Faces of Soda City
Name: Isaac Coakley
Homeless Time: 7 Months
In need of? Work Boots (11 1/2), Work Pants, (34/32), Lightweight Shirts for work.
After walking the streets of Columbia for two hours this afternoon I ran into Isaac. We chopped it up and talked about many topics such as life, choices, love, homelessness, and education. I’d like to share a little bit about my new friend Isaac.
Isaac is a 57 year old Columbia, South Carolina native who takes great pride in being a multi skilled laborer. He has two daughter and a son who currently reside in Sumter, South Carolina.
He is no stranger to residential and commercial construction and has had many roles in the construction field ranging from being an electrician to operating a forklift. “I’ve done a little bit of everything during my 57 years on this Earth” said Isaac in regards to construction work.
Isaac, who has been homeless a little over 7 months, strongly feels as if there is some serious reform needed when it comes to the way Columbia assists its homeless population. To get a little bit of insight, I asked him a couple of questions in which he rarely needed time to stop and think about the answers.
Me: As a homeless person in Columbia, what would you say are the best and worst resources for a homeless individual?
Isaac: I'd have to say that Goodwill on Garners Ferry is doing the best thing. I do feel as if they need more funding and that they should be more active in the community. They definitely need more educational programs. If you aren't computer literate in this world, you can't and won't survive. Too many people don't have skills so they will never be able to better themselves.
(A look and feel of seriousness comes over Isaac's face)
The worst is that Trojan Labor place. I feel that they need to be investigated for the way they treat and use people. If you want to get high that's the place to go, it's all out there, weed, coke, alcohol, everything. If you're actually looking for work and money to get on your feet while being treated like a human stay away. It's almost like being a slave, they want your labor and don't give a damn about your well being. People go up their standing in line, high as a kite and smelling like weed and they still send them out on jobs. That's a work hazard to all of us, they're out working under the influence. They really need to be investigated. They talk to you like you're a dog. They need to be shut down.
Me: What about the known places to stay? How is Oliver Gospel Mission/Transitions?
Isaac: Oliver Gospel Mission is disgusting, people go in there and don't shower or wash or anything. They only change the linens out on those beds 2 days a week, even if they are clearly dirty. Most of the time it smells like feet and ass in there. The way they put you out or make you wait no matter what it's like outside is terrible too. If it's pouring down raining and freezing cold after breakfast oh well. Get out. It's the same thing when we have to wait for the doors to open. One they get your social security number, they don't care. You're just a number in their system that they can use to say that you're there and that they're taking care of you. A person can come for one day, and give up their social and they can and will use it for 30 days even if you never come back. It's kind of a racket. I put in a clothes request and you know what they gave me? A wool hat, some heavy sweat pants and a cut up shirt. It's 85 degrees! I just put the clothes back in the bag and gave it back. No way in the world I'd be out here like that. As for transitions, it's about the same too. The difference is a lot of times the white homeless people will go and drop off their stuff there and act like they aren't homeless. (I say "SAY WHATTTT") Yea, it's like undercover homelessness. There's racism even with the homeless and the homeless community. Pay attention, a lot of times you'll see that you won't see the white homeless people with the black homeless people. Majority of the times the labor companies will give the white guys all of the higher paying labor jobs even if they don't have a single damn skill or experience. It really feels like slavery sometimes in a different way and I hate it. I feel like it's built to keep us right where we are. Cheap labor. No insurance.
Me: Damn. I can tell you're woke.
Isaac: Wide awake and steady. Things change but they stay the same.
Me: If you could change one thing about the last 5 years of your life or what caused you to end up homeless, what would it be?
Isaac: I would have gotten and stuck with a better job. I relied on temp agencies for far too long, they are full of promises but they fall through. Sometimes they say what they say to get you through because they get money from fulfilling those positions
Too many temp services messed me up.
Me: If you had a message to say to the world, about life, homelessness or anything. What would it be?
Isaac: Stay focused on life, help other people and be truthful. No matter how it goes always put God first in your life. Homelessness can come from and at any stage or walk of life. If you have a good job, try to make the best of it always. Homelessness isn’t fun. You’re living by day by day you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from. You don't know where you're going to lay your head. It's hard. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone in the world.
After the questions him and I wrapped it up and exchanged phone numbers. His cellphone number was one digit off from my old cellphone number. We were both in the right place at the right time. Remember, homeless doesn't mean helpless, drug additions, or mental health. You never know what turn life may throw at you. Homelessness is one bad stretch away for all of us.