Title: John R. White ( AL 168 )
CITATION PDF VIEWER THUMBNAILS PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00093334/00001
 Material Information
Title: John R. White ( AL 168 )
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Interviewer: Ford Risley
Publication Date: April 9, 1993
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00093334
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:

AL168 ( PDF )


Full Text





AL 168
Interviewee: John R. White
Interviewer: Ford Risley
Date: April 9, 1993


R: I am at John R. White's home on 610 S.W. Lane in Gainesville. Today's date in
April 9, 1993. Okay, let us find out a little bit about yourself. Where were you
born?

W: I was born in Mississippi.

R: Where in Mississippi?

W : Saltillo.

R: Saltillo?

W: Right. It is just north of Tupelo.

R: What was the date?

W: November 11, 1956.

R: How long have you been in Gainesville?

W: I have been here now about three years.

R: How did you come here?

W: I was on my way back up North, and I was hitchhiking from a little small town
called Zellwood [Florida], and a black guy picked me up in a truck and told me
that Gainesville had all the opportunities I needed. So when I got here, he let me
off at the park on 1-75 just before you come into Gainesville, so I walked all the
way into town and wound up at the St. Francis house.

R: You needed a place to stay and get a meal.

W: Right. Everybody told me I came to the wrong place because Gainesville did not
have anything to offer.

R: Okay, let us back up a little bit. Were you in Florida looking for work, or just kind
of wandering, or what? What were you doing in Florida in the first place?

W: Well, a few years back I used to do blacktopping, and we always went to West
Palm Beach and worked that area. It was warmer, and I needed a place to live,









AL 168
Page 2

so Florida was ideal because I had been here before. So that is really the
reason I was here, because of the weather.

R: What year was that?

W: Back when I was working. Let us see, this is 1993; probably around 1988, 1989.

R: You were working basically as a construction worker?

W: Right.

R: Let us go back a little bit farther. Did you have any schooling, any education?

W: Yes. Well, the highest grade I went to was ninth grade.

R: You left school after ninth grade?

W: Right, because the opportunity was there for me. At sixteen years old I was a
manager of a party store.

R: Was this in your home town?

W: Yes. Then I went on to start building furniture. After that I found a job where I
could make more money and I became a frozen food manager. I was making
like $13-14,000 a year and that was real good.

R: Pretty good, yes.

W: My uncles told me that I could do better up North, so I moved to Michigan.

R: When was that?

W: I believe around 1977. I started working for Ford's.

R: You started working where?

W: Ford Motor Company.

R: Oh, Ford Motor Company.

W: I was there with Ford for maybe six months and anybody who did not have five
years in got laid off indefinitely.
R: Were you working on the assembly line, building cars?









AL 168
Page 3

W: No. I was not building cars, I was packaging, bagging the seat covers for the
seats of the cars, and so a lot of people that did not have five years just got laid
off. I started what I called a handyman service. I just went around and started
cleaning up gutters and stuff like that. I started cutting grass and then I started
shoveling snow, so I opened a landscaping service. I owned that for a while and
people started getting laid off, so a lot of people that were my customers were
letting their relatives do their landscaping, so I was out of a job completely.

I had family there, and when I was out of a job and needed a place to stay and I
asked them, they said, "We do not have room." So, I spent quite a few weeks
and months sleeping in the parks and buses.

R: Was this in Michigan?

W: Right, and the weather was like thirty and forty below zero. I was finding work
wherever I could. It is lucky that I am alive today, because the radio stations
would tell you to take all of your animals or your dogs or whatever you have and
take them inside the house because there was going to be a freeze, and I would
go to sleep maybe a half minute and I would open my eyes, shake to warm back
up, try to close my eyes. This is the way it was, you know.

R: So you were literally living on the street.

W: Right. So I started work for the construction firm that I was telling you about in
Florida. I did that for a while and then I came to find out they were cheating
people. We would do blacktops and they would call fly-by-nights, and I found out
where a lady almost lost her home because they had signed some papers. It
just was not for me. I could not see myself cheating anybody, so I turned around
and left from them. I just started hitchhiking around, trying to find jobs wherever I
could.

