Brown Bag examines homelessness

By Rachel Adelman
Correspondent

Since poverty and homelessness are still major problems in American society, professor Lorna Johnson-Frizell and Karachi Ukaegbu decided to present a documentary that tells a brighter story regarding poverty. It is the story of Joe Lockhart, who turned his life around with the help of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.

While looking through videos about homelessness on YouTube, Ukaegbu, her professor and fellow students noticed how most videos focused on the depressing aspects of poverty and they wanted to show a different perspective. They eventually became connected with the TASK and through there, they met Joe Lockhart.

The documentary is called “Concrete Rose: Joe’s Story.” Joe Lockhart was born and raised in Trenton with his parents. At the age of 15, he dropped out of high school in order to help support his pregnant girlfriend so she could get her diploma. He worked at several jobs, mostly in retail.

He eventually married his high school girlfriend and together they had a second child. However, their marriage ended in a separation and Joe moved to New York where he lived on the streets.
He remained in New York until Sept. 11, 2001. He returned to Trenton where he continued to live without a solid home, until he began going to the TASK.

This soup kitchen offers more than food for the poor; with the help of volunteers, the kitchen provides health services, live music, computers and GED programs. Joe plays drums for the soup kitchen band. He commented in the documentary that, “drumming lets you be yourself.”

Lockhart speaks to students at the College about his own experience with poverty. (Vicki Wang / Photo Assistant)

With the help of the soup kitchen and his own determination, Joe is now married to his second wife and has three children with her.
He owns a home and has a stable home life. He also goes and volunteers at the TASK.

Joe noticed that more people began to go to the soup kitchen as the economy worsened and he wanted to go and help the people who went there in any way he could.

Despite coming from a rough past, Joe has a positive outlook on life and he is willing to help the people around him.

He volunteers at the soup kitchen and he stresses that people try to look past the appearance of homeless people and attempt to know them as a person. He works to teach his kids to know right from wrong and to be respectful toward others.

The idea of the “concrete rose” came from Joe himself. He tells a story about how he would walk along the sidewalks of the city and he would examine the rose bushes that would grow on his neighbors’ lawns.

He soon noticed how the plants would sprout between the cracks of the concrete sidewalk and blossom into roses. This seems to be a metaphor to Joe’s struggle.
Despite coming from a rough past, Joe was able to flourish with his family and his friends. This documentary showed his ability to work their way out of poverty to an established lifestyle.