(Interview May 2011. Oil on linen, 40 ins. x 30 ins.)
I know he's alive. He answered my email requesting a chat. He said I could give him a call. But then our communication stopped before I could get his phone number. I tried the number I had for him from 11 years ago. Somebody else has it now.
I see that I wrote an update in 2012. Apparently he is "no longer at the shelter but still uninsured." I could not find an email trail. I must have spoken to him. I don't remember.
In 2014 the Affordable Care Act (ACA) opened up ways for people like this subject to get health insurance. Individuals could buy policies on the ACA's online marketplaces. Their premiums would be based on their income. If this subject's income were very low, he could qualify for health insurance under the ACA's Medicaid expansion provision with zero premiums and nominal copays for medical care.
The ACA has received its fair share of criticism. Some of it ludicrous. Some not. Let's never forget. Low income people like this subject now have access to bonafide health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
I'm sad we did not talk. I remember this subject being warm, articulate and so generous when I interviewed him in 2011. I really wanted to know how things have gone for him.
I cannot use his first name in the story because I do not have his permission. I hope to update the story in the near future after I track him down.
Subject continues to write for One Step Away. He is no longer homeless but still uninsured.
(from a 2011 interview)
Journalist, Homeless, Age 58 Uninsured
The subject writes for a monthly newspaper, One Step Away published by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer describes the paper, "One Step Away is Philadelphia's street newspaper, (my link) produced and distributed by people experiencing homelessness."
The subject is a journalist for One Step Away. He had to leave an asbestos-ridden, rented house in 2008. The asbestos removal, estimated to take 4-6 months, actually took 18 months.
At the same time, the subject lost his job at a dialysis center when the center lost its funding. No apartment and no job. The subject found himself homeless.
The subject landed in a shelter where he has been for 3 years. He receives medical check-ups from medical students. The students are a part of a large city hospital program called TEAC. In 2009 TEAC launched TEACH, a homeless outreach program providing basic medical services to the homeless. Mobile medical units travel to the shelters.
The subject has been diagnosed with situational depression, depression triggered by stressful events. He considers himself very lucky to have had and continue to enjoy good health with no drug, tobacco or alcohol problems.
The subject has had various jobs, some with health benefits and others without. He had health insurance when he worked in a hospital laundry room. He also had health benefits as a customer service rep for a pharmaceutical company. When the company downsized he returned to activism. The subject had health benefits for 20 years as an AIDS activist.
The subject said his prospects for employment are good. He is scheduled to leave the shelter in mid-2011. He does not expect his new job will provide health benefits. He hopes he can last 7 years without any major medical problems. At 65 he will qualify for Medicare, a federal health insurance program for people 65 or over.
The subject has had a full life. As a conscientious objector to the Viet Nam War, he went underground in a convent where he did odd jobs for the nuns. Eventually he worked as a disc jockey and attended Howard University for 2 years. The subject worked for the Black Panthers running social programs and working with mothers' groups to end gang violence and war. He taught social justice in a 1970s experimental education program.