Culture Shock – Brenda Brooks

Brenda spent many years working as a legal secretary until she was laid off shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. “That started it all,” she says. The dominoes fell one by one: job, savings, housing. She spent years floating from house to house, until there was no more money or space on somebody’s couch. “It was a culture shock,” adds Brenda. “It was my first experience being homeless – and at my age.”

Brenda ended up at NEW in New Journeys permanent supportive housing program, where she has gotten back on her feet, resumed her youth ministry, and is currently looking for an apartment. “It’s a continuation of the journey,” she says.

Photo by Christine Pearl

A published author and poet, Brenda shares one of her poems.

The Looking Box

I dedicate this poem to the suffering multitude whose only home is a cardboard box, who lack what most of us take for granted: a proper home; sufficient food; clean clothing; most of all, a friend.

Dusk settles in
The familiar gray blanket covers my space
Can’t touch it, only see
Passersby look, but still don’t see.

Ever care who I am?
Ever care what you see?
Was once like you
Done up nice.

The soft lights of the night dance for you
And you, and you, and you
But shadow over my brownstone
Giving character to the corrugated wallpaper
I call home.

Don’t want your pity
It’s OK to touch me
A handshake will do
A listening ear
A piece of bread.

‘Til my change comes
Or I die.

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It’s been a challenging time for all of us as we adjust our days, our budgets and our expectations to COVID-19. And now, add a city and country grasping for footing after the death of an unarmed black man by a white police officer and we all feel even more out of control, unstable, and concerned about the future. Here at NEW we know that one way we can process our own feelings is to think about the needs and feelings of others.

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