If I had to spend one day in "Percy's " shoes, I'd be defeated. More like, I'd be a Quitter! Meet our new Bestie, " Percy" with his permission I write.
Percy talked to many on homeless Monday, including the teenage boys. He so wanted to share his story of being homeless in Richmond, and he had only been here a week. I was curious how he was being treated through our system, it's far from "Southern Hospitality!" He saw us drop off our goods at the overflow during the storm, the next time we saw each other was Monday. The last time we saw each other was saying " Farewell " on Tuesday as I dropped him at the bus station. Let's just clear it up, being homeless is not an easy gig. I'd fail. For most it's not a choice, it's a a stream of unlikely events.
Percy's story is no different. He spent the last 9 years in Prison, of a 30 year sentence. Robbery. For the next 20 years Percy is under fear of making any more mistakes. The offenders call it " borrowed time." They live in fear of being accused or wrongly accused and being sent back to prison. It doesn't take much and he's locked back up to FINISH his remaining time.Can you imagine always being under suspicion. One of my friends( prison buds) says it better to " time out"(do your whole sentence) then be sent out on parole because of the way you are treated on the outside. I was shocked in my little naive squeaky clean life. Percy's story starts in Hillside Court, the projects on Southside. One of 5 siblings; he's the baby. He mother has since passed, his father and his siblings are estranged. Most have / had drug issues. I asked Percy " why?" Just a simple question. He said I've never been asked " why?" Why did you veer down this path? At first he doesn't understand, then I explain drugs are a symptom of a broken journey. Tears begin to stream down his 6'9 body. He was molested as a boy. He said not ONE person in his life had asked him these questions. After 9 years in prison, he had never received any kind of therapy, just continued drug use behind bars. He was given to the foster care system early in age, " I was hyper and slow"!" That is what he was told, that's how he remembers it.That is who he thinks he is today. The rest is history, a life of hurt equals brokenness, drugs mask the pain, crime buys the drugs, we lock him up and keep him fearful. We don't even know the WHOLE story, this is just a sliver of his pain. So we did what we could with band aids, Percy fled Roanoke a week ago, quit his job and came to Richmond with high hopes. Upon arrival to our beautiful city HE was robbed of all his personal belongings that fit in a bag, a duffle, his birth certificate, his phone his clothes. Gone.
Thanks to Tracy Bruce Clark and Chris Clark, Percy has new clothes, a hot shower, ( thanks to 2nd Presbyterian) and clean clothes he was able to wash at the Church. Please note: anything can land him back in prison if he makes one mistake. He was working in Roanoke after leaving prison in September; lived in a boarding home and ran into the wrong crowd. He feared he'd make a mistake and fled to Richmond due to circumstances surrounding his housing. Unfortunately, you can't leave town without notifying your Parole Officer, he did not. Yesterday he felt panic, he was due today to check into his PO's office by 6pm, take a drug test, you don't miss your apt., no one cares why. We(Percy, myself & Ginger) called all day, left messages, no return call. So he had to get back to Roanoke. ASAP. Ginger Evans purchased him a bus ticket and he was on his way by 8pm. We heard today he made it safe and sound. He wants to come back to Richmond. He has many hurdles to overcome to make that happen. He did get his job back in Roanoke, at the waffle/ chicken house. Sweet Ginger called for him, he said "I'm not fired?" They love him, he's a hard worker.Where will he stay? When he was here he stayed at the overnight shelter. Sleeping in chairs that were once court room chairs. No sleeping on floors the homeless were told. He cleaned the bathrooms for food. This is not the way people, real people, with real names, real stories, should live. What is wrong with RICHMOND, Va.,that we as a city cannot Fix this issue of homelessness? I don't really see it as such a hard hurdle to overcome. You cannot know people by name, "Percy", and not want to FIX homelessness. You go to bed praying for men(i do) byname. "Lord, let him get there on time, let his PO be kind, let him please get a break, someone give him more than min. wage.Lord, are WE the Answer?' "YES", WE ARE! I woke up tuesday went to my car and there was an envelope on my dash, i opened it, it was ALL of Percy's itinerary, his ticket, hotel stay, confirmations.....I was sick. I drove off from Greyhound and never looked back. Thankfully, he had Ginger's phone number, thankfully some dear soul "allowed" him use of their phone, he called. He just can't get a break. Pray for our friends, more than that SCREAM for solutions. And when asked, give what you can....we know them by name.