“I am not an alcoholic or a drug addict,” Homeless Man writes. “If you were to meet me, you would never know that I have spent many nights at all of the local facilities. But all I own is the clothes on my back.”
Homeless Man is 44 years old. He’s spent more than 500 nights in Albuquerque’s shelters, witnessing what he calls a “growing problem” with the quality of care for those who live on the streets. In order to raise awareness about that problem, on Aug. 19, he started a blog.
I refer to him as “Homeless Man” because that’s the only name I have for him—it’s the name that stretched across the “From” line in the e-mail he wrote to me last week, thanking the Alibi for running Jessica Cassyle Carr’s commentary on the dangers of pedestrianism in Albuquerque [“Walking in Burque,” Aug. 16-22]. (Carr’s piece, by the way, has elicited more phone calls, comments and letters than any article I can remember in my time at the Alibi—an outcry I hope doesn’t slip past the city administration.)
Since that first e-mail, I’ve corresponded with Homeless Man, who writes from a public computer in Los Angeles where he’s recently traveled in hopes of becoming a screenwriter. Living off day labor and sleeping in shelters and the occasional hotel, Homeless Man dreams of escaping the streets—“New Mexico is my home,” he says, “and some day I will own one there.”
His infant blog, Homeless in the Duke City (homelessinthedukecity.blogspot.com), can potentially serve as a portal between those who dream of living in homes and those who already do, revealing to the public the experiences and opinions of those who seldom have a voice, or are at least unable to speak it. I hope people embrace Homeless Man’s effort—it is an inspiring example of the possibilities of guerilla media and it offers something valuable to this community.
Another implication of his website concerns the debate that has formed along with the rising popularity of blogging over whether bloggers can be trusted as journalists. The debate becomes moot with efforts like Homeless Man’s—who doesn’t aim to be a journalist but, rather, just a person. He happens to be a person who sees things most of us do not and goes places most of us dare not, and his experiences are geniune and not subject to the same scrutiny.
But beyond the issues Homeless Man confronts in his blog, the website's very existence pushes the orthodoxy of how we get information about our city and the hidden people who dwell in it. I hope he continues writing, and I hope we take the time to read.