Table of Contents By the Numbers Feature 4
Brain Busters Puzzles 10
Summer Education 12
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Pop Culture 16
Aging Out of Place Health 18
Homelessness Around the World Photography 20
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Vendor Highlight 26
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BY THE NUMBERS: Data provided by United Way of Central Oklahoma, Vital Signs: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Graphics by Shelbi Rosa For more statistics and resources, visit www.unitedwayokc.org/research/library “What brings you in today? What are your symptoms?” These are probably questions you heard at your last doctor’s appointment. “Have you had any thoughts of suicide recently? Have you heard any voices lately?” These questions, however, probably were not asked. Unfortunately, we don’t treat mental health the same way we treat physical health. If you feel chest pains, you go to the doctor. If the doctor diagnoses you with heart disease, your friends and family express sympathy and support and encourage you to continue on a path of treatment. However, if you hear voices in your head, you try to hide it. When your family and friends notice you acting strangely, they often express uncertainty or fear and encourage you to act normally. In our society, “I have schizophrenia” doesn’t evoke the same reaction as “I have heart disease.” Although schizophrenia and heart disease are different, they’re both medical conditions that can be treated. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, treatments for heart disease have a 41 to 52 percent success rate but treatments for schizophrenia have a 60 percent success rate. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that when
someone is abusing drugs, they suffer from a decrease in brain metabolism. Similarly, individuals with heart disease suffer from decreased heart metabolism. Likewise, as individuals suffering from addiction seek treatment and maintain sobriety, their brain functions begin to increase and return to normal, just as an individual with heart disease undergoing treatment sees increased heart function. Just as your body reacts to physical ailments and treatments, your body reacts to mental ailments and treatments. “Mental health and substance abuse issues are Oklahoma’s leading public health concern,” reports Terri White, Commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substane Abuse Services. Our state consistently ranks as having among the highest rates of behavioral illness nationally. The associated negative consequences of these diseases when left untreated and under-addressed are devastating to the individual, families, local communities, and the state. In the end, the only way to change the stigma surrounding mental health is to begin treating it the same way we do physical health. By better understanding the effects of mental illnesses like depression, drug abuse, and schizophrenia on the mind and body, we can break down the barriers and open the door to dialogue and effective treatment. If we succeed, one day your doctor will be checking both your physical AND mental well-being.
MENTAL HEALTH To understand mental health challenges in Oklahoma, we must first be aware of the prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse in our state and the challenges people face with access to care.
MENTAL HEALTH - ADULTS has the
prevalence of adults with mental illness in the country , 21.88%. Oklahoma also has the 2nd highest prevalence of adults with severe mental illness in the country , 5.24%.
Number and percent of adults with any mental illness.
Number and percent of adults with mental illness who recieved treatment
Oklahoma has the 7th worst overall mental health system in the U.S. based on prevalence and access to care.
is the average delay between onset of symptoms and intervention.
Adults with a mental illness are uninsured in Oklahoma. In Oklahoma the ratio of mental health providers to citizens is 1:426. The ratio of mental health providers to adults with a mental illness is approximately 1:93
Of the 1 , 300 individuals who are illness and 603 have substance abuse issues.
in Oklahoma City , 495 have severe mental
MENTAL HEALTH - YOUTH Percent of all children with emotional, behavioral, or developmental issues.
has the 9th worst mental health system for youth based on prevelance and access to care.
youth in Oklahoma County have a mental health disorder , but only 9 , 546 (23.7%) received services.
50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by 14.
75% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by 24.
of students Nationwide that are 14+ with mental illness drop out of high school. This is the highest drop-out rate of any disability group.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE Number of adults with substance abuse problems. Alchol
Percent of adults with substance abuse problems.
In 2013, approximately 51,663 adults in Oklahoma County needed substance abuse treatment services. Only 16,788 (32.5%) of those received services.
(6.41%) of youth in Oklahoma have a substance abuse problem. In 2013, 13,067 (68.8%) youth met the criteria for needing substance abuse services. Only 1,769 (13.5%) youth received such services.
On any given day, approximately 600 Oklahomans are on a waiting list to get into residential treatment. Every $1 invested in treatment for alcohol and other drug-related problems saves taxpayers $7.14 in future costs.
