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Finding Freedom
A Sanctuary. A Purpose. A Voice.
Sickboy, Oct 16, 2006

When I heard about Roaddawgz through a friend of mine I was skeptical of the whole thing, as I am of most �free-lunch� programs or �homeless drop-in centers�. It seems to me that they�re just this place for other street-kids to sit about and do nothing, slowly becoming more and more disconnected from the rest of society, making less and less of an impact than they already do. I was skeptical of the whole place, that is to say that I was skeptical, until I checked it out.

Roaddawgz program director, editor and publisher Machiko Saito was the first thing I came nose to nose with as I walked into one of the two rooms Roaddawgz inhabits below the Hospitality House on Leavenworth St. Machiko is quite easily the most excitable person I�ve ever met, her laugh is at times infectious and nerve-racking, more because sometimes she�s the only one who gets the joke quite so well. She is consistently streaming ideas out from the bottomless pit of inspiration that seems to be her brain. At this very moment, an article idea in my little space on the assignment board reads: Buddha is my Buddy. Yet another brainstorm for me to catch up on writing � as though there wasn�t already enough.

Machiko is always encouraging me to write more, write harder and write in ways that refine my �style� yet that don�t detract from my content or message; moreover, I�ve gotten to start streamlining the delivery and through practice I�ve grown as a writer and a poet. This gives me hope that I�ll be able to keep driving home the point of my essays, prose, poetry, stories and articles for a long time after I�ve moved on.

I am a writer. Visual art, music and mixed-media are the farthest thing from my strong-suit. My words will knock the wind out of photographers, painters and musicians alike - with their vivid colors, amazing texture and richness, sharpness and detail, to say nothing of the eclectic soundtrack accompanying them � my language will take on any shape it must. I am a writer from the foundation up, and that is something that Roaddawgz has helped me to recognize since my first publication on the website in early February this year. That is what I think gives me faith in what Roaddawgz accomplishes with more artists and writers than just myself.

Roaddawgz, with its one super-woman staff and myriad of youth, builds a solid place where I feel that I can always come if I�m in need of a venue for expression. Or I just need a sure place to bitch. Roaddawgz has one benefit that I cannot attest to finding anywhere else: I get paid to write, paid for my art, whatever artistic values it may have � because of that I have the privilege of saying that I am a published journalist, poet and author. I find recognition and self-esteem in being able to say something of that magnitude, have it be true and be able to show anyone that accomplishment at anytime. I am grateful for that, for much more than that, it is here I find joy and freedom in such an amazing outlet. Roaddawgz isn�t just another place to sit or to rest your feet for a moment. We�re a community where youth is in the often times overwhelming position of being chronically homeless, repetitively strung-out/kicking, unhealthy and often finding ourselves alone, yet we�re able to connect with one another if we need. We get info about places to sleep, resources, free food, events, recovery, literature and art from one another at places we each know to find. That wouldn�t always be possible without places like Roaddawgz, places that didn�t care what you look like, smell like, talk like or act like, so long as you were as cool to everyone as they were to you. That is a weight off many a weary mind. For me knowing those services remain and the people who make them possible continue to come to work takes such a huge pressure from off me. It is incredible to be able to count on anything in such a chaotic life; it is a much needed blessing to such very tired souls.

Being able to not only have a place to be, to come and relax or nourish ourselves, but a place that makes us feel included and appreciated. A place where we can be comfortable enough to create all those dreams we get told to forget, all the fantasies about adventure and excitement; we can live them, make our dreams solid concrete reality with enough determination and stamina. Places like Roaddawgz lets me get excited about my writing and my affect upon my readers. It makes me more likely to find topics outside of the normal vein my writing seems to stay in.

I am a writer, a poet, a journalist and I am a published author. I am a roaddawg; I am part of something with purpose. Something motivated to flourish and steadfast as it holds course. I am one of the cool kids now. I am the in-crowd all by myself. I am an author and poet worth reading. Just so you know, we�re not going anywhere, I�m not going anywhere either. We�re here to stay and we�re going to find our way into your bookstores and galleries and homes. Sooner or later, just watch us.

There is one thing for sure, if nothing else, that Roaddawgz has done for me: It�s stopped me from being a skeptic. It stopped me from being skeptical of my own worth, talent and ability. Or anyone else�s for that matter.

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