Shoeshine, a 54-year-old homeless man in Fresno, California, graduated from college with a degree in recreation. He worked for the L.A. City Recs and Parks but soon found himself in prison with a twenty-one and a half year sentence. After he finished his term, his criminal background made it difficult to find a job, and Shoeshine turned to cocaine. 15 days later, “I caught myself and said I didn’t want to go back down this road.” He entered a Salvation Army rehabilitation center, where he worked hard to pay his room and board and therapy costs. However, when he pulled a hernia, the center discharged him, leaving Shoeshine on the street. Realizing he was not a good panhandler – “I’m kind of sensitive to what people think or what they say” – he decided to pick up his old trade, which was shining shoes and cleaning tennis shoes. He now has 45 clients and is contemplating working on a shoe-stand. He calls Fresno “the jungle” and lives in a tent on the outskirts of a homeless shelter. And while he says “I’m crazy as fuck…come on man – how would you feel living down here in the tent?” he keeps going “full steam ahead.” “I’ve gotta keep moving forward.”
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Resources"What matters, then, given the current rules if the game, is what kind of opportunity the labor market offers to poor workers, and who among them is positioned to seize it."
- Chutes and Ladders: Navigating the Low-Wage Labor Market, by Katherine NewmanInvestigate