Americans will at some point struggle with depression.
Number of adults served for depression in 2013.
The estimated economic benefits of expanded diagnosis and treatment of depression has a return on investment of 7:1.
is the leading reason for missing work and reduced productivity in Oklahoma.
2 0 0 ,0 0 0 Oklahoma workers with depression cost the state $6 0 0 m il l i o n annually in medical costs.
SUICIDE - YOUTH Ages 10-14
is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 14 and 2nd leading cause of death in youth ages 15 to 24.
Between o nl y 38% of Oklahoma youth (12-17) with a major depressive episode received treatment for their depression.
Oklahoma youth report having attempted suicide.
SUICIDE - ADULTS Oklahoma ranks 17th in terms of suicide rate.
current depressed mood
intimate partner problems
diagnosed or treated mental health problems
For each suicide prevented, Oklahoma could save $1 , 097 , 763; $3 , 545 in medical expenses and $1 , 094 , 218 in lost productivity.
Suicides outnumber homicides three to one in Oklahoma, among males. From 2007-2012, Central Oklahoma had the largest increase in the rate of deaths due to suicide, 42%.
Oklahoma adults report serious thoughts of suicide. 8
TREATMENT 41 % - 5 2 %
Treatments for heart disease have a 41 % to 5 2 % success rate but treatments for schizophrenia have a 60% success rate.
Of those who received appropriate treatment , 80.9% of Oklahomans reported improved social connectedness. 85.4% reported improved functioning.
WITH TREATMENT Average crisis stabilization bed cost per day Average detox cost per day Average annual substance abuse treatment cost for an adult WITHOUT TREATMENT Average emergency room cost per visit Average hospital cost per day Average annual prison cost for a drug offender
by Kevin, formerly homeless street paper vendor
How to Play The classic Sudoku game involves a grid of 81 squares. The grid is divided into nine blocks, each containing nine squares. The rules of the game are simple: each of the nine blocks has to contain all the numbers 1-9 within its squares. Each number can only appear once in a row, column, or box. Solution on page 29
Busters Navigating mental health services can be puzzling. But youâ€™re not alone. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health questions, you can call 2-1-1 by phone and ask about counseling and mental health resources available in Oklahoma.
Summer Not a Break for Homeless Families
by Lauren Blundin, Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness
For children experiencing homelessness, a break from school can mean a break from the one stable place in their lives.
Every June, kids across the United States are counting down to summer vacation. They cannot wait for the break—a time for family outings to beaches, parks, and museums, for riding bikes and going swimming. Summer also brings a less welcome phenomenon—often called the “summer surge”—of increasing numbers of people, including families, needing shelter. There are many reasons for this increase, but at least one cause can be linked to the summer break itself; relatives and friends who have allowed homeless families to live with them during the school year are less patient with the situation once summer break has started and children are home all day. For children experiencing homelessness, a break from school can mean a break from the one stable place in their lives. “School is a critical, normalizing part of life,” says Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “School is a time for being with peers, pursuing interests, and being out of the stressful situation of being homeless.”
Different Challenges and Barriers Summer break often finds homeless students without a safe place to play and 12
without opportunities for educational or cultural activities. Summer learning loss—the loss of academic knowledge and skills over the break—is a concern for all children. Homeless students in particular cannot afford to lose skills, as they are often already behind their peers academically. With 1 child in 30 homeless every year, the public school system is the obvious choice for providing and funneling services and supports to homeless children and their families. Schools may provide free breakfasts and lunches (and less frequently, dinners), access to health care and dental care, food pantry programs, access to before- and after- school care, and enrichment activities. When the calendar flips to June, the need for food, quality educational activities, and other services does not just go away.
The Hunger Gap “About 21 million students receive free and reduced price meals at school during the school year,” says Ross Fraser, director of national relations for Feeding America, which represents a nationwide network of member food banks. “Of those, about 10 million also get a free breakfast. So for a significant number of children there are one or two meals a day they receive free or at a reduced price.”
What happens during the summer break? There is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) summer food service program, but it reaches only about one in eight, or 20 percent, of the children who receive free or reduced price meals during the school year. Lack of transportation to the summer meal sites is a common barrier for children, especially those in rural areas, resulting in a huge gap between the number of children eligible for food programs and the number of students accessing those programs.
