How many homeless people have a disability?

My Friend watches over me at this corner.

Every morning when I take my Seeing Eye dog out for her “constitutional” we pass the same homeless man sitting on a crate. “StreetWise!” he calls out. “Can you give a little hepp today?” StreetWise is a newspaper sold by homeless people in Chicago. The concept is that by selling StreetWise, people down on their luck might get back on their feet.

I’ve always nodded and smiled the vendor’s way as we pass. Since I can’t see to read, though, I never bought one of his papers.

And then came that one wintry afternoon in December.

I left my Seeing Eye dog at home that day to go Christmas shopping with a friend — crowds can be so fixated on shopping that they step on the dog. I cabbed home on my own afterwards, and when I fumbled with my white cane at the curb I heard a voice call out to me with a familiar mispronounciation. “Want some hepp?”

It was the StreetWise vendor. I grabbed his arm, and from the way my hand pumped up and down as we plodded to my doorway I could tell he had an extreme limp. Polio, maybe? I dunno.

When we finally arrived, I held out a bill that had one corner folded and asked for a copy of StreetWise. “They only cost two dollars,” my helper said. “You’re giving me a five.”

“I meant to give you a five,” I said, showing him how I fold money to keep track of the denominations. “Thanks for the help, and keep the change,” I told him. “Merry Christmas!”

W.C. and I have been friends ever since. “Hello Mizz Lady!” he calls out to me when Whitney and I pass him in the morning. And if we don’t pass him, W.C. notices. “You went a different way earlier,” he’ll say. “I was worried.”

A report by The Department of Housing and Urban Development found that 37% of those who sought emergency shelter or transitional housing in 2010 had a disability. October is Disabilities Employment Awareness Month — our nation has recognized the contributions of workers with disabilities since 1945, first as a single honorary week in October and then, beginning in 1988, the entire month of October. In an official presidential proclamation about Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, President Obama urged all Americans “to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces and communities and to promote the right to equal employment opportunity for all people.”

During Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, and every month, Easter Seals helps people reach their employment goals. Need some help? Or do you know someone like W.C. who does? Learn more about Easter Seals Workforce Development services.


Comments may not reflect Easterseals' policies or positions.

Please read our community guidelines when posting comments.

Leave a Reply