The Sleeping Bag Project

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sleeping bag project

I can’t stop thinking about Aron, the homeless man we met last Friday at the doctor’s office. I couldn’t help him with much at the time. My partner gave him $7 and we drove him to Martin’s Meats where he could have a “suspended sandwich” and then said goodbye to him. Oh, and we gave him one of our old umbrellas that we’ve had for probably close to 20 years. We bought new ones lol.

Tonight I was thinking about what I could do to help him if we saw him again before it got too cold outside. I know that one way I could help him is to make him a blanket. I have been crocheting since 1988, so I could whip him up something in a week. But my carpal tunnel syndrome would prevent me from doing that. So I went on Google to search for blankets for the homeless and I came across a website at the very top of the list called “The Sleeping Bag Project.”

The Sleeping Bag Project also known as “Ugly Quilts” was established in 1985 by “My Brothers Keeper Quilt Group.” They offer a free pattern on their website for people to make a sleeping bag out of your old sheets, shirts, blankets, or whatever you have that is old and ready to retire to the great beyond. Any fabric that you already have that you are ready to part with can be used to make this sleeping bag. That’s why it’s called Ugly quilts, because it uses random fabrics in a specific pattern. It’s not supposed to be pretty, it’s supposed to be cheap for anyone to make so they can give it away for free. Also, it’s supposed to prevent anyone from taking them from the homeless to sell. If they have no monetary value, then thieves won’t take them.

My first boyfriend and I spent our first couple of weeks together living in the park. We were so terrified of sleeping, so we were literally awake for 24 hours a day. We were afraid of either getting murdered, or robbed of what little we had. I can understand if anyone is afraid of their sleeping bag being taken away from them, because when it gets cold, it’s unbearable.

So this is what I would like to do. I don’t want to use our old sheets and blankets and shirts and what not. I want to buy fleece at the craft store because fleece is cheap and very warm. I’d love to buy enough to make at least 10 sleeping bags. They don’t have to be perfect, but they do have to keep you warm.

Here is where I found the image at the top of this post. It’s from The Sleeping Bag Project on Pinterest.

Thanksgiving is about being thankful for what we have, but there are people who have less than we do, so we should try to help those less fortunate by giving them things they need to stay warm. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, just make them a sleeping bag to help keep them warm in the winter. That is if that is what you want to do. I’m not trying to force anyone or make anyone feel guilty, I’m just saying there are people out there who need them.

Homeless on Thanksgiving

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Aron

I have so much holiday guilt right now. We met this guy named Aron at the doctor’s office on Friday. I didn’t know he was homeless until I asked him if he was. I went over to talk with him to let him know that I understand what it’s like to be homeless, because I was homeless as a teenager. The only difference is that he’s 35 years old and he is homeless now.

I don’t know what he is going through because when I was homeless back in 1987/88, I lived in the park for 1 or 2 weeks, then I was couching it from September to December of 1987 and in a homeless shelter in Simi Valley in 1988 from January to May. He is living on the streets, like literally homeless. No couches, no homeless shelter, literally on the streets in a much more dangerous time. To say that I know or understand what he is going through is to say I understand what it’s like to be missing a limb. I have no clue what he’s going through.

Before we left the doctor’s office, I told him about Martin’s Meats on Q and 20th in Bakersfield. They have this thing called a “Suspended Sandwich” which means that people donate money, and they give a free sandwich to a homeless person who asks for a suspended sandwich. We also gave him $7. One of the employees of the clinic gave him a piece of paper with resources for getting help, like the homeless shelter and what not. I didn’t see the paper. He also kindly asked him to leave.

We went down in the elevator with him and he walked with us out to the front. We got in the car, and he put his bag of whatever he had in a shopping cart and began walking away. He kept waving to us and with every wave, he tugged our heart strings. My partner asked if we should give him a ride to Martin’s Meats and I said we should, so we gave him a ride.

I went into Martin’s Meats ahead of him to tell Audrey, Bakersfield’s very own Mother Teresa, that I was bringing in someone for a suspended sandwich. He was getting out of the car and I waited for him in the store, but as he was getting out of the car, my partner told him not to forget his things. He told him that he wished he could come home with us. Ugh! My heart!

He ordered his suspended sandwich and Audrey wanted to take our picture for Facebook. She takes everyone’s picture, especially those who get a suspended sandwich, mainly to show people that this is where their money is going and to ask people to continue donating money to help her feed the homeless.

I hugged him as I was leaving and I told him to be safe and to be very careful and I wished him well. In my mind I was saying “God I wish we could do more, I wish we could bring you home with us and help you because you don’t deserve this.” Unfortunately, we can’t do that.

The look on my face in the picture is saying “Yay! We helped someone. We gave him money and food and we gave him an umbrella to keep him dry.” The look on his face is “They gave me $7 and brought me here for a free sandwich, but I’m still homeless.”