Photo: Andrew Fong
Homeless at College Most programs and legislation for the education of homeless students target kindergarten through 12th grade, but students in college are vulnerable to homelessness as well, particularly in the summer. The trend of the “summer surge” of homelessness in shelters is echoed at colleges across the country each spring as students lose access to college-provided housing and/or deplete their financial aid for the year and struggle to afford housing on or near campus.
Four-year colleges generally provide housing to students, but at a significant cost, and not always yearround. “We certainly see students struggle with housing during breaks,” says Cyekeia Lee, director of higher education initiatives for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY). “Of course, in community college there is no housing at all, so those students struggle year-round. For students on campus, summer is the longest break. It can make the difference between a student
coming back for sophomore year or not. Sometimes they have to go to a different state for housing with friends or family, and they might not return.” Many college students are reluctant to reach out for help, and try to avoid shelters. “I have had students call me from barns,” says Lee. “Some students are saying they live in 24-hour school libraries, and some are sleeping outside, but they may not say that to a lot of people.” Students may fund tuition through scholarships or financial aid, but those funds are usually depleted by the
summer time. Housing and food is expensive, and there may be limited availability to both during the summer. For example, a student who relied on her meal plan throughout the year may face hunger when she finds the plan does not extend over the summer. Students who rely on campus transportation systems to get to work can also find that reduced bus schedules make it challenging to get to work. While work-study is usually available, the number of hours available for students to work depends upon the department’s funding. Often, students will deplete their allotted work-study hours before the summer break, leaving them scrambling to find employment for the summer. These factors combine to create huge barriers to staying in school for homeless students.
Growing Problems with Shrinking Budgets School districts and communities are aware of the many needs of students during the summer break from school. The challenge, however, is meeting those increasing needs with a stagnant or shrinking budget. The number of homeless students more than doubled between the 2004–05 and 2012–13 school years according to the nonprofit research center Child Trends. Funding for public schools, however, has actually decreased in at least 30 states since the national recession of 2007–09. As school districts struggle to meet the needs of increasing numbers of homeless students during the school year, budgets for existing summer programs may suffer. The summer learning loss phenomenon is a concern for all children. The stakes for homeless and economically disadvantaged children, however, are much higher than those of their economically stable peers. A study of the long-reaching consequences of the summer learning gap traced high school achievement back to first grade to see how early elementary summer experiences influenced later achievement. The results were astounding. A child’s achievement gains over the first nine years of schooling were found to be the result mainly of learning during the regular school year. But the achievement gap between high and low socioeconomic statuses at the ninth grade was mainly due to differences in summer learning over the elementary years. These summer experiences substantially influenced whether a child was placed in a college prep track at the high school level, whether a child graduated high school, and whether he or she attended college.
The achievement gap between high and low socioeconomic statuses at the ninth grade was mainly due to differences in summer learning over the elementary years.
“ Belief in oneself is incredibly infectious. It generates momentum, the collective force of which far outweighs any kernel of self-doubt that may creep in.” ~ Aimee Mullins
For creating a movement propelled by the belief in one’s self and worth, we say thank you to the Curbside Chronicle, and carry on to those moving forward.
NYAN CAT compiled by Whitley O’Connor
Q&A with Chris Torres, the creator of Nyan Cat, a cartoon cat with a POP-Tart body, flying through a starry sky, leaving a rainbow trail, and meowing a happy tune. We’re talking about the Internet’s most famous 8-bit kitty and how a simple cat video turned into a pop-culture sensation.
