Rights for All:  Reshaping the Voice of Homelessness
Hello.  Have you ever wanted to do something to be cool?  So cool, that everyone would want to be your friend?  My name is Howard Jackson.  I used to strive to be cool, and by many standards, I was.  When I was your age I went to Bartlett Middle School.  My friends and I spent every minute not in class roller skating.  I used to burn up the floor, skating in every direction, spinning and dancing to my favorite songs. 


As I got older being cool brought power.  People looked up to me, and for years I stayed  straight, moving forward towards graduating, playing basketball at Beech High School, and roller skating in my free time.  After graduating I spent two years working at different jobs around town and continued to roller skate.  By then, I had racked up many trophies from contests and many friends.  When I turned twenty-one I had the liberty to drink wherever, and drink I did. Soon, I found myself hanging out with my friends and drinking here and there when I was not at work.  Within a year I found myself moving from just beer and whiskey into a new world of drugs. 


The drug world is an intense place.  Some of you may already know this, or have been exposed to it.  Friends here quickly become your family and they are the folks you want to turn to whenever you’re in need.  But trust me...they may not always be there.  Friendship in drugs is clouded by those same drugs.  On the surface taking a drug or drinking a beer feels good.  It seems like a great idea.  But deep down, it messes with your mind.  AND it messes with the minds of your friends.  Suddenly, the only thing important is where to get the next fix or the next dollar.  It’s not, looking out for the people you love or looking forward to the next activity or game you will play together. 


In time my friendships, my cool, my power, moved me from being the taker of drugs into being the dealer of drugs.  I ended up in some very tough spots and in some very scary places.  And guess who was not there to get my back?  Exactly.  None of the people I would have expected.  None of my so called, family.


The fact that I have to push a button today to say this to you is proof of what can happen when you get yourself caught in a world of alcohol and drugs.  One night I was making a deal and quickly found myself in a wrong spot, at the wrong time.  Before I knew it a baseball bat was in my head and my stash and cash were gone.  When I woke up, after being in a coma for over a year, none of my “family,” my drug family came.  No one was there for me, supporting me as I learned how to reuse my arms, my legs, and struggled to regain my words. I met many new friends after this journey when I lived on the streets, struggled with homelessness, and watched the woman I loved and was engaged to, marry someone else.  If you don’t remember anything else today, just remember that in a moment life can change completely.  For me, I got myself in that moment and have never been the same since.


I see more and more young people, like you all on the streets, hanging with friends, and sometimes I know that you’re doing more than just hanging.  I know, because I was there.  Each time I see you, I say a prayer, knowing that the Big Man’s got it, and hopefully for that moment, for that day, he’s got you too.


Today, after recovering from drug abuse, alcoholism, and homelessness I know that my purpose in life is to share this story in hopes that you may think twice when being cool or powerful puts you in a tough situation.  And perhaps it is also to share that even with the disabilities I have now, I’m still Howard, and deep within, we are all one. 


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    Howard Jackson

    I am a traumatically brain-injured, formerly homeless man with right side paralysis and speech aphaysia. I am a recovering addict. I am also a friend and advocate for anyone trying to get out of homelessness, live a full life with disabilities, and explore the wonderful potential of living in recovery, one day at a time. I am a friend to all volunteers trying to make this world a little better. Join me as I strive to do all of these things myself! 


    November 2010


    Advocacy Work

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