AFRICANGLOBE – Charles Gladden is 63-years-old and works alongside some of the most influential people in the nation at the Dirkskin Senate Office Building. He has greeted senators, lobbyists staffers and other highly-respected officials on a daily basis for the past eight years. What they may not know, however, is that the friendly Senate cafeteria worker with a cheerful smile is homeless and hasn’t declared a fixed address for the past five years.
Not even Gladden’s employer is aware of his living situation. He accredits his homelessness to a variety of reasons, such as leaving George Washington University, where he once studied fine arts on a scholarship. Truancy and law trouble landed him in a juvenile detention center, but he received the scholarship after winning second place in an art show. Unfortunately, he later dropped out and spent the following years working low-wage jobs whenever he could find them, like painting houses, laying bricks, and delivering food.
Today the majority of his paycheck goes to his three daughters and grandchildren, who all struggle with finding sufficient permanent housing and steady employment. Although he doesn’t make much, it allows the family to keep their heads above water while also making best out of free health clinics and food pantries. “I want to provide for them,” Gladden said of his family, “not burden them.”
His job in the Senate cafeteria mostly consists of such tasks as sweeping and mopping the floors and bathrooms, washing dishes, composting leftover food and transporting laundry. He says that, on average, his pay is around $360. It is a startling contrast to the thousands upon thousands the public officials and local lawmakers he is surrounded by daily take home each month.
One of the greatest struggles in America at the moment is the economy. Although the government has begun to recover from its 2008 crisis, many citizens have not. Gladden is only one of millions who struggle to put food on the table, cover the most basic living expenses and, most importantly, maintain a secure home. The people that Gladden works with are meant to lobby for a better America, but they seem to miss what’s right under their nose. Even within their own office, employees are paid less than even $5oo per month.
Gladden suffers from diabetes and poor vision, and his chronic health problems make his long work hours difficult. He’s sometimes clocked in at 10:00 am and not left until 3:00am the following morning. Working nearly double the hours that the officials who share the building are, Gladden still makes less than $10 an hour, and he’s ready for a change.
The Senate worker has launched a crowfunding campaign in order to bring attention to the “secret homelessness” in America and raise money not just for him, but his fellow workers as well, who all struggle to survive on their menial pay. The Good Jobs Nation Worker Fund hopes to earn $50,000 in donations for underpaid workers in government buildings such as the Pentagon and U.S. Smithsonian.
Gladden, who at night sleeps in Washington’s McPherson Square Metro station, has caught the attention of several senators such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who wrote a letter asking for the increase in salary and health benefits for the contracted workers in government buildings.
“I’m grateful to Nate and everyone else who pitched in to share my story and made a contribution. I now have a shot to get ahead and stay ahead,” Gladden said in a statement. ““But the truth is that I’m not alone. All of my co-workers are worried about losing their homes, saving for retirement and just putting food on the table. … There are at least 2 million other ‘Charles Gladdens’ out there all across America.” Hopefully the new wave of attention garnered by The Good Jobs Nation Worker Fund can help bring about the change that all the Charles Gladdens of America are yearning for.