How was Nyan Cat created? I have heard that it was just a random joke, is this true? It was less of a random joke and more of many ideas coming together in perfect unison. I was doing a charity drive drawing stream for some friends and asked the chat room what they wanted me to draw. Several people pitched in a lot of ideas, and I honestly got flooded with suggestions. To save time, I took all suggestions and put them together, then added a rainbow. The original doodle of Nyan Cat was born! However, it wasn’t until a few days later that I decided to pixelate and animate it on my own. I uploaded it on April 1, 2011 and it exploded in popularity just a few days later! What were you doing in life when Nyan Cat was created? What do you do now? The day that I uploaded Nyan Cat, I was actually interviewing for an assistant position for a liability firm. I got the job on April 5, the day the YouTube video was uploaded. It was very weird leaving the interview and seeing a few hundred emails in my inbox. I was all like, “Uh oh, what now??” Now, Nyan Cat is my full time job. I get emails every day with people 16
wanting to use Nyan Cat for their brands, but I’m very picky on who I allow. Right now, Nyan Cat has been in works with companies like Google, Facebook, Nike and Vitamin Water to help spread each other’s brands. It’s pretty awesome. Nyan Cat even launched its own toy line, and we’ve had people contact us about a cartoon show. How did Nyan Cat get so big? As with all viral entities, that credit goes to people on the Internet. Big online celebrities and websites posting and sharing it made it become what it is today. I remember Collegehumor and Attack of The Show making news articles about it very early, boosting the reputation very quickly. Having the website, www.nyan.cat , where you can choose a different Nyan Cat flavor and post how long you’ve listened to it on sites like Twitter or Facebook help a lot, too. Nyan.cat has had over 30,000,000 page views and the YouTube video is just at 134,000,000 views!! (And that’s not counting the thousands of parodies and different variations, TedTalks estimated it’d be somewhere in the 500,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 category. The biggest factor in its popularity though was adding Daniwell’s infectious Nyan Nyan Nyan Nyan
Nyan Nyan Nyan!! song to the mix and Saraj00n on YouTube for uploading the original video. Like all memes, you take one thing, add something else and make it magical! On top of all of that, it’s a cat on the Internet with rainbows. That is always a win-win scenario! Nyan Cat isn’t a living cat so how do Nyan Cat fans support him? Nyan Cat is actually based off my Russian Blue named Marty. Unfortunately, he passed away in November of 2012 due to a cat illness called FIP. He was an awesome cat, and I feel his time on this earth was way too short. He lives on in an 8bit form flying across the Internet spreading love and joy. How do you feel about the 100 hour-long version of Nyan Cat? Last time I checked, the 100-hour version had over 8 million views! That’s 8 MILLINYAN people who watched a good portion of it! So crazy, but Nyan Cat fans are so dedicated. On my Facebook page, www.facebook. com/NyanCatWorld, I put together photos of people all over the world using Nyan Cat for really cool things.
How do you feel about the idea of Youtube and social media making cats famous? As a fan, it blows my mind to think that a cat could have a million fans or a movie like Grumpy Cat. That’s honestly just how the Internet has evolved. Today, lots of people jump on the Internet for a quick look at their favorite sites or funny content. Cats have always ruled the Internet because they’re not only funny, but super cute. Now that sharing content is so easy, things go viral very quickly and since cat photos are the best things to share, it’s easy to understand how cats like Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, and Nyan Cat have gotten their fame. Do you feel attached to Nyan Cat like he is a real pet? Nyan Cat was based off my real cat, so I definitely have a bond with it. His passing was very unexpected and I still miss him. What is it like having a manager for Nyan Cat? Having Ben Lashes work with me on Nyan Cat has been one of the best decisions of my life. When Nyan Cat first started exploding in popularity, I had hundreds of emails a day with people wanting to use my brand. At the time, I was happy just for the publicity, but Ben came along and I learned many of these people were using Nyan Cat for high financial gain without advising me. With Ben on board, we both talk things over and go by three simple rules:
1. It has to be cool. 2. It can’t alienate Nyan Cat. 3. The client has to understand what Nyan Cat is all about. We definitely don’t agree to every deal that comes our way. I’ve had to decline a lot of people that don’t follow these rules. If you think about it, even though Nyan Cat is an Internet meme, it’s still a piece of art comparable to brands like Hello Kitty. Being an Internet meme shouldn’t devalue the work, it should make it an even bigger achievement. Every day, memes come and go on the Internet in a matter of seconds. Nyan Cat has been big and hip all over the world for years now. It’s become part of pop culture and its amazing to see what people come up with.
If Nyan Cat were living, would she eat pop tarts? I’m sure Nyan Cat would eat anything that’s sweet and tasty, so yes! Marty just stuck to cat food/treats, though. What is your favorite internet meme or cat? There are so many memes I love that it’s very hard to choose! I’m going to say that it’s an equal tie between Grumpy Cat, Keyboard Cat, Chuck Testa, and Scumbag Steve. Which one’s yours?