The look on my face right now is “I feel so bad that we couldn’t bring him home.”

After we left him at Martin’s Meats, we went to Ricky’s Retreat which is Bakersfield AIDS Project for their annual Thanksgiving dinner that they hold for their clients who have no family. I wish we thought to bring him to that dinner. He could have actually had a Thanksgiving dinner. Now I really feel like shit. At the dinner, a woman shouted for anyone who was listening to say in 1 word how thankful they are, and a few people said “Food” and I said “Roof” and she looked at me a little funny. I got up and walked over to her and told her that I was homeless as a teenager and that I am thankful every day for the roof over my head because that means I am not homeless. Meeting Aron really gave me perspective. I will never take anything for granted again.

I really wish my book did better, because if it did, I would use the money to help more homeless people get out of the situation they are in. I would love to buy a building and turn it into a homeless shelter. We already have one, but they really push religion down your throat. They are also full, so mine would be for their overflow. My dream was to build one for gay homeless kids, but I really want to help everyone. I know, I can’t save the world, but if I had the money, at least I could try to give shelter to those who need it.

Family is not about blood

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They say blood is thicker than water. Well, if that is true, why are so many parents kicking their LGBT children out of the house? Why are so many siblings burning their bridges over something trivial? Blood may be thicker than water, but you don’t have to be blood related to be family.

I was homeless when I was 15 and again when I was 17, and neither time was by choice. No one chooses to be homeless. There are children on the streets because their family gave up on them when they came out of the closet. Children are selling their bodies for sex so they can eat and have a roof over their heads. They are getting hooked on drugs, being raped and in most cases getting murdered because they are LGBT. Why is that, because they were gay? No, because their BLOOD tossed them into the streets to fend for themselves. Some are killing themselves because of the rejection.

Trust me when I say that blood is not thicker than water. Not just anyone can be your family, but that all depends on who YOU consider to be family. I have friends who I consider family more than my sisters and one cousin. I have a friend from when we lived in Van Nuys who I haven’t seen since 1981, but we are Facebook friends and I consider him more of a brother than I ever considered either of my sisters and my cousin. I have friends here in the Bakersfield gay community who I consider family. There is a family who just recently moved to Arizona who I barely got to know, and I consider them family more than my sisters and my cousin.

So just know that if you treat your own blood like crap, you may think that you are not replaceable, but trust me honey, you are. You need them more than they need you, so don’t treat your gay children, siblings or cousins like crap. If you never hear from them again, maybe think next time before you tell them they are going to hell, or in my cousins case, think before you tell them that you are voting for Prop 8 because he doesn’t think your relationship is worth a piece of paper.

Respect Is Earned (Book Excerpt)

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Someone posted this image on Facebook today and it reminded me of my childhood, so I thought I would give you a little book excerpt.

This is from Chapter 17 – “Homeless at Fifteen”.  I actually named that chapter after a show that I watched called James at Fifteen, except James wasn’t homeless, I was.

Just before this excerpt, my parents were guilted into letting me back in the house, we actually lived in a trailer park.  Even though it wasn’t technically a house, it was our home.

“My mother lectured me about how much I hated my step-father. She would always tell me that even though he is not my real father, he is still my father. Her exact words were “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” It made me sick that she would tell me that because he was not special at all. I don’t consider a child abuser to be special, or to be a real dad. She gave me that lecture so many times in my life and it pissed me off every time. What pissed me off even more was that my sisters would give me the same lecture, as if they had any right to.

“George came outside to talk to me about respect. He told me that I needed to earn his respect because he had no respect for me. Well, back at’cha fella! I told him that I had no respect for him so we were even. He told me that I had to respect him and I told him that I didn’t think I did. I told him that when he stops punching and hitting me and yelling at me for nothing, then I might respect him, but I don’t think that will ever happen. This conversation didn’t go as well as he had planned. Him telling me that I had to respect him no matter what was bullshit to me because he never once in my life gave me any reason to respect him.

“He thought that I was out of control, but I think what was out of control was how they thought of me. All of the things that they thought I did that I didn’t really do was what lost their respect. All of the smear campaigns against me from my sister and from George himself had made me the enemy and there was never anything I was going to do to change anyone’s minds.

“He deserved my respect as an elder, but that was it. He lost my respect when I was a baby the first time he hit me. As far as I was concerned, he didn’t deserve my respect. As far as I am concerned to this very day, there is no respect earned from either one of us and I don’t expect that will ever happen.”

I would never tell someone to disrespect their elders, or to be disrespectful to their parents, but you can’t help how you feel about someone when all they do is embarrass you, beat you, yell at you and treat you like a second class citizen day-in and day-out your whole life.

Respect is definitely earned and it goes both ways.  You can’t expect your child to respect you when all you do is treat them like garbage.  If you show your child the respect that they deserve, then they will show you the same respect that you also deserve.