Yesterday I set off for one of my favorite places–the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library.

Because I’ve got a hypo-glycemia problem, I always bring food for my marathon researching-and-writing sessions. Carrot juice. Check. String beans. Check. Bottled water. Check. Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. Check.

That’s right readers. I eat more vegetables than Peter Rabbit but nothing says processed goodness like canned spaghetti.

So there I was, enjoying the urban art of Downtown Denver, spooning mouthfuls of really bad food into my mouth. If you looked closely at my ripped shorts, Celtics champion T-shirt, loose ponytail, and beat-up cycling bag, you’d probably think I was homeless. But you’d be wrong.

But we know what homeless people look like, don’t we? They’re the ones on the corner with the cardboard sign, imploring people for spare change. If you think this, think again.

A few years ago I piloted a creative writing project for Denver’s homeless. I partnered with a few homeless institutions across the city of Denver and began conducting, along with a few colleagues, writing workshops for the homeless. I partnered with the Gathering Place, the Samaritan House, and the Forum Apartments (no website) to run weekly and bi-weekly writing workshops for the unheard voices of Denver.

I was inspired to start the program after reading Denver’s newspaper produced by and for the homeless, the Denver Voice. For more info, check out its MySpace page.

Reactions to my endeavor varied from “Wow, that’s amazing” to “I bet they’ve got some great stories to tell.”

The only thing amazing about the project was the writing that was produced. For a couple of hours a week I sat down with writers who enjoyed the opportunity to create and laugh. Most of them wrote about their families and their faith in God. Very few wrote about being homeless.

That’s because they defined themselves as grandmothers, veterans, scientists, and sons. They were people who, for whatever reason, did not have a stable place to live. They did not look homeless. They had jobs and skills and clean clothing. They ate and bathed daily at one of Denver’s many shelters.

They are the invisible homeless. Their children go to school and get health care. They work two jobs to save to get ahead. They take GED classes. They shop at Walgreens.

So, next time you think the homeless need to pull up their bootstraps and get to work and start producing, know that they are. You just don’t see them doing it.

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