Chris Torres, Creator of Nyan Cat Photo: Matt DiGirolamo
Aging Out of Place Homeless people face age-related conditions earlier than people with homes by Kathryn doyle
Health conditions usually seen among the elderly are more common among middle-aged homeless people than older people with housing, according to a new study. Those conditions include thinking problems, visual impairment, urinary incontinence, and falls, write the researchers in The Gerontologist. “I think in a sense this is a problem of severe poverty,” said senior author Dr. Margot B. Kushel, of the University of California’s San Francisco General Hospital. Geriatric conditions occur earlier in life for people in poverty and even earlier in life for those who are homeless, said Kushel.
However, researchers didn’t know how common these conditions were among homeless people, and if those rates varied by where homeless people stayed from time to time. For the new study, researchers interviewed 350 people who are homeless and aged 50 and over. The participants stayed in unsheltered locations, shelters, intermittently with family or friends, or in rental housing. Half of the group was younger than age 59. A third of the homeless group said they had suffered a fall over the past six months, a quarter had cognitive impairment, 45 percent had vision problems, and almost half screened
positive for urinary incontinence, regardless of their living arrangements. These issues typically first arise for housed adults aged 75 and older, write the researchers. The homeless participants had as much or more trouble bathing, dressing and eating, using transportation, taking medications, managing money, applying for benefits, arranging a job interview and finding a lawyer as 80 year olds with housing in the general population, they found. “Some of these impairments come out because of a lifetime of poor access to healthcare, and potentially substance use disorders,” Kushel said.
Photo: Kellan Baker
Health conditions usually seen among the elderly are more common among middleaged homeless people than older people with housing...
The rate of cognitive impairment was “astonishingly high,” she said. “In my mind, that raises the question, did the cognitive impairment potentially lead to their homelessness,” she said. But homelessness itself, and the struggles or trauma that precede it, can have physical health effects and cause old age to express earlier, said Dr. Josh Bamberger, medical director for housing and urban health at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “One of the ways we handle geriatric conditions is we make changes to the environment, add grab bars in the bathroom, we light their path to the bathroom with nightlights to prevent a fall,” Kushel said. “When people are in unstable environments, we can’t do that.” More than 40 percent of the homeless group had not been homeless before age 50. “That makes me fearful that cognitive impairment or physical limitation contributed to their homelessness,” Kushel said. “It’s already hard to fight an eviction notice, but if you’re cognitively impaired or having difficulty walking, that only makes it harder.” “What we ask them to go through to leave homelessness, that includes cognitively and physically hard things,” like taking public transportation to various offices and filling out paperwork, which may be too difficult for people suffering the health problems common to 80 year olds, she said. Permanent supported housing may help prevent and treat some of these health problems, she said. “There doesn’t have to be any new allocation of funding, just repurposing of funding,” said Bamberger. Most adults who become homeless first start utilizing the healthcare system more and more in emergency rooms, as inpatients or in nursing homes, he said. Repurposing those healthcare expenditures for housing has been done successfully in some U.S. cities and states, he added. “We define housing as something other than healthcare but that’s purely a theoretic definition,” Bamberger said. “We can define things however we wish.”
Homelessness Around the World
by Katrin Schmoll
According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, more than 100 million people are homeless worldwide. Although the legal definition of “homeless” varies from country to country, the plight of people experiencing homelessness around the world remains the same; each day is a struggle to survive and get basic needs met - and then the next day the struggle begins again. Apart from the physical suffering and traumatic conditions people who are homeless endure on a daily basis, they also face rejection, humiliation, and discrimination. But there are many people who’ve decided not to look away and dedicated their lives to the fight against homelessness and poverty. Some of those people work for our 121 street papers in 41 nations around the world. They help people who are homeless earn an income, improve their lives, and regain their dignity. Maybe you are familiar with what homelessness looks like in our local community. But here are a few images from our sister street papers around the world to help highlight the international problem of homelessness and what it looks like city to city.
...more than 100 million people are homeless worldwide.