I had a chance to understand and learn what it meant to be homeless. But in the
back in my mind I knew if I had a break I could make it. When I was in Memphis
I went through sections, and neighborhoods, and I know it had to have been the
Lord who was carrying me through. One section I remember in Memphis that I
went through, not even a week later two guys came through the same [area] and
a gang jumped on them and burned the guy up. They poured gas on him and
burned him up.

I went to New York and I was hitchhiking back, a guy picked me up and he told
me, "I picked you up because I seen something like a rainbow." I did not know
what that meant. I came to Florida [and] then went over to Mississippi for a
while, and there was nothing there really. I went back to Memphis and I stopped
by this church, and I asked the preacher for something to eat, and he said, "Yes,









AL 168
Page 4

and in the meantime there are some clothes here. You can turn around and put
some clothes on." So I ended up staying in this church for three months and that
is really when I learned about the Lord.

I came to Florida because I was homeless again. I was in Zellwood before I
came to Gainesville and I was living with a motorcycle gang.

R: Really?

W: I started renting a house from this one guy, the president of the gang. He told
me, "We are just going to be honest with you, we have never had a nigger live
here before. I cannot figure it out, because we do not like black people." But all
of his friends, all of the gang came through. They treated me nice, and gave me
food. They gave me everything. They just could not figure it out. This is one of
the worst gangs in the United States. It just got to the point that I found myself
singing a song, "This may be my last time, I do not know," and I knew right then
and there I was dying. It was really something, so I said, "Well, I will leave and
go back up North," and that is when this guy picked me up in the truck. I came
to the St. Francis house.

R: OK, just let me interrupt one minute. How long of a period would you call
yourself homeless, or living on the street?

W: I would say probably from 1987 until the last part of 1990, something like that.

R: So from 1987 to 1990 you were just living on the streets or with friends or just
wherever you could find.

W: Basically wherever I could [find]. It was always in my mind, I was always looking
for that one little .

R: Break.

W: Yes, and that is what it is. I found out a lot of people that you would call
homeless are just looking for a break. I think we get people mixed up between
being a transient, which is all some people want to do, just stay out on the street.
I just felt that if I kept going, and kept going, one day this break would come too.
When I came to Gainesville, I got to St. Francis and I took jobs here, making
like a hundred dollars a week, sometimes less.

R: These were odd jobs around town?

W: Yes, I worked for a few restaurants here, but for the first two weeks I was here I
did not find anything. So, the last two weeks of that month that I was here, I









AL 168
Page 5

found a job and started working at Holiday Inn. I told St. Francis, "When I get my
first check I want to move out." They helped me with my first months rent even
though I had money. They helped me with it, to get me started. So from then on
it is like the Lord has been .

R: So from that point on you have been pretty much living on your own?

W: Yes.

R: How long did you stay at the St. Francis house?

W: I stayed at the St. Francis house for one month.

R: While you were there, you were sleeping there, you were getting dinners there
and then you were going off during the day and working.

W: Right. [I was] seeking work for the first two weeks, because it was only the last
two weeks of the month that I received a job.

R: And you are working for Holiday Inn?

W: Yes, I worked for Holiday Inn for a while.

R: In the restaurant?

W: No, I was working for housekeeping. It got to the point that I got sick and missed
a few days and they terminated me. I still did not give up. I had moved to a
roominghouse and I did not give up and I was heavy with the Lord at the time,
and I still am right now. One guy that I knew prior to leaving the St. Francis
house wanted to know about the Lord. I mean the Lord was teaching me and
what I was learning I was giving to him, so now he and I are roommates. I got
another job, so we moved to what used to be Coy Thomas [Apartments] on 8th
Avenue. After six months living in Coy Thomas, we became managers of the
complex.

R: What is this place called again?

