Silent Madison

Silent Madison will be the voice of those whose voice is often not heard.

These are the experiences of those who are homeless. Their stories. Their struggles. Their victories.

Homelessness is everywhere, and not exclusive to any demographic. The reasons for homelessness are many, oftentimes more complex in nature than what the public is witness to.

These are human beings, literally struggling to survive day in and day out. They don’t live on the street as a lifestyle choice. And the problem is not solved with simple, snappy soundbites.

These are fellow human beings who are living in conditions, that frankly, may be worse than what is outlined in the Geneva Accords concerning POWs. Unfortunately, too many people see our friends on the street as a nuisance.

I was one of those people. I was annoyed, afraid and hostile towards the homeless, particularly during my days as a merchant on State Street.

Through a series of events which I will eventually discuss, I became enlightened. I now look to use whatever skill or resource I have in helping our friends feel dignity and self-worth. All of us at Friends of the State Street Family do this for that reason.

Through this series we can help you understand, build compassion and ultimately cultivate resources, providing these people with a support network.

Some of these stories will be tough to read. Others will be inspiring. And that is the point of Silent Madison.

Our hope is that you will react in a very human way: understanding the daily lives of our friends who have been dehumanized due to lack of understanding.

Jeff Turk
FSSF Media & Communications Director

Media

Phillip

As I passed out boots to our friends on a chilly November Sunday, a man by the name of Philip walked up to me with the aid of a cane and sat down to try on a pair.

“Thank you for being patient with me,” he said as I helped him situate himself, taking his cane as he lowered himself into the chair.

As I looked at his face, I realized he couldn’t have been older than me – a man just entering his fifth decade. I know living on the street can age a person, but oddly enough, he didn’t look that weathered.

“I am from Monroe,” he said as he started to tell me his story. “I took care of my mom. She has had Alzheimer’s for years.”

“A few months ago, she fell and went to the hospital. I ended up moving to Madison and they ended up selling our house to pay for expenses.”

That is the condensed version of Philip’s story. His journey in life has seen him as the care-receiver, then the care-giver and now to circumstances that find him without a place to go to. On top of that, he has his own health issues, as he told me about a recent bout of pancreatitis that recently landed him in the hospital for a week.

“When I drink a lot it flares up,” he told me. “After getting it under control, they released me. I like this place (the Beacon) because I can take a shower here and the people are nice.”

This was the second time Philip had been to the Beacon, having a meal before receiving a new pair of boots from the Friends of the State Street Family – a bonus for happening to be there on that day. I talked with Philip for a good 20 minutes before he made his way, acknowledging others needed to be served after him.

“Thanks for everything. This is wonderful – like Christmas. And thank you for listening,” he said as he slowly stood up, bracing his weight against his cane.

Philip told me that his mother was in assisted living, still in Monroe. He calls her 2-3 times a week. And he acknowledges his struggles with alcohol. He is a man without a support network of family or friends. He wants to do good by others, but he needs help and support.

I was happy to spend some of my Sunday afternoon with Philip, talking about family and life experiences good and bad. And while grateful for the boots that will protect him from the elements of a Wisconsin winter, my sense was he was more grateful to have someone that was listening.

Jeff Turk – FSSF Media & Communications Director