltered from reality.

      However, it’s the suburbs where homelessness is increasing among families: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140727/news/140728766/

      • Mark-AL says:

        Whose reality? Suburban kids know a different “reality” than do urban kids.It ain’t necessarily peachy on either side of the line of demarcation. “Sheltered” (in your context) suggests that suburban kids are blind to the realities of urban life.That’s just not necessarily the case. They may never have gone hungry, personally observed a murder or personally know someone who was murdered, may not have three brothers fathered by three different “gentlemen callers”–but if the suburban kids are well-informed and well-educated–encouraged to be well-read– and are blessed to have parents who don’t attempt to shield them from the realities of life, then they’re not sheltered–from anyone’s reality. You probably don’t have to touch the tip of a hot match to know that it will burn you.


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