W: Coy Thomas.

R: That is an apartment complex?

W: Yes, it was on 8th Avenue. It was drugged infested when we moved in and I
knew that the Lord was still with me, and I went down and told the brothers, "I
would rather see you in church, than in jail." I worked from there, and ever since









AL 168
Page 6

then, I just became a minister. I got a good job with B'Nai Israel.

R: It is a local synagogue?

W: Yes, a Jewish synagogue here. They gave me a job and so now I am living
here. We furnished this house with maybe 500 dollars.

R: You have a great place, very nice.

W: Everything that we have, we picked up from the students. What we do now is
pick up furniture and this and that and we distribute it back out to people that are
in need. So this is what we do. I am heavily involved in church, but I also go out
and help those in need.

R: Okay, so you work at the synagogue.

W: B'Nai Israel.

R: Right. Do you work there full time, or is it a part time kind of thing?

W: Well, it is basically full time. Sometimes I go in at different times, but it is a full
time job, yes. They have me on salary.

R: Okay. You also work at the St. Francis house as the night manager?

W: Right, on Sunday nights. If I am needed to volunteer any other time, I will do that
too.

R: So if they need you other nights, then you will go there.

W: Right. I have a chance now that I can give something back. I go back out now
and talk to people. That is what I do daily. I talk to people and allow them to
know what I had to come through, and that the Lord brought me in and brought
me through all of this, and with prayer anything is possible.

R: What is it like working with people who are now in the same position that you
were once in? What do you try to tell them to help them to get back on their feet,
aside from the religious standpoint? I understand that is a big part of what you
do, but do you try to give them other advice about how to get back up on their
feet?

W: The main thing I tell them is do not be choosy about a job. Basically what it boils
down to is to let them know that what we have to do is crawl before we walk. Do
not say, "Because I am not making six dollars an hour, I do not want this job."









AL 168
Page 7

Take what you can and you can gradually build up. Do not just say, "I have got
this skill, I am qualified for this." If it comes down to washing dishes, wash
dishes. It will put a little money in your pocket and get you started on your way
out. Basically, all I can do is give them hope.

What I do is let them know that I was once there, and I know what it is about and
what I found out is a person does not want to listen to anybody who has not
been through it. In other words, by me going through all of this, I can sit down
and talk to all of them and they can relate to me, and they see. They say, "If you
have overcome, then we can too," and that is the main thing. That is what it is all
about. They need to see somebody that has once been there.

There are so many people here in Gainesville now. When I first came here, I
really did not have a whole lot of clothes and I tell them quick, "I do not go to a
major department store and buy my clothes. I go to Goodwill, second hand
stores." I can dress just as good as some of the two-hundred-dollar-suit men,
but it might cost me twenty-five dollars for a suit, it might cost me ten dollars. I
try to tell them, "When you make money, use it wisely." Do not be too proud to
say, "I will not do this and I will not do that," because all in all we can make it, but
you have to have the determination.

R: Obviously, you think that the St. Francis house provides an important service
and is an important part of the community. Can you tell me in your own words
what St. Francis does?

W: Well, you are going to have abuses no matter what you do. A lot of people that
come to St. Francis need a start and that is basically what it is all about. Now,
you have got some people that live in the community, who just use it because it
is there. But, I find a whole lot of people are like me; they need something to
start from, like a foundation, and St. Francis can give you shelter. If you have a
job but have to go two weeks without food or money, that is basically what St.
Francis is all about. We will not try to serve any and everybody, but basically
what St. Francis is about is trying to help people get back into society. That is
what I really respect St. Francis for, because we are in a day and time now that
we never know. It might be our brother, our sister, our mother, or father,
because I have heard of people making fifty or sixty thousand dollars a year
today and tomorrow they are in a food stamp line. I think everybody should take
a look at it, because we never know. We can all come down and eat at the St.
Francis house and that is why I think it is a really great place.

R: Yes. Do you think that the St. Francis house, if it was allowed to, could do even
more, say serve more meals, or provide more beds?