Paris, France: A man experiencing homelessness lies in front of the Louvre Hotel. Photo: Jacky Naegelen 20
Seattle, Washington, United States: A campsite pitched on a sidewalk in Seattle. Photo: David Ryder
Molndal, Sweden: A Swedish street paper vendor sits in the RV he lives in near a church in Molndal. Photo: HĂĽkan Ludwigson
Sao Paulo, Brazil: A man experiencing homelessness sleeps at the entrance of the Sao Paulo Cathedral. Photo: Nacho Doce
Rawalpindi, Pakistan: A man rests at a roadside in Rawalpindi near Pakistanâ€™s capital Islamabad. Photo: Faisal Mahmood 22
Mumbai, India: A young girl sleeps on chalk drawings she made as her mother begs for alms at a railway station. Photo: Danish Siddiqui
Valparaiso, Chile: People warm their hands in downtown Valparaiso, about 75 miles northwest of Santiago. Photo: Eliseo Fernandez
Tokyo, Japan: People experiencing homelessness take shelter on an underpass at a station in Tokyo. Photo: Yuya Shino
Cairo, Egypt: A man sleeps between tombstones in the Cairo Necropolis. Photo: Asmaa Waguih 24
Kabul, Afghanistan: A man warms his foot over a fire in Kabul. Photo: Ahmad Masood
Washington, D.C., United States: A man lies on a retaining wall on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the White House. Photo: Jason Reed
compiled by Ranya O’Connor | photos by Sarah Powers
If you frequent OKC’s Plaza District, chances are you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Rick. Rick is a vendor for The Curbside Chronicle whose found his place in community along NW 16th St. On the following pages, Rick shares more about his life, the events that lead to his situation of homelessness, and his goals for the future.
Where are you from?
I’m from West Texas. Odessa-Midland area. Remember the movie “Friday Night Lights?” That’s about my high school – the Permian Panthers. We have a book, a movie, and a TV show about us. My senior year we won state.
What was your childhood like?
I had kinda a rough childhood. My father was abusive – not all the time but a lot of times. Used to get hit really good. There was four of us – two brothers and a sister. I was the oldest of the bunch. I always got hit worse trying to look out for my younger siblings. We went to school with bruises and stuff like that and we had to hide ‘em. I wore a lot of long-sleeved shirts. It wasn’t always every day. Maybe a few times during the week. But it always happened.
As a child, how did you process the abuse?
I thought that every kid got beat up like we did. I just kept it to myself. I felt like a whipped dog. A lot of times he used his fists. Once I got older, the wheels changed and I could defend myself better. I was in junior high when it finally stopped. As we got older and could fight back, he backed off.
How did your mom handle the situation? My mom was too scared to get the police involved because if he went to jail, there’s no way she could support four kids on her own. Plus her family was in another state, so she’d be left all on her own with us. She tried to defend us all the time. She was a great mom, but no one could control him when he was drinking.
q a qa
Did your father ever apologize or try to make amends? We got a little closer towards the end but never a real father-son relationship. He never apologized. He just acted like it never happened.
How did you find your way to Oklahoma City?
I moved here originally in 1985 with Harrigan’s Bar and Grill. I was the bar manager on NW Expressway. Right after high school, I started working full-time with Harrigan’s at one of our locations in Amarillo. When I turned 21, they transferred me to Oklahoma City. I was here about 5 years. Then I decided to pack up and return to the Harrigan’s in Odessa and see if my family could mend things. I stayed in Odessa until my sister got sick. I was very close to my sister. She was the second oldest. She called me up one day and asked me to move back to OKC because she’d come down with cancer – breast cancer. Our other two brothers were married with kids and mom and dad had passed away by then. I was single, so I moved back.
What was it like moving back to be with your sister? It’s hard. It’s real hard. I went with her to all of her treatments. At one point, she lost all her hair and had to wear a wig. She was great. She worked for Sara Lee on the conveyer belt. She was not lazy. She had her own little house and everything. She did really well when she wasn’t sick. She liked going Downtown a lot. So we went Downtown whenever we could to sit and watch people. She lasted 3 or 4 years once I moved back. And then once she passed away, it was really hard for me to focus and stay on my feet. It took a lot out of me. She was in the hospital a couple of weeks before it took her. I was there every day with her. I wouldn’t do that for anybody else. I should have stayed focused after it happened, but I couldn’t quit thinking about it. You’re so used to having that person in your life. And you know the worst is coming, but you still have to deal with it once they pass away. And I didn’t deal with it too well. I got real depressed and lost all my motivation. I didn’t care for my job. I stopped going. I just gave up.
