Ted Pascoe ended his homeless strike last week. The director of Senior Support Services, a day shelter for homeless seniors, walked back through his own front door for the first time in a month, drove his car again, took a shower in his own bathroom.
On September 17, Pascoe announced that he would sleep on the streets as a way to protest a decision by the Denver Regional Council of Governments to cut the nonprofit Senior Support Services's annual funding by $75,000. Pascoe said he'd stay homeless until the funding was restored.
Although Pascoe, the older son of former state senator Pat Pascoe, didn't specifically address why he ended his strike after a month, he did allude to the reasons in his blog, Ted's Homeless Strike, by saying how stressful it was for his friends and family.
"I was astounded and touched by the level of concern for me while I was out there," Pascoe wrote. "It was at times almost burdensome. People would urgently tell me what I should be doing regarding our battle with DRCOG or what I should be looking out for when on the streets, etc. Laundry lists of tasks would issue forth as if I had an army at my disposal. But at the root was genuine concern and a need to get me off the street. My gut tells me this is one of the reasons why many of our clients lose touch with their families as this level of concern puts enormous strain on relationships, eventually tearing them apart. It was certainly one of the reasons I returned home."
It would be easy to criticize Pascoe's urban camping adventure as being a stunt, easy to say that it accomplished nothing, trivialized homelessness, or that Pascoe went back on his promise to stay homeless until his funding was restored.
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But it is also easy to learn from it, to learn about aspects of homelessness that he, or you or I, may have never considered: how much energy it takes just to sleep; how difficult it is to find a routine or to break one; how quickly relationships can be threatened.
Those lessons -- even though I didn't experience them myself -- will be in my head the next time I see someone begging for money at a busy intersection or limping along Broadway.
"Being homeless gives you a feeling of being lost, of being wayward and without purpose or place," Pascoe wrote. "I was lucky I still had a job, a place where I was valued, a place where I belonged and where I even fit in as a homeless person. This disconcerting feeling, being without a compass, can only be compounded in someone who is both homeless and unemployed."