New & Next: On Begging

Denver activist PJ D'Amico advocates for a humane approach to homelessness in the city.
I am a citizen of a country that does not yet exist. Recently in Denver, the Samaritan House, a program of Catholic Charities, was throwing pregnant women out of their shelter into the freezing rain.

Two women who slept outside on the sidewalk adjacent to Samaritan House had miscarriages. One was expecting twins. I have twins. My sister asked me why they miscarried, I told her because the unborn thought better of coming into this world. The Samaritan House is literally pressing trespassing charges against these women and all homeless people without shelter. (They have designated an 18-inch line along their property so that if you rest up against their wall you can be arrested.) 
 
I woke up this morning to discover, according to CNN, that 53 percent of Americans believe that Trump will do a good job as president. I am a citizen of a country that has chosen to be blind. I am begging you, America, for the sake of these three martyred babies, wake up. My daughter's names are Grace and Francesca and they are counting on you.  
 
I am begging. We see them begging, disheveled, and wonder what happened to them. The hipsters pass us on Park Avenue West sporting their recycled coffee cups and speed up their pace never making eye contact. We are invisible, sub-human. Don't be so sure. The cost of disassociation is your very humanity. We are not begging you for food or your pocket change, we are begging you to remember that you are also human and that we are your neighbors. We are your gift, inviting you to wake up. We beg you to wake up.
 
I was homeless this week by choice. But not so fast. I have a hidden disability. I am undiagnosed bipolar, and 25 years ago when I was a hipster I had a hypomanic episode where I become homeless for a month. I had to beg for food, walk on the streets in manic hysteria and be ridiculed by you. Fortunately I have healthcare, a loving family and self awareness that I have harnessed by living in a home with people who take care of me. I am also the director of a foundation and have raised over $30 million over the past 20 years. I beg you to reconsider the unrealized contributions of those without homes.
 
When I was homeless, it was not you who saved me, but the homeless. It is the homeless who are the most compassionate human beings on the planet. Who feels it, knows it. The Jesus I pray to says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

But how would you know any of this is true? If you watch the local news, I am sorry they are lying. If you speed past the folks on the corner, how could you listen long enough to know their stories?  If you listen to our Mayor, well . . . I won't go there. But if you think I am exaggerating, I dare you to click on this link or follow me on Facebook and witness with your own eyes what is true. But be careful: "You take the red pill, you leave Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes and we welcome you back to your humanity." Until then, you will find us at Larimer Street and Park Avenue next to the pregnant woman under the blue tarp.

PJ D'Amico is an activist and homeless advocate in Denver.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do notnecessarily reflect the official policy or position of Confluence Denver and its underwriters.
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