It’s been difficult. But you gotta fight it. You gotta get out of that situation... I realized that there’s life out there for me to live.
Is that what lead to your homelessness? After my sister passed away, everything spiraled down. I’ve always had a car. I’ve always had money and a bank account and a job. I’ve always dressed nice. The Rick you see now is nothing like the old Rick. I haven’t had a place of my own since my sister passed away. I stayed at Grace Rescue Mission for a little over a year after her death. That’s where my brother found me and asked me to come live with him in Texas. I hadn’t stayed in touch with my brothers. Once my sister passed away, she was the final piece keeping the family together. But I moved back home to Texas to live with him and his wife. His wife and I didn’t get along. I wanted to come back to OKC. Cost of living was way too high there. And I remember thinking OKC is my town. I just had this feeling that I needed to be in OKC, closer to my sister.
Rick stands in front of a mural for the Plaza Walls in the Plaza District
So you moved back?
I came back to OKC and started living with my best friend Nathan. I met Nathan at Grace Rescue Mission. We just clicked. We stayed in contact when I went back to Texas. In that time, he was able to move out of the shelter and into his own apartment. He lets me crash on his couch for the time being. I’ve been very fortunate to not have to stay outside. I would have really had a hard time without his support. I hear about people living in tents around OKC. One guy once told me I could stay with him at his camp if needed. And I’m lucky that it hasn’t happened yet.
What do you like about bartending?
What have you learned from the situation of homelessness?
I look at homelessness a whole different way now. I understand it a lot better than I used to. I used to turn my head the other way when I saw a homeless person. Until you actually get involved in the situation, you don’t really pay attention to it. It’s been difficult. But you gotta fight it. You gotta get out of that situation. I realized that I had to get focused again. I had to get out of the house and get money back in my pocket. I realized that there’s life out there for me to live. Thank God for Curbside. It’s got me halfway out the hole now.
What are your plans for the future? I look forward to moving into my own place every day. I’ve been working on it, and I’m so close to getting myself a place now. I want people to see me get into housing and move onto another job. I want them to see me get all dressed up for work like I used to. The old Rick was always dressed up for work in a silk bowtie and leather shoes. I’d love to get back into bartending or the restaurant environment. I was a bartender for 25 years.
Being a bartender, you’ve always got customers at the bar that you’re dealing with. They come in and they’re depressed – my wife this and my job that. You get to listen to them and make them feel better. You use bar tricks and bar jokes to get them entertained. Bottle flips are always fun. And just to clarify, I’ve never had an alcohol problem. I always took care of business at work and never drank on the job. I’ve never been to jail. I’ve never even had a traffic ticket. But people often assume just because I’m homeless, I’ve done bad things or that I have a problem. There’s a lot of people that stereotype us, and I wish that wasn’t the case.
How do you like working in the Plaza?
I didn’t expect people to be that nice and good hearted. I do my job and people small talk with me. This is the first time in a while that I’ve been making some friends. I always look forward to going to work. I feel good about what I do. I just want to thank people for being there for me, buying my magazines, and being a friend. I couldn’t ask for more than that. I’m on the right track again… I think my sister would be proud of me right now.
What are your hobbies? I love watching boxing. My favorite boxers would be Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Thomas Hearns. They’re flashy and fast. I would have loved to learn how to box, but I used to be a little runt. I didn’t grow much until after I got out of school.
G R I L L
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Solution to Brain Buster Puzzle on page 10
Hoboscope by Mystic Milly
CANCER GEMINI TAURUS Profound change is headed your way, Taurus. And whatever path you head down will not offer the choice of turning back. Not to add superfluous stress to your decision-making this month, but if you choose to go vegan, you’ll be munching on carrot sticks and tempeh tacos for the rest of your life. If you choose to become invested in yoga, you’re going to be rocking spandex and saying “Namaste” for the infinite future. If you choose to watch syndicated episodes of Wheel of Fortune, say hello to your new nightly routine. I’m sorry you have to choose your life habits this month. I don’t dictate the stars. I just read them. Good luck.
