When I became homeless, I suddenly began seeing people on the street
that I had never noticed when I was a white-collar professional commuting
from suburbia. They were now my neighbors in the shelters and on the
streets. But there were still a few that I did not feel empathy with.
Sympathy maybe, but not empathy. I did not identify with the street
drunks and the drug addicts.
Then I read Earle
Thompson's poetry. Even the street drunks became companions, people
Now I have read
Lee Stringer. And I will never feel the same way about a crackhead or
other drug addict again.
Lee Stringer lived
on the streets of New York, often in the warrens underneath Grand Central
Station. His description of the homeless life is as accurate in Seattle
as it is in New York. He wrote for the New York street-paper Street
News, and eventually became its Chief Editor. His account gives a close-up
look at what this kind of paper means to many of us.
Lee Stringer makes
me proud to be a writer. He managed to trade in the addiction of crack
cocaine for the addiction of writing. (Not easily -- nothing in this
book is easy.) I wish he was writing with StreetWrites and Real Change.
He describes life on the streets without ever getting maudlin; he honestly
reports charity scams and the violence done by homeless people themselves
without ever sacrificing our empathy or our hope.
It is one of the
rare educations that can actually be enjoyed. Get it.