Why I feel answerable to help homeless veterans, and homeless?
I come from an addicted family. Its in our genes. This is one of the few times we had gotten together since the welfare days in Washington State, growing up poor, dependent on the State. I know what it is to be in junior and high school dirt poor. I know what its like to watch your brothers and sisters cope with survival.
There I am hugging my brothers and sister: Steve, Kevin, and Karen.
As I shared in previous blogs, I got into alcohol, and became addicted to the stuff, from age 17 till I kicked it, in 1994, My brothers and sisters were not so lucky.
I tried to help my brothers and sister. This is my side of the story of addicted family growing up in the USA. Its only one side, not all the sides. I can say all of us divorced at least once. We each have kids, that sort of are distant from us, some closer than others.
Our parents, were the don’t hold em, don’t pick em up when they cry, kind of parents form WWII (my era), when Dr. Spock had yet to visit the flower child movement. I was 21 years old before I got my first hug from my dad, and years latter I began to hug my mom, for all of 2 seconds, as long as she could ever stand to hug or be hug. We are not one of those families that hugs a lot, in our comings and goings, mostly we just stand apart from one another. That is why this photo is so very meaningful. Even in the photo, you can see we are keeping our distance. We all vowed to hug our own children, but its not in our genes.
My brother Kevin Brian Boje came to Culver City, about 1990, and said, “I just burned down my house, can I stay in yours?” He was smoking in bed. I said, “No, but I will put you up in a motel.” I drove him way outside Los Angeles, in the desert to a detox facility, and he detoxed from Cocaine. I got him enrolled in Heidelberg printing press training program. He was a good printer, but could not hold a job. He was off cocaine, but… He later switched to Ecstasy, and took over running an apartment building in Olympia Washington. About two years ago, he was in the alley, and got into a fight with the local addicts. Kevin claims he was not using, just emptying the trash, when he was jumped from behind. They broke his collar bone and his arm. He got fired as Apartment Manager, and was homeless. He moved to a state park, in the dead of winter, in a tent camp. That is when I got the call to help.
My wife and I called his caseworker in Olympia, and agreed to finance him in an apartment, by guaranteeing about $60 a month. But, they State of Washington want us to sign a contract to be responsible for any and all damage to the entire apartment building, that he might cause. It was an open-ended agreement, which meant, if he smoked in bad, and the place burned, we would lose our home, our farm, everything we owned. So was said, we will pay the $60 a month he needs to make his rent budget, but won’t sign that contract. So he stayed in a tent in the state park, moving from one park to the next. And that is last I heard from him.
My sister Karen Louise Boje, lived in a mobile home (single wide) next to my mother’s double wide outside of Yelm, Washington. Karen’s mobile home had belonged to my Aunt Val, and when she died my mom picked up the bills for it, and as it was on mom’s property, she let Karen and family stay there. Karen had two children, and did AA meetings for the county, and worked in a half-way house for teens recovering from alcoholism. Karen had been an alcoholic, since she was a teen. She had kicked it, and stayed sober for decades, then married an alcoholic, and went off the wagon. Could not pay her mobile home rent, or cell phones my mom bought with those $3,000 plans, for Karen, and her children. My mother could not keep up with the money that Kevin, Karen, and Karen’s children were being given. I helped Mom file for bankruptcy, and she got her bills under control for a while, until giving out money she did not have, put her under again.
So Mom did a reverse mortgage, and paid out to the bank her home and property ownership, until when she died at 84, there was nothing left. The bank owed it all. Lorraine Boje was born on May 27, 1929 and died March 1983, in one of those hospice places. She said ‘no funeral for me, I don’t want anybody fussin over me.’
One of her grandchildren, went after my mom with a machete, and left her door in a shambles.
My sister Karen and her new husband hit the road, having no more mobile home to live in. They wound up in Deming, New Mexico, which is about an hour’s drive from where I live. I had gone to the Alanon meetings, and what they told me, is do not enable! Do not give money, or anything, until they hit bottom, and kick the habit. Its called tough love. I learned about it the hard way. Even with family, enabling is not a good idea. You will end up like my mother, and the bank will take your home. I get an email once in a while, but do not know where Karen is these days. I pray she gets into rehab.
Steven Douglas Boje. Birthdate: January 19, 1952. Birthplace: Pasco, Washington, United States. Death: Died May 10, 2007. Steven died at age 55, battling heroine since about age 19. Actually he kicked the habit, says his priest during the last few years of his life. He managed a soup kitchen in the basement of a Catholic Church in Manhattan.
Steve is four years younger than me, or was, before he died from too many years of heroine use. He picked up that habit when he and I were attending Burlington Community College in Pemberton NJ (now its just Burlington College).
He had been homeless, off and on, over the years. Last I heard, Kevin and Karen are still homeless. I tried it for 60 days, after my divorce and bankruptcy.
During the late 1980s I would get a call from him, sometimes a visit. He would call and say, “I am in Mexico at a resort, and was robbed, can you send me $300 so I can get back home.” He could always tell a tall tale, and you never quite knew if he was truthing it.
About 2004, I went looking for Steven, in Manhattan at the last place I had sent money to. The people at his apartment said he had died, so I walked to the police station, and they said, they had no record of his death. Turned out the loan sharks were after him, so he faked his death. But the death in 2007, that is apparently real, the end of his life on earth, the end of his Being-in-this-world.
Steve had a tough life. He joined the Navy, and soon decided, that he did not like it one bit. So at morning formation he adopted the practice of standing at attention, then falling face-first, with hands still at his side, onto the pavement. After the third time, he got a medical discharge. He kept his habit.
He got enrolled in jobs program, and became a diesel mechanic, working for the city’s power company. Those diesel engines are as tall as a two story building, with pistons the size of a Volkswagen. He kept his habit.
Steven Douglas Boje as a young lad
When I visited his priest, in 2008, he told me of how Steve had helped so many homeless people, people who new what poverty meant. He kept the kitchen going, seeing to the supplies, and had some peace in his final days.
My brother Steve, when I came back home with my Ph.D. in hand (about 1980), wrestled in the mud puddle. He did not like that I had gone all academic, and let my obligations to brothers and sister slide. When we were younger we had made plans to open a small business, to quit the rat race, and make something together.
I suppose you can guess why I am helping homeless veterans, and every other kind of homeless. I am looking into what happens to brothers and sister, when homelessness becomes a way of life.
I have this attunement to poverty, addiction, homelessness. In my last remaining years, I cannot help Steven, he is dead. I know my bother Kevin and sister Karen, last I heard, were homeless, but they had not gotten, as yet, off the stuff.
Now I have all this academic training in Business subjects, and what am I to do? Being-in-the-world, I have some years outstanding (I hope they are years), and there will come a time, where like Steve, my brother, my existence in this world, will be no more. I am Being-towards-death, as Heidegger calls it, approaching Being-no-long-in-the-world (#238). We are all dying, and the end is coming and a time for settling all our accounts. Each of us has a debt, something to be paid off, a life we are answerable for.
So I founded Antenarrative Foundation, to do things to help homeless veterans, homeless, and apply the deep grounded antenarrative ways of getting at the before-beneath-between-bets-becoming that the grand narratives and living story web cannot fathom. I think we academics know very little about addiction, poverty, veterans, homeless veterans.
We have come up with four programs of the Antenarrative Foundation:
We are figuring out how to raise money by putting on plays and conferences, getting ready to make some solutions happen.
donate if you are a mind. Thanks. Donate to Veterans TheaterGoFundMe