Louis Armstrong Park Homeless

Guest article from Peter J. Hatas in response to the New Homeless Article

In 2004 I traveled to New Orleans to find work on Bourbon Street, or maybe even land an engineering job with some of the oil refineries in the area. During my stay there, I took a break one day in Louis Armstrong Park on Rampard Street, a few blocks from the New Orleans Police Department. I traveled to New Orleans with my pet birds, three adult ducks, and we took a break at the park. Soon I realized that Louis Armstrong Park was a huge hangout for the homeless people in New Orleans. After sitting in the park for 20 minutes I was approached by an older homeless man who showed an interest in my birds. Shortly after he left several other homeless people stopped by and visited with my birds. We shared stories and one person in particular told me his story. (Please keep in mind I am homeless myself.)

The man I met explained to me he had been homeless for nine years, living on the streets of New Orleans. This homeless man was forced onto the streets after his house burned down in a fire. He also told me that he had been an officer in the United States Army, but had lost everything in the house fire. He was forced to live on the streets because he had no identification. Without a valid ID, in New Orleans, you cannot stay at a homeless shelter, eat at a soup kitchen, or get a job anywhere. No ID means, no nothing. This man explained to me he needed $14 to get a valid ID and that if he had the money he could have one in less than three hours. This man had managed, prior to meeting me, to acquire a copy of his birth certificate, but he did not have the money to get the ID. I believed him. He told me that if I could help him out with the money, he would pay me back that night. I gave the man $20 from my pocket, never thinking I would see him again.

I sat in the park, after he left, and exercised my pet ducks. Other people stopped by to see my ducks, and it turned out to be an enjoyable morning. After two hours, the man I had given the money to returned with a brand new picture ID, and he was very gracious for me helping him. He asked me to be back at the park at 6:00 pm, that night. He had brought with him three other homeless street friends, to meet my pet ducks, and help me with anything I might need while at the park. That day was like having three body guards and after that, other homeless people came to visit with my ducks and we shared more stories. Around two o'clock in the afternoon the ducks and I left the park and I went to a friend's house to make a few dollars fixing his fence in his yard.

At quarter to six, I went back to Louis Armstrong Park to meet the homeless man. At six o'clock sharp, the homeless man showed up with a big smile on his face and a pocket full of cash. After he got his ID that morning, he went over on Bourbon Street and got a job and earned $80. He explained to me that the three other homeless guys, that were my body guards that morning, were also going to be helped out by this homeless guy that I helped. After this brief meeting the man paid me back the $20 I had lent him that morning. After nine years of living on the streets of New Orleans, I was the first person to help him out with his picture ID. Now he could work, eat at the soup kitchens, and maybe stay at a shelter for the night.

A few months passed, and I ran into the man again on Bourbon Street, one afternoon, where he was working. He told me he had since helped the other three homeless guys I met in the park two months earlier, and that all four of them now had jobs and an apartment off St. Charles Street. Funny how this all worked out. I wished I would have gotten this man's name.

My story is proof that your program works.
Thanks.
Peter H.

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