St. Augustine Blogs

Not So Simple: Observations on Poverty and People by Brian Galetto ’08

Brian Galetto ’12 poses with Fr. Murray during the 2018Augustinian Values Institute hosted by St. Augustine Prep.

Originally Published in Volume 11 Issue 6 of the SNJ Today Newspaper 

It was three years in the making, but Friday, February 23 was the day that Not So Simple: Observations on Poverty and People was published.

“Not So Simple was built around homelessness, but it’s truly about people,” says author Brian Galetto, of Los Angeles, CA, who grew up in Vineland, Cumberland County, NJ. (After graduating from West Chester University, the author moved to southern California and began working at Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, CA.) “It’s how we see each other. It’s about conscious communication and compassion. It’s about having empathy for people who are struggling. California has a homeless crisis. It’s time to listen. It’s time to seek solutions. If we start treating people as individuals, then our collective community can begin to grow together. But right now there is a divide; too many are being left behind.”

Galetto tells SNJ Today that “homelessness runs deep.” “The issue of deep poverty, also known as homelessness, runs deep,” he says. “There is no single reason why someone ends up in this economic state. It’s typically a multitude of issues, ranging from mental health problems, substance abuse issues, lack of a family or support system, and inadequate affordable housing options.

Not So Simple explores all of these issues, while telling the story of life from a variety of perspectives. There’s no single story with poverty; homelessness has many faces. Not So Simple can be purchased through Amazon, or through the author. Galetto says the lessons he learned while growing up in Cumberland County were crucial for his journey writing the book. The book was built around homelessness, but it’s truly about people, a topic he learned a lot about while growing up in South Jersey. “I worked as a youngster on my grandfather’s farm and then ran my own landscaping business that encompassed Cumberland County,” Galetto tells SNJ Today. “I was a Catholic School boy growing up, having attended Saint Mary’s Middle School and then Saint Augustine Prep. I never realized how much the lessons I learned about community would stick with me as I got older.”

The sole beneficiary of the sales will be a Ventura County, CA, charity. “After shopping around, Project Understanding in Ventura will be the sole of the profits,” says Galetto. “They’ve been working with the Ventura County community for over 40 years. They help people with housing, provide a food bank for local residents in need, while also providing tutoring opportunities to make sure kids get the help they need.”

Currently a communications and speech teacher in California, “centered around conscious and compassionate communication,” Galetto says his goal is “to help students hone their listening, speaking, and writing skills in order to help them develop their voice and become leaders in their local community.” “By teaching young adults how to find their voice, I ended up strengthening my own and writing a book about an issue that can no longer be ignored,” he tells SNJ Today. “I have always been interested in people, and being that I graduated from the Prep, which places a heavy emphasis on helping your community, I decided I could no longer sit idle and watch the homeless epidemic spreading across the West Coast get worse without doing anything to help. I believe that art is the best way to elicit empathy from others, so poetry and photography were my choices for spreading awareness and compassion for those struggling to get by, and in some cases, survive.”

Galetto will be doing a series of book readings and signings in California this spring. “I couldn’t have done this by myself,” he says. “This project has Ventura County’s fingerprints all over it.” The author, who was home in Cumberland County earlier this year, says the book is a “team effort.” “At the end of the day, all the money is going back to a community in need,” he adds. “I hope Not So Simple can be a conversation starter. I hope Not So Simple can be an agent for change. I hope we can change the trajectory that the West Coast is headed towards. I have hope.”

Poverty is everywhere, and Cumberland County is no different, says Galetto. “The ideas shown in Not So Simple are not just West Coast specific,” he says. “They apply to any community looking to reunite, regroup and build a foundation for everyone. It will take time and hard work, but by consciously and compassionately communicating with each other, brainstorming on possible solutions with local politicians, change can come. I have hope that we can change our communities. It starts with each of us as individuals. Then it blossoms to the collective community; a community that is capable of change—united in the cause and commitment to creating a society that we can all be proud to call home. For more, visit the website HappyFridayEveryDay.com.

Brian Galetto, who is also a poet, contributed the following poem to SNJ Today for publication with this story.

Why Don’t They Just Get a Job?

Everyone has a story

So for every story you share

Someone

Somewhere

Can relate

 

Tonight

It was Tatiana

With her fingers

Grasping my forearm

She thanked me

For thinking of the homeless

 

She had her own story

I come from Ukraine

And when I was younger my mother

And I took trains to Russia while she

Looked for work

We had no permanent home

which meant no permanent work

After interviews they wanted a number to call

But no phone means no job

 

Her words reminded me of the line

That people popularly use

to describe their view

On homelessness

Why don’t they just get a job?

I shared this with her

 

My mother tried,

Embarrassed,

She asked if she could contact them

In a few days to find out.

It rarely worked…

 

As our conversation closed

& I began to walk home

I kept thinking of Tatiana’s story

 

To escape deep poverty you need a job

In order to get a job you need a place of

contact

When that’s not there

You rely on the willingness of a stranger

to extend their hand

and subsequently change your narrative

All in the hopes of rewriting a story

that is never, ever

as simple as it seems

To support Brian’s efforts and to enjoy his tremendous work, you may purchase his book here: https://goo.gl/EZx4AV