Your generosity has been flowing hard the last few weeks causing a little compassion fatigue. You devote generous amounts of time to loving and caring for others, and you need a break. It’s okay to admit that you’re feeling spent and slightly underappreciated. For just a day, as painful and cliché as it is, join the “treat yourself” movement and do something that is special and recharging for you. And don’t limit yourself to the first therapeutic activity that comes to mind. Be more creative than pedicures, shopping sprees, or cucumber scrubs. Think more along the lines of kayaking the Panama Canal or petting a sloth at the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica. But seriously. It’s your day. You choose.
Your extreme power of perception and discernment has made your life simple when it comes to decision-making. You’re used to knowing what you want and going for it. This month, it may not be as easy to discern what you want. Your ability to consider all aspects of a situation could muddle your ability to make important decisions this month. I would suggest finding a lucky coin and keeping it nearby. You can always leave your fate to a good flip.
LIBRA VIRGO LEO You may have had a falling out in an important relationship recently. It’s okay to feel shaken, but it doesn’t mean that everyone is unreliable. Take this time to explore your other friendships and recognize the support system you have in them. At the very least, you could get a puppy or a Beta fish. Pets never let you down, Leo. Never. 30
Virgo, you are timeless. Like a great piece of literature or an obscure piece of art, you’re used to being relevant. This month, there will be a shift. You may feel as tired and obvious as a dad joke or trite as an overused meme. Embrace it. Pop culture is all about popping. Tomorrow, cliché could be the new relevant. My only advice is to hang in there until you’re popular again.
Your current occupation is not your passion, Libra. Face it. It’s driving you wild. You’ve stayed where you’re at due to fear of the unknown, but now is the time to take your moonshot. Leap into your new venture without looking back. Start that poem truck that serves up steaming hot poems instead of food. You only need a $200 truck off Craigslist and an old typewriter. The investment is minimal and the payoff is your ability to pursue what you’ve always loved. And keep your sanity.
You want to be rich, Scorpio, but not necessarily monetarily. You want a rich and meaningful life. To some, that may mean hitting the gym and getting in shape. For others, it may be becoming a cookie connoisseur, traveling the world to gather and taste the best cookie recipes. Maybe you just want to listen to podcasts on the different legends of Batman and discuss them with other superfans. Think about what will make your life rich this month, Scorpio, and go for it.
You’ve been exerting a copious amount of effort into a pursuit that isn’t paying off. Whether it be a relationship, a job, or a new venture, you are not going to see the return you have been working toward. Cut your losses now and start fresh. You don’t have to understand why it isn’t working. You just need to run in the absolute opposite direction of whatever it is you’re doing at this exact precise moment.
You’ve been perplexed lately. Even simple arithmetic has been a mental hurdle for you. It’s been frustrating, I know when you’re at a restaurant trying to calculate the tip and you forget how to take 15-20% of the total, it’s hard on your self-esteem. We’ve all been there. It’s also been hard when you go to that Thai restaurant and you forget what it is you usually order. Lucky for you, the fog is lifting this month. Head back to that Thai restaurant. Order your usual. And leave that substantial and courteous tip. We love you, Capricorn. It’s going to be okay.
If you were a rapper, we all know you’d be Kanye. You love continuing to tinker with what you’ve already accomplished. It’s hard for you to leave a project when it’s finished. To you, nothing is done. It’s just abandoned for a time before you pick it up again. This month, try letting yourself be content with the end result. You will be less burned out once you’re done and feel more productive.
You’ve been intent on living a healthier lifestyle this month. I’m proud of all the tuna you have consumed, but I want to let you know that because of the trace amounts of mercury found in fish, you should try to limit yourself to three or four servings a week. I won’t micromanage. I just don’t want you to get mercury poisoning.
You’re drowning in the monotony of the day-to-day, Aries. If variety is the spice of life, mundanity is the insatiable flavor of death and you’re slurping it up. You need to break the routine. Whether that means wearing a Sasquatch costume to your cubicle tomorrow, replacing all pronouns with the word “bologna” in your online correspondence, or brushing your teeth in small circles instead of sideto-side, you have to make a change. Get out of the grind, Aries. You’ll be glad you did.
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