W: Yes. We have a big need for that. Not only that, [but] I believe a lot of people









AL 168
Page 8

need to be trained and with adequate space, there are people who would
volunteer and donate their time to maybe help, say, in the reading department,
or in the skill department. There are all kinds of people who want to do things at
St. Francis, but we just do not have the facilities. If we had those that would be
ideal, because a lot of people do not have certain talents that are needed, but I
was blessed to the point that I can do just about anything. I would be willing to
give some of my time back to train somebody. That is what it is all about and I
know others would.

R: Do you see a lot of people who come through the St. Francis house who are like
you: Not permanently homeless, but just need a break, and need a place where
they can stay until they can find a job and get back on their feet?

W: Yes. You find a lot of people like that and a lot of people that are passing
through. For instance, maybe something happened with their trip one way or the
other and they break down or something like that. But a lot of people are out
here to get a job and they were just led wrong in being told this and that are here
in Gainesville and when they come here they find that it is not. That is what
happens, and a lot of times people wait until their family wires money so that
they can be on their way.

R: So for some people it is just a stopping-off point.

W: Right.

R: But for other people it is a place where they are going to stay in Gainesville for a
while and they need a place to get on their feet.

W: That is what it is basically all about. A lot of people come there and some of
them might last a month before they find their own housing or some get lucky to
where they can only be there a week and get their own housing. So it is a stop
to help get people on their feet and you are going to get some people, like I said,
that are going to abuse the system, but St. Francis is a big help. I know quite a
few people from St. Francis (I am one of them myself, and my roommate is
another) who got a start there.

R: What is your roommate's name?
W: Charles Glanton.

R: Does he work now?

W: Yes, he works for Gator Landscaping. So he has been there quite a few years.
Now, he was out on crack. He used to be a crack addict and now he is with the
Lord, too. He has been with them for quite a few years now, but when he









AL 168
Page 9

needed a place to get a start, St. Francis was there. Now we are ready to go out
and do other things. What we want to do is give back to the community and that
is what a lot of people want, but you need a start.

R: Explain what the night manager does at the St. Francis house.

W: Well, when we first come [in] we will talk with the volunteers who have been
there from 5:00 to 10:00, that are already there, and they will have written down
on a sheet of paper who is to be first and who is not. That way we can call
people in.

R: You mean who will be first to get a bed?

W: Right.

R: A place to stay.

W: Yes, for people who repeatedly stay there. So once we get them checked in I
start going over the books to see what has been going on in the week. 11:00 is
lights out. I finish up [other tasks]. For instance, if we serve meals to nine
guests I will put them in the log book. That way we can keep an accurate check
on who we serve and what we do for this person and just monitor the house for
the rest of the night.

R: Do you spend the night at the house?

W: Yes, we spend the whole night there. If there is an emergency, then we handle
the emergency problems. Basically you keep an eye on the house all night.
Then at 7:00 in the morning you wake up. If you have someone that needs to
get up at 4:00 or 5:00 to go to work, then we wake them up at 4. We try to help
people get up and get a job. If they are going to [the] temporary [agency] we
wake them up before that. Once we get them up, we let everybody make their
own breakfast. We have a chore for everybody to do; we assign chores, then we
watch them do it.

R: Chores would be in terms of getting breakfast ready?

W: No. Chores would be after they make their own breakfast. They are responsible
for their own breakfast, whether they want it or not.

R: You have the food there for them?


W: Right.









AL 168
Page 10

R: They can make cereal, or bacon and eggs, or whatever they want?

W: Right, whatever they want. Whatever is donated or whatever is available, they
can have. We will ask somebody maybe to vacuum the front room or maybe
someone to wash dishes, or sweep the floor, and then we would put on a load of
clothes, get it started and clean up all of the facilities. Once we get them out at
8:00, I will do whatever is lacking. I will finish cleaning up.

R: Everybody has to be up and out by 8:00?

