As a child, Wright remembers her mother feeding a homeless person lingering at the back of her house. As a teenager, she remembers seeing a similar man, the person she referred to as “The Man Under the Bridge,” and wondering what hand fate had dealt him that led to such a lonely, destitute life.
Wright’s first career choice was teaching, and through one of her students she learns about homeless people. Later as a volunteer she would have frequent contact with the homeless. As she heard their stories, she felt compelled to give a face and voice to the people readers know only as the homeless.
“The Man Under the Bridge” relates the many stories Wright heard from the women and men in the shelter, and explains the reasons some of them came to be homeless. As she was doing research for her book, she came across a website, http://www.thehomelessguy.org, and discovered a wealth of information. She writes:
Those who did not have laptop computers described their efforts at sneaking into libraries to use the computer. Usually, they got put out because they carried their bedrolls with them and made themselves conspicuous to library personnel. Part of me had to wonder why such creative and resourceful people did not find employment, yet as I looked inside the minds of these people as they described their daily struggles to survive, my belief that the homeless are diverse and unique was reinforced.
“The Man Under the Bridge” gives the reader an insight not usually found in other books: the views of the homeless themselves.
About the Author: Jillian Wright is the pen name for Jo Ellen Oliver, who graduated from Charles H. Milby High School in Houston. She won second place in a writing contest for the Atlantic Monthly and a college scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. She has a B.S. in education from the University of Texas, a master’s degree in education from Auburn and the University of Georgia, and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. She has lived in or around Athens, Ga., since 1975 and now works as a part-time teacher and a counselor for troubled children. She is married to John, a professor of veterinary medicine at UGA. They have three children and 10 grandchildren, two of whom were adopted from Vietnam.
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