Who's Out There
communicating – validating and empowering each other

Welcome to “Who’s Out There”

The three most recent interviews include photos. They are Mick and Tucson, Joe B, and Kevin.

This blog is about talking with people living in the streets – and, actually, it’s about listening.

So far it’s with people in Monterey, California, with one person in San Francisco.

This started as a project in a course in which each student takes on something that they say will be a contribution to their community. The project is centered around the idea that in our current economy, people disappear – to the streets. Suze Ormond noted that when people lose jobs and can’t make their mortgage payments and then lose their homes – they go to the bottom. They can’t get loans, can’t get credit cards, lose their FICA ratings, etc. Some employers are asking for a credit report and a person’s FICA rating when one applies for a job.

We all encounter such people – holding cardboard signs, begging for a buck or for food.

Who are they?

(An edit – I’ve changed a couple of people’s real names to names of Greek gods and goddesses, after discovering that I had put a person in peril by posting his name and information. I intend this to be an interesting and safe place. Let me know if I’ve crossed a line, and I’ll take down the post immediately.  -Vaughn)

I propose we find out – that we talk with them. Find out who they are, where they came from, what happened, and what they care about. So far, I’ve ‘interviewed’ more than a dozen people and have met many of their friends. The experience has been extremely moving, rewarding, and revealing – revealing a presence of humanity and community network I would never have guessed existed. My friend, Joyce, interviewed Joe B., thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and came away thoroughly inspired.

And to my surprise, I’m discovering more about who I am – perhaps the real reason I’m doing this?


Vaughn McIlrath

A Woman with Dogs - Franco Folini, San Francisco, 2006


27 Responses to “Welcome to “Who’s Out There””

  1. i am interested in reading more.

  2. Responding to Vaughn Mcllrath…I read your letter in the Monterey County Herald…Thank you so much..My son is homeless in Salinas …He comes from a loving family but suffers with ADD and I believe depression…I miss him so much !! I have been meeting and trying to help other homeless people in Salinas as a means of getting closer to him…I often come away with tears in my eyes. Please next time you walk past a homeless person give them a smile and maybe something out of your pocket..Most are loving good people either down on their luck or suffering from an illness..

  3. Vaughn, This is Lisa Lambert again…Have you traveled to Salinas to interview yet? The Methodist Church on Lincoln AVe would be a great place to start…Also I-Help houses homeless men and feeds them dinner every night at a different Church throughout Monterey County…

  4. Vaughn, interesting letter to the editor. I am not sure I logged in correctly as I found just one story, were there other’s and I am not seeing the link?
    Thank you,
    David W.

    • David,
      I apologiize. I’m using a WordPress “theme” for the site that puts links at the bottom of the page. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll find more.
      Also, I’m using the numbering format “001, 002, …” to keep things in order until I find a better way.

      • David, et al,
        I’ve found a free WordPress theme that puts links in the sidebar at the right. It works a lot better.

  5. This is an interesting subject for a project

    Simply because I’m curious myself, is there any way you could elicit more information as long as you’re only getting first names? You don’t even have to say where they were when you talked with them, only the city, but I’m sure they would have some good stories to tell. It isn’t an easy life for them. I’d be curious to find out where they sleep nights (without specific locations), how they handle cold weather if they don’t carry a cart or backpack, where they get their food, do they go hungry, about how much money a day they get from standing on the corners, the dangers involved, where they take showers, how often. The list goes on and on. Of course , finding out what you have already may be all you need for your project, but discovering more would make it a more interesting project — providing they are willing to tell you.

    Your project – even their lives and stories – could be a good basis for an interesting book, even a movie.

    Great idea.

    • Billie,
      Thank you. It’s your project, too.
      I have some answers to some of those questions, and as I go along, I’m discovering that I have to be responsible for their safety and well-being. So I’m becoming more cautious about what gets revealed.
      One thing I’ve discovered is how generous our community is. More than one has told me that no one has to go hungry around Monterey.