W: 8:00, right. Unless somebody has a serious injury or something, then maybe we
will stay there until the case worker comes and they keep them there the whole
day. But after I get everything cleaned up, I will wait until the case worker comes
in. She and I will talk about what happened the night before. We catch up on
everything like that and then I leave.

R: The case worker arrives there at [what time]?

W: Between 9:30 and 10:00.

R: And she or he is responsible for the house for the day?

W: Right. It is just like going to social service. We set up appointments for them.
Maybe somebody has been there since Friday night; they will stay from Friday to
Monday and on Monday they would need to see her, to see if they could get
extended time to live there or whatever the circumstances or whatever their
needs are. So that is what we do. We sit and talk to them about that. We also
talk to her if there were any problems that arose with any of the guests in the
house. We sit and talk to her and then she evaluates all of this and determines if
they can stay or if they go.

R: Do you have many problems with guests being disorderly or unruly?

W: Not really, no. Basically, when you go in they are really nice. Sometimes you
might have someone maybe with a mental problem. They might give you a little
problem, but if you talk to them nice [there is no problem]. A lot of times they do
it for attention. Usually we do not have any problems.

R: You do not allow people in who have been drinking?

W: No, that is a no-no. If I am suspicious of any of that then we say no, because we
have to keep our rules, because people will have a tendency [to do that]. When
they check in at 5:00 they do not have to be back until 10:00 that night. So, if
they have gone out and had a few and they come back and we smell it, then we









AL 168
Page 11

have the right to say, "No, you cannot come in," because we have to protect the
other guests that are there, so we have to keep a strict policy.

R: If you check in at 5:00, can you go ahead and stay there?

W: Sure.

R: You can. You do not have to leave and then come back.

W: No. Some people do leave, but once you check in at 5 you can go and make
your own meals or whatever. We have churches too, that will bring food on
certain days. We have a lot of businesses that will bring food in and so
whatever is there, that is what they eat. Sometimes if they do not bring
something in, then we will start cooking.

R: Do you feel that Gainesville does a good job of helping the homeless or could
the city do more?

W: I believe they could.

R: In what ways?

W: Well, I think we need to give them something to do. Sometimes some of the
people that are homeless are not able to work, and we need a place that they
go, instead of letting them lay around uptown. You know, people want to get
them out of town, but they do not have a place to go. So we need to build
something or to fix something for them to be able to go and get involved with.
Like I said, hopefully we will get this place where people can spend some time.

R: Are you talking about a bigger place?

W: A bigger place.

R: A bigger building for the St. Francis house.
W: Yes. Instead of hassling [them], we should have something where we could train
somebody. That would kind of occupy their time [so] they would not be running
around, or lagging around or whatever.

R: Are you seeing more homeless people in the time that you have been working
for the St. Francis house? Are the numbers of homeless in Gainesville
increasing or getting smaller?


W: A lot of it varies on the season.









AL 168
Page 12

R: Can you explain?

W: Yes. When it is cold, you have a lot of people that will come to the South, to
Florida, for the warmer climate, to work, lay around, or whatever, and they stop
at a shelter. A lot of times you are going to get more when it is time to go back
up North when it warms up. But it seems like a lot of people are moving into
Gainesville.

R: Any idea why?

W: I do not know; that is a good question.

R: Is it because Gainesville is fairly close to the interstate?

W: Well, yes, that has a lot to do with it. I think a lot of it is that people are coming
from the prisons and different places. People are looking for a job no matter
were they can find it. Sometimes a lot of people came from Jacksonville,
because they could not find anything there, so they came here. People are just
seeking jobs, and whatever and wherever they can find, and Gainesville began
to be a [central] spot. In the summertime it will not be as bad, because it will be
warmer. People will not come to St. Francis as much because they will stay out
in the woods. So in the wintertime it is a different story, so we will find that it is a
seasonal thing.

R: Most of your guests are single men, right?

W: Yes.

R: Do you have many women or families, say a mother with a couple of children?

