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Jewel Reveals What It's Really Like to Be Homeless
The singer, at work on a new album scheduled to drop in early 2015, has teamed with ReThink Housing, a campaign to educate the public on the benefits of public housing—and for her, it's personal. So personal, in fact, that she's crowdsourcing a new song about the idea of home based on your essays and poems. "I've never done anything like this before," Jewel says.
On how she ended up living in her car by age 18:I was paying rent on an apartment month to month; the last was usually paid in change 'cause I was short. I was a hostess at a restaurant, so I was just eating leftover food and taking toilet paper out of the restrooms for my apartment. I wasn't buying groceries. Toothpaste was really the only thing I bought, because everything was going to rent. Then I had a boss who propositioned me for sex, and when I turned him down, he wouldn't give me my paycheck. I couldn't pay that month's rent and I got kicked out.
I didn't think it was that big a deal. I mean, I was devastated and humiliated, but at the same time I thought,I'll live in my car, I'll work out another job, I'll save up for a couple months, and I'll get back on my feet. But I just didn't. I kept getting sick, missing work, and couldn't hold a job down because of that. Then the car I was living in got stolen, and not having an address to put down on a work application is a big problem. It was really frightening.
On what people get wrong about public housing:One misconception is that it's always violent—it isn't. The project neighborhood that I grew up in wasn't. It was lower economic class for sure, but I was never scared. I think a lot of people assume people who living in public housing live there for free—that's not true. It's not like it's some fantastic free ride. It's easy to make blanket assumptions about who lives in public housing, and to say, "Those are a bunch of lazy people." I'm sure there are some lazy people there—don't get me wrong—but I know plenty of lazy rich people. We need to talk about what public housing is really like and let people see into our worlds to humanize each other.
On the power of money:Everyone says money doesn't solve everything— but it solves a lot of shit, people. Money will not make you happy, but it takes away a lot of stress. To this day, the things I love the most are having a place to live, never worrying about my electrical bills, being able to buy the groceries I want to buy, and being able to pay the doctors. To this day, whenever I go to a doctor it's amazing to me that I can pay for that; it'shuge.
On her upcoming album:It'll be a bookend to my [debut] album,Pieces of You—a pretty raw folk album. I'm doing it completely independently, not with a label. I'm not thinking of singles or genres, I'm just making an album.
On howher 2-year-old son, Kase, feels about her music:He is definitely not my biggest fan, at least not yet. Every time I sing, he's like, "Mom, no." He shushes me on the singing.
On when she feels her best:When I'm rested and well-fed.
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