(below is a excerpt from the novel, surviving the streets. Ja'kadric is on a mission to rid atlanta of its homeless situation. he is awarded the "businessman of the year--humanitarian achievement award," from the chamber of commerce. in accepting the award, he delivers the following speech): The Award I was born with everything a child could ask for: parents who loved me; hopes for a wonderful future, and dreams of conquering the world. With what I had gone through since my parents’ death, it’s amazing I didn’t turn out to be a drug addict or an axe murderer, or something. Yet, there I stood…before the elite of my city…waiting for them to bestow upon me the highest honor they had in their power to give. The Humanitarian Achievement Award went to those people who put the needs of humanity above their own; who demonstrated a love for his, or her fellow man that was far superior to what was considered the norm. In their opinion, I had so demonstrated. I’m told that there were people lined up to introduce me at the awards banquet: from the governor of Georgia to the president of the United States. I didn’t know I was so popular. When they asked me who I wanted to introduce me, I told them, “the warden.” The warden, who was now retired and living in a suburb of Atlanta, had given me the skills to turn my life around, and an opportunity to get out of the system. Our talks reminded me of how a father would talk to his son…and he was sincere about his expectations. I didn’t know the governor and as honored as I would be to have the president introduce me, I didn’t know him either. The warden delivered a rousing oratory on the many admirable qualities I possessed…and how deserving I was of such an award. Lastly, he touched on the criminal element and the effects it had on the homeless…which left me a wonderful lead-in to the speech I wanted to give. As I took a moment to collect myself, I gazed out over the room at the many faces that filled the cavernous hall. I was amazed that so many notable figures had come out to honor me. Me…a one time homeless man, and excon. “I’m not a public speaker,” I began. “And though I have experience, I’m not even well versed in the subject I want to speak about tonight. I know you were probably expecting an acceptance speech, and one might come later, but not right now. I’m here to talk about the homeless situation in America…so, please, bear with me for a moment.” Once the ice was broken, my nerves settled and I felt like I was ready to conquer the world. “Merriam-Webster defines homelessness as the state of being homeless—having no home or permanent place of residence.” It was a definition I had become intimately familiar with. “But it goes far deeper than that. Homelessness is a state of mind…a consciousness that belittles its host in ways home owners cannot begin to understand. It’s about a feeling of defeatism…an attitude of accepting, or being resigned to defeat. As much as a homeless person might want to maintain a positive attitude, the fact that he’s homeless makes that virtually impossible. So, he learns to look beyond his situation. He learns to live beyond today, and dream about a tomorrow where he has everything he’s ever wanted. Then, he learns to live for that dream. Some people—the homeless-by-choice as I call them—treat homelessness like it’s a game…something to be used, as a weapon, to show society that they can survive without the social requiems of a society that has rejected them. It’s not a game…or a tool to be used in anyone’s plot of vengeance against others. Homelessness is a battle for survival. Each day sees you struggling to get to the next day. For all the literary scholars who try to romanticize homelessness, they need to spend a month on the streets. They will quickly realize that there’s nothing romantic about starvation. There’s nothing romantic about the smell of a person who haven’t had a bath in over a week…or cleaned himself after defecating. We go on camping trips and think we’d like to live that lifestyle. But, as a homeless person, you don’t take with you what you need. You don’t have the luxury of going home, or to the convenience store, for those things you left behind. Homeless people, generally, are broke…that’s usually why they’re homeless. They can no longer afford the necessities, much less the niceties society once afforded them. They’re reduced to beggars, garbage-bin eaters, no-bath-taking shells of their former self. There are lessons to be learned in everything we do. Some lessons are more brutal than others but they’re all about one thing: Survival. When we look back on meaningful moments in our lives, more often than not, they’re times of successes and achievements. Either we won against terrible odds, or we overcame some mountainous challenge. But we survived.” My words reverberated throughout the hall. And everyone in attendance seemed enraptured by what I was saying. “All these people came here to hear my words,” I thought, as I thought about how proud my parents would have been to see me standing in front of this great crowd…lecturing them on the evils of homelessness. As I glanced at my wife and children, who looked on with obvious admiration, I wondered if they were as proud of me as I had been of my father. “It’s widely known,” I continued, “and generally accepted as a way of life, that most Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. We plan the payment of each bill…and hope we don’t have to borrow from John to pay Jane. The reasons vary from financial mismanagement to the dreaded debt-to-income ratio. Whatever their reason, they stay afloat by stretching what little they have to its maximum limit. Given any catastrophic event, another family could be left destitute…with very little hope of recovery. While a socially conscious few may argue their disbelief that homelessness could exist in the richest, most powerful nation in the free world…a nation that send billions of dollars to third world countries, annually—to combat their war on poverty—I would ask, why does homelessness in the United States of America surprise anyone? We are a capitalistic society built on the blood of others. Yet, you conclude that we, the individual, care about the human condition of others. A capitalistic society is a selfish system where such mantras as, ‘only the strong survive,’ and ‘every man for himself,’ originated. Does that sound like the mumblings of a people with their countryman in mind? Society’s response to their ramblings is, ‘the rich gets richer, while the poor gets poorer.’ Again, the only people concerned about the homeless are the ones directly impacted by their presence…be it the business owners, the home owners, or the real estate owners who are trying to off load their property before its value decline to a point where it is too much of a liability to own. Once we understand the reasons for homelessness—whether involuntary or not—the question becomes: Why is the homeless shunned by every other segment of society…a society supposedly built on the teachings of a loving Christ…and a forgiving God. The answer is simple: The visible homeless are a constant reminder of what could happen to any of us…given the right circumstances. The homeless population is growing by leaps and bounds. With the economic situation as it is, their numbers are likely to double within the next five to ten years. As the number of homeless youths rise, you cannot say that the government is unaware of them. People, this is the most powerful, and one of the richest countries in the world. How can we call ourselves a civilized people and not care about our young? Yet, we ship billions of dollars each year to other countries…to help provide for their young. The homeless are considered an invisible people because, in most metropolitan areas, city leaders have tried to partition them away from mainstream society…so as not to stain, or blemish, their otherwise spotless façade. Out-of-sight-is-out-of-mind is the general concept. The homeless—indigent—situation has gotten so bad that, in some cities, if you call for emergency assistance and identify the victim as homeless, usually, assistance never comes. If it does, it’s because the person working dispatch is relatively new and hasn’t gotten the message that you don’t roll on homeless calls. Why? Because no one wants to take financial responsibility for the mounting cost associated with assisting the homeless. Not the city. Not the county. Not the federal government…who sends all those millions of dollars overseas to care for the homeless and hungry people of other countries…leaving the emergency needs of homeless Americans within American borders to go unanswered. Unfortunately, America has gotten so caught up in the world’s perception of us, we’ve forgotten about the spirit of us. If asked, ‘Have you ever been hungry,’ most people would talk about the lunch they missed because work got in the way. Or, having to go to bed without their evening meal because of a punishment their parents doled out. But that’s not the hunger I’m talking about. I’m talking about a hunger so deep the mere smell of food is nauseating. I’m talking about the week-long, near-starvation hunger that very few can even imagine…yet, some live with everyday. No! You wouldn’t know anything about that. If you ask those people—the ones who are intimately familiar with such hunger—if this country is the wonderfully beautiful land most of us believe it to be, you might get a somewhat different answer than the ‘O, Beautiful,’ that people sing about in schools, and at sporting events across this land. It may not be one of bed-and-roses, or spring-and-honey. It may not be about the brave-and-the-few, or all-for-one. For them, it may be more about abandonment, starvation, and so many other negatives America doesn’t want to be known for, globally. Because their stories are kept hidden, they’re not allowed to address social issues. They cannot be a part of the world view because, officially, they do not exist. Therefore, they do not have a voice. If you don’t have a voice in the land of the free, where do you have a voice? The future rests in the hands of our children. Responsible, or not, they’re the ones who will see us through the next century…who will set the example for our grandchildren, in domestic, as well as foreign affairs. Our children will do that. Have you raised your children in a manner befitting leaders?” The applause was deafening. It lasted nearly five minutes and turned into a standing ovation. I couldn’t believe it. I thought most would see it as me pointing fingers of blame at them but they actually liked what I had to say. “I know I’ve probably bored some of you,” I smiled and looked out over the crowd. “…But this is a topic that needs discussing. As you’ve probably heard, a group of us have gotten together to do away with homelessness in the Atlanta area. The city fathers have graciously consented to allow us the use of the Old Town area as the site for our homeless community. The plans are in place. All we need are volunteers to head up projects…and do some footwork…and we can make this happen. Of course, nothing is free. If you would like to donate your time, your money, or whatever you have, you can contact me through the mayor’s office. Please, join us. Let’s rid Atlanta of this sore that’s eating away at our humanity. Thank you.” It was a speech that brimmed with compassion, and I was passionate in its delivery. When I asked for volunteers, people were moved to action. When I asked for donations, they gave what they had to give. Everyone wanted to get involved. Supply house owners came donating supplies; engineering firms and designers came donating their time; contractors and carpenters came volunteering their services. People wanted to help. Whether they were concerned about their fellow man, or just didn’t want to be seen on the wrong side of a worthwhile cause, it didn’t matter. They wanted to help.