  6. Lisa, I’ve taken clothing to I-Help and had forgotten about the location until you just mentioned it. There were a number of homeless there both times and very nice guys, obviously down and out on their luck. They were appreciative and friendly. I wasn’t aware I-Help also provides food in different locations so am glad you told us. If anyone needs their address, it’s 3050 Lexington Court, Marina, (located on the Ft. Ord base) telephone (831) 384-3362. Most of our donations are to the Salvation Army and the reason is because they, too, help those in need.

    Vaughn, I definitely agree. You do need to be cautious in what gets revealed. For privacy and protection, if it were me, I wouldn’t post any last names.

    I don’t have a project going. I just thought what you’re doing might make for a good book or movie. There are stories to be told.

  7. Thanks Billie,

  8. This from Brian:

    Hey Vaughn,

    Love what you’re doing . . . I work as a crisis minister with a lot of homeless folks in Monterey & am thoroughly grateful that you’re providing a platform to get some of their stories out to a public that tends to view homelessness as something to be ignored at best or a kind of societal disease to be shipped out of our county at worst. Every person on the streets has a story – much of it having to do with mental disease or abuse or trauma suffered in war (from Nam to Afghanistan) or addictions to cover up their pain if only for a moment. These men & women & in some cases children are human beings who won’t deny having made poor decisions along the way – but certainly will welcome a warm smile & handshake & perhaps a clean pair of socks from a stranger. So I encourage you on your quest to uncover some of these treasures hidden in the darkness & provide an albeit brief glimpse into the depths of their humanity.

  9. More Info regarding I-Help…Thanks Billie for posting your interactions with I-Help in Salinas…Every night a different Church hosts about 25 to 30 men (depending)….A van from I-Help picks up the homeless men and transports them to whichever Church in hosting…The Church volunteers provide dinner and a venue for the night.. I have volunteered at the Buddist Church in Salinas and found the men to be very appreciative and kind…If anyone can help of course donations to I-Help are always needed…Also again clothes, socks, razors,toliet paper,etc are needed at the Methodist Chruch on Lincoln in Salinas…Many homeless spend there days at the church using computers to look for work etc…It is a place for them to go during the day and hang out…

  10. My friend, Joyce, sent an email. Here’s Joyce:

    “Hi Vaughn!
    How is your project going? I think I talk about your project as much as I do my own, as I find what you’re doing truly inspirational and fascinating.”

    Thank you Joyce!

  11. congratulations on being published in newspapers.

  12. I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Monterey County Herald newspaper. It was posted on the editorial page on Sunday, June 12, with a link to this site. There have been over 1400 views of this web site during the 7 days since then.
    Thank you, Monterey County Herald.

  13. Hey Vaughn,
    Come to Community Church 2nd Wednesday. Have dinner with I-Help attendees; just a short hop from your place; right next to Rancho Canada. You are right about the interesting stories.

    • Hi Peter,
      I’ve assisted with I-Help dinners at Church of the Wayfarer a few times. I-Help is a great program.
      Thanks for jumping in here – great to hear from you.

  14. Vaughn, you are an incredible inspiration! There are several homeless people around my work and I see them day in and day out and offer a smile but I’m so excited to have a conversation with them, get to know them and learn a little something about their lives. Thank you! I will be taking this on in Fremont!

  15. Going to help out tonight at the Buddist Church in Salinas…I-Help to make dinner for the homeless men and “bed” them down for the night…We usually have between 20-26 guys…Some even come from school and work…Nice guys…Susie if you read this are you from Fremont? I moved here from that area about a year ago…The Bay Area doesn’t seem to have anything like the I-Help down here…

  16. There’s a new blogger, Claudia, who is doing a similar project, personally exploring diversity in posting conversations with people she wouldn’t normally chat with. It’s pretty darn interesting – check it out at http://givingvoicetodiversity.wordpress.com/

  17. Hi Vaughn

    Thank you for recommending my blog. I have done the same for yours on my site. I find myself telling someone almost every day about your project just because I love what you are doing.


    • Thanks Claudia!
      I need to get back out there and chat with folks. It grounds me.
      Today I took a brief pass through Carmel to hit the cash machine for the weekend. It’s ‘Concours’ week here with BIG money in town – all kinds of expensive cars of all ages all over the place. And, there are homeless people IN the crowd. Now, that’s diversity.
      Thanks again.

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