W: I would say we get at least one or two a week. A lot of time you get the abused
mother and children. We see them also.

R: You mean a woman who has been abused?
W: Right.

R: That may need a place to stay.

W: Yes, we house them too. For instance, a mother with children who just got
evicted. We will house families like that. St. Francis House is a place that
society dumps its people off on. We have the abused mom and family, we have
the mothers and children that have been evicted, we have mental health patients
that have been sent there, we have the VA [Veterans Administration hospital]
that sends patients there, we have the police that bring people there. St. Francis









AL 168
Page 13

is like a headquarters to bring people and to drop people off. So that is what it is
all about, but that is what we are for, to serve and to do what we can for each
and everyone. That is the reason I said if we had a bigger facility we would be
able to train and house more people.

R: Do you think that most of homeless people want to get back on their feet, and
find a job, and a place to stay or do they just enjoy living on the street?

W: Well, a whole lot of them want to get back into society, yes, but like I said you
are going to get some that repeat, but most people that you find coming through
St. Francis are looking for a job or housing or things of that nature. A lot of
people that we serve food to on the outside are just people that live around here,
you know. We serve the people trying to get back on their feet. So everybody is
trying to do something for themselves. That is what we are doing there. So we
get them from Ohio, California, everywhere.

R: So most are not people who have lived on the street for years and are just
looking for a meal; they are people who genuinely want to get back on their feet.

W: Right, yes. Most people are seeking work. A lot of them will just go to labor
finders and just get a few bucks in that pocket to get started.

R: What is labor finders?

W: That is like temporary jobs.

R: Day labor work.

W: Yes. People know when they come to St. Francis and they find a job, St. Francis
will house you until you can help yourself, and get in a place. A lot of times,
when people come to St. Francis, the system (HRS, etc.) will help a mother and
child to get in a place quicker if they are out in the streets compared to if they
were living with relatives. A lot of times when a mental patient comes to St.
Francis, they can get into an institute quicker, so it varies. St. Francis is used for
a lot of things.

R: Do social service agencies work well with you all? Do they work well with the St.
Francis house, and getting help for people who need it?

W: Now, I am not sure, but I believe so, but you would have to ask the case worker
on that one. She could tell you more about that. But as far as I know, they try to
work with us, yes.

R: What do you think is the most important thing for a homeless person or a person









AL 168
Page 14

who is down on their luck, to get back on their feet? What is the most important
thing they have to do?

W: Lose their pride.

R: Explain.

W: When you have pride you will only do certain things, but when you lose your
pride, you will do anything. What I mean is a lot of times there is a person with
pride who will not dig a ditch, but if you do not have that pride, you will dig a
ditch, you will rake leaves, you will do any kind of work like that, and that is
basically what it is all about. You have to lose your pride and be able to accept
any kind of job, whether it is clean or dirty and then you start there. That is what
I mean when I am saying, "You have to crawl before you walk." If you only make
ten dollars, use that ten dollars wisely. Say tomorrow you earn twenty, use that
twenty dollars wisely, but first what you have to do is to lose your pride. That is
what I try to explain to everybody, you have to lose pride, because pride can
keep you down for the rest of your life.

R: Do you see many homeless people who are not willing to do that? They want to
say, "I am better than this, I do not want to go out and dig a ditch."

W: A lot of them at first have that feeling of pride, and then they find out, "Well I
have to lose it." Because we have to understand in homeless, you have
qualified electricians, plumbers, and everything, and a lot of them are used to
making eight, nine, ten dollars an hour, and when they came down on the storm
they were expecting this, and they were not going to make it. They could make
four or five dollars an hour. So a lot of them had to lose it and this was good
training for a lot of people.

R: Storm, what do you mean?

W: In other words the storm that they had in South Florida.

R: Oh, the hurricane. [Hurricane Andrew, August, 1992]

W: Yes. So many people came down here and they were qualified because they
were told that jobs were plentiful, so they came down with the option of making
ten to thirteen dollars an hour.

