Identity in Invisibility

Momenta Project Los Angeles 2016

Momenta Project Los Angeles 2016

Catie Murillo, Reporter

Homelessness is one of the leading problems our society faces. However, many who are homeless don’t see themselves as a problem. Georgie, a homeless man in Tulsa, explains the reason for his nomadic life and value within society.

Georgie, who hadn’t eaten on this particular day, agreed to talk about his situation in exchange for a burger at a local shop, Ron’s Hamburger and Chili just south of downtown.

“People don’t talk to me,” he said. “They want me to be invisible. It’s very lonely.”

According to Homeaid America, a nonprofit organization in southern California that provides temporary housing for the homeless, “Homelessness is caused by tragic life occurrences like the loss of loved ones, job loss, domestic violence, divorce and family disputes. Other impairments such as depression, untreated mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, and physical disabilities are also responsible for a large portion of the homeless.”

This was exactly the case for Georgie.

“I’ve been on the streets for nine winters,” said Georgie, pointing to the sidewalk.. “I don’t got no people. They’re all gone and dead. I only got the people out here now.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, based in Arlington, Virginia, estimates that 26 percent of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46 percent live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders. Georgie said he has struggled with schizophrenia all of his life. So, for a time, he relied on the help of narcotics in order to calm his symptoms. However, he added that he’s been sober for over six months.

“Yeah I did that stuff,” he said. “It just messed with me. I liked how it messed me up, though. Like, for a bit, I forgot where I was. I forgot about the voices. I don’t do it no more. No sir, now I draw.”

Georgie carried with him a pocket spiral notebook, which was torn, and a small No. 2 pencil. He displayed a chain heart he drew. He called it “Valentine.” Georgie said that if he didn’t have art, then he wouldn’t know how to pass the time and how to escape his life.

“My pictures are my life,” he said. “I wake up and draw. I go to sleep and draw. I just draw.”

Georgie had a message for those fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads.

“Tell them this: you are like me. I am like you,” he said. “The difference between you and me is that you have a real home. I do, too. This is my home. It may not be real, but it’s mine. You shouldn’t ignore us because we are the same. Tell them: ‘You should help us because I would do the same thing for you.’”