Monday, May 10, 2010

Meet Tommy Welch

Last week I spent some time interviewing people who have faced homelessness on Skid Row. This is one of the resulting stories that I wrote.

As he holds his head high, Tommy Welch displays a pleasant smile that exudes confidence. He is a productive man. Along with operating a shoe shining business, Mr. Welch works diligently on gang intervention, coordinating community events, and helping people find the resources they need. He has always looked to serve the people around him, even while he was homeless.

Tommy’s greatest day-to-day challenge with his difficult situation wasn’t finding food or a place to bathe like many would think. It was dealing with peoples’ assumption that living on the street meant he lacked integrity, skill, and ambition.

He didn’t have much praise for the available services. Mr. Welch mentioned that some caseworkers treated him and his residentially challenged peers as if they were either drug addicts or mentally challenged. Then there was the seemingly endless amount of paperwork he had to fill out to receive services. In fact, due to a social worker’s error, he has spent the last two years continuing to prove who he is.

Tommy wants people to know that just because a person is in an unfortunate situation, doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve respect. When he was without a home, he experienced constant disappointment when saying “hello” to people, by continually being ignored and dismissed. He said, “You can be homeless, and not helpless. I still have values. I still have love. Those are some things that we can share”

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