Monday, March 16, 2015

My Friend Donny AKA Stuffed Animal Speaks Out on the Trials of Being Homeless

I've shared artwork from cartoonist Donny Hampton Jacobs (AKA Stuffed Animal) off and on over the past year or so. He was a fan of the old LIFE WITH ARCHIE comic book series, as well as my poodle Nero. He began sharing some of his original artwork with me ("Archie 4 Adults") a while ago. Some of it is risque, as well as NSFW. Somehow Nero eventually became incorporated into the adult lives of Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, Reggie Mantle, and Veronica Lodge. It's really out-there material that you should check out.

Donny shared something on his own blog that he'd already privately shared with me. He has been struggling with homelessness for many, many months. He has described shelter conditions to me that would seem cartoonishly villainous and suspect -- except that I've personally spoken with others who have stayed in that very same homeless shelter and who have described the same type of treatment. I won't name the shelter where he's been staying at. Mostly because I don't want him to suffer any form of retribution while he's still staying there. But I really don't know how those people can sleep at night after managing that shelter as they do.

Here is some information from his latest blog post that gives you a hint from what he has been dealing with:
Homelessness is nothing less than a form of torture that society perpetrates on desperately poor people. A homeless person can decide to either to risk arrest and/or physical harm by actually living exposed on the streets; or risk physical harm, theft of personal property, appalling sanitary conditions, sexual exploitation, frequent food poisoning, vermin infestation, labor exploitation and mandatory religious brainwashing in a homeless shelter. Not to mention a near-total lack of sleep . . . if those living conditions don't meet the definition of torture, then nothing should... 
In a nutshell, overcoming homeless status requires skill at climbing out of quicksand pits unassisted! Very few people have that skill, so they need all the help God can give them; nothing attracts the contempt of your fellow human beings like helplessness! Many cities now have programs to assist homeless youth, and that's a good thing; yet many youth advocates could care less about the homeless once they're over a certain age. WTF is up with that?

In Kansas City's main men's shelter, I see mostly older men, some with severe mental illness, several prone to periodic seizures and strokes, and a shocking number on crutches and in wheelchairs.  I've seen old men die in that shelter, alone and forgotten.  Homelessness among the elderly, especially LGBT elderly, is the American health crisis nobody is talking about. Why? Because the only thing society agrees on when the torture is the topic is that children should not have to suffer it. If you're older, somehow it's OK! 
Donny's "Archie 4 Adults" cartoons have been his source of escape from the realities of long-term homelessness. He announced in the blog that he will be relocating to a new community, which will hopefully offer him new opportunities that will assist him with breaking free from his current struggles.

I seriously encourage you to follow through the link and read his entire post. It is so easy for 40- and 50-something men and women to lose their jobs to layoffs or due to their careers being made obsolete. Of course, there is systemic resistance from employers to interviewing, much less hiring, older workers. Give it enough time and it's too easy for older unemployed individuals to shoot through whatever savings they'd managed to accumulate during their younger years and find themselves amongst those struggling to maintain housing. Once you become homeless, the challenge of finding new employment without the benefit of a permanent address? Well, hurdle of finding employment -- especially employment that is enough to support a person and/or their family -- just became close to impossible to overcome.

I've really grown to like and admire Donny over the months and sincerely hope that this current plan comes together.

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