R: Are you saying a lot of people at the St. Francis house who moved to Florida to
try to find jobs as a result of the hurricane and they cannot and now they are on
the streets?









AL 168
Page 15

W: Yes, quite a few of them did that and they are trying to make their way back to
the North, because a lot of times they took what they had and came down,
because they were laid off there. They came to Florida and they found out that
there were more people than they expected. There were people that would take
five dollars an hour just to work.

R: You all see a number of people [like this] at the St. Francis house?

W: Yes, I have seen quite a few come through. They were expecting this and that
and they did not get it. So, you see, a lot of people will tell people certain things
and they believe it; when they get here they find out it is not true. So then they
have to either stop at St. Francis and try to make a few bucks to go back North
or wherever.

R: Do you have to turn many people away that you just do not have room for at the
St. Francis house?

W: We turn quite a few away.

R: Is that difficult?

W: Yes. Anytime you turn anybody away it is difficult, because you want to help
everybody. There are sometimes when it does not hurt as much if you see
somebody come in drinking or something like that, but when you see somebody
really in need like when the weather was really cold people bring people off of
the interstate to St. Francis. For instance, during the last cold weather I had an
incident where a young man and a young pregnant woman [came in] and we
were filled up and Salvation Army was filled up and they were having the school
open, but on this particular night they closed the school, so they did not have
that. So I told people to bring them in. I put them up in a motel myself. I just
could not see them sleeping out in the cold. You know, once you have been out
there and you know what it is, it is hard to tell somebody and a lot of times in
your heart you know you do not have any more room, but you see people that
need to be out of the cold, you feel like, "I could let them sleep on the floor, or I
could do this," but then again you have rules and a policy that you have to follow.
You do not want to turn anybody away, no.

R: You told me what you did in this one case, but what do you tell other people that
you have to turn away, do you offer advice?

W: You try to call around, for one thing. You try to get the Salvation Army to house
one more, or whatever facility you can find. You try to do that, because you just
do not want to say no. That is what it is all about. You try to rack your mind, and
think, "Can I let them stay here?" But then sometimes it comes to the point that









AL 168
Page 16

you just have to say no.

R: But it must be very rewarding to work at St. Francis.

W: Oh yes, oh yes.

R: How is it rewarding?

W: I get to share my life with somebody new. You just sit there sometimes and
listen. People just need somebody to talk to. Especially when you can listen to
somebody that is going through what you have already gone through and then
you can say, "Well, I went through this, and look at me now, and the same could
happen to you." In other words, to be able to give someone hope, and let them
know that I was out there too and nothing is impossible. Or just to play with a
little child, to see a little child smile or happy, make little faces. There are just a
lot of things there. We had a lady the other day that had just had a birthday and
she was living in a shelter, and I said, "Hit it," and started singing happy birthday
to her. You should have seen the glow that was on her face. You can see
people that are homeless, they need food, they need this, they need that, but it
does not take that much to make them smile a lot of times. Just to see a person
smile is all of the happiness that I need anyway. But that is all it is, a lot of times
people just want you to listen to them; it is beautiful.

R: Are there any people or any things that have happened since you have been
working in the St. Francis house that really stick out in your mind, anybody that
has come through there that you will always remember or anything that has
happened?

W: Well, that is a good question. Truly since I was in St. Francis, I think I might be
the one that started the history.

R: I am sorry, I did not understand.
W: I might be the one that started the history that came from St. Francis, I do not
know. I can remember this incident where this young man turned around, there
was some conflict between him and his father and he was thrown out of his
house and he came to St. Francis. He was in school, yet being thrown out of the
house (in other words cast aside) this young man still had the determination to
go to school and to work at the same time. A lady came by and she found out
about this and she took the young man home and this young man has the hope
of going to college. I think for a child, not even finished from high school, to have
the determination like that, that he can make it, yes, that would have to be the
whole thing right there. He is doing great.


[End of the interview]




University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs