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September 05, 1991 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-09-05

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The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition - Thursday, September 5, 1991 - Page,3
Jake shakes us all year long

by Melissa Peerless
Daily Staff Reporter
* A pack of Marlboro Reds. Mashed potatoes
lith gravy. A $38,000 home.
?i '.These are a few of Shakey Jake Woods' fa-
vorite things.
-xHe also loves the students at the Univer-
ity, which could explain why Jake has been
playing his guitar on the corner of State and
William streets every day for as long as anyone
vcn remember.
"This is my life," Jake said. "I've been play-
g in Ann Arbor for 32 years."
Although it may seem painfully obvious to
pyone who has heard Jake play, he proudly
Wasts that he has never had a guitar lesson in
Rhs long life.
"I taught myself to play guitar when I was
Ppne, and now I'm 99. I can't read or write. I
"6n't read music. I play by ear," Jake said,
strumming a melody and smoking a cigarette.
During Ann Arbor's sweltering muggy
summers or blustery freezing winters, stu-
*nts can count on encountering Jake every time
.4ey walk down State Street. And they can rest
fissured that his flamboyant clothing will con-
ist of a veritable plethora of patterns and tex-
"I get my clothing tailor-made," Jake said,
,spinning to model his brown tweed blazer, pur-
e flowered vest, mint-green rayon shirt, yel-
JAiw plaid bow tie, and pink polyester pants. An
imitation mink stole (with teeth and glass-
Ilad eyes) and 3-foot-tall straw hat composed
*hs outfit on a 90-degree summer afternoon.
And while passers-by sweated and licked
melting ice cream cones as they paused to put
-Same change in the coffee can at his feet, Jake
kept his cool.
"There are two shade trees on my corner
which were put here for me by God. It's not hot
it all under them. They keep me chilly in sum-
ier. Iri the winter, they keep me warm," Jake

like Shakey Jake. He's hilarious in all those old
clothes. He also plays pretty well too, consid-
ering that he probably never had any lessons or
anything. I always try to give him a little
something when I walk by."
While many students who agree with Jen-
nifer give Jake any spare change they have when
they pass him, other students feel that Jake
doesn't deserve their money, or even their at-
Jason Sklar, an LSA sophomore said, "It's
not our responsibility to support street people
who are too lazy to have real jobs. We're just
poor college students. If Jake wants to get off
of the streets, all he has to do is find some
normal employment. He surely can't play gui-
tar, but I'm sure he can do something."
Jake is indeed "off the streets." He owns a
home which he purchased with money that he
earned "doing his thing."
Jake said, "One day, I decided that I wanted a
house. So I played my guitar right here on this
corner for 18 hours a day every day for two
weeks. I made $38,000, and I went and bought a
While that may not have been exactly how
it happened, Jake's corner serenades and post-
card sales are his sole source of income.
"This corner is my favorite because once I
made $14 million here in one day. I also have
ten million fans who come by and visit me each
hour," Jake said.
Some of the things Shakey Jake says and
does, the way he dresses, and his constant
tremors have lead doctors suspect that he may
have a minor form of schizophrenia.
Dr. Karen Fried, a University alumna from
the class of 1986 said, "Shakey Jake is able to
function in society; however, his actions are not
really mainstream. He probably has a mild
schizophrenic condition.
"It's nothing that makes him dangerous. He
doesn't need to be institutionalized or arrested.
Students should not be frightened of him."
Some students are afraid of Jake regardless.
Nursing senior Lauren Rochlen said, "One
day I stopped to talk to one of my friends in the

street and Jake was walking by really fast car-
rying his guitar. He looked straight at me and
said, 'Get out of my way, woman.' I was really
scared. I thought he was going to hurt me or
something. He's really scary. I almost called
the police."
However, Jake says that the police have
nothing on him and generally leave him alone.
"The police don't bother me. They can't re-
ally. I have a peddler's license to sell my post-
cards, and an entertainer's license to play my
music. They come from Washington D.C. I'm
also a member of the entertainers' union," he
said, pulling three folded papers out of his
breast pocket.
The police would not say whether or not
Jake has a criminal record.
While Jake loves playing his guitar on
street corners, and makes a fine living doing so,
he said he wouldn't mind a change in locale.
Although he shunned Carnegie Hall, saying
that he prefers Ann Arbor to Manhattan, he
said he wouldn't mind moving indoors to Hill
Auditorium, located on North University,
which hosts a variety of musical events each
"If they asked me to play in Hill Audito-
rium, I would go over there in a minute. I
would just stand up on stage and do my thing. I
love doing my thing for the students here. It's
my life," Jake said.
And tickets for the Shakey Jake Campus
Tour would probably sell out every night, too.
Recent graduate Joel Caminer said, "If
Shakey Jake was playing at Hill Auditorium,
I'd go to the concert. I would pay for a ticket to
see him, I guess. He may not have much musical
talent, but at least he's better than the New
Kids on the Block. People pay t ke $25 a seat to
see them."
Although donations to Shakey Jake are not
officially required student fees, remember that,
until he goes on tour, a handful of spare change
is the only way to keep this campus tradition
dressed in his tailor-made clothes and "doing
his thing.

The man, the myth. Ann Arbor living legend Shakey Jake strikes a pose °
that postcards are made of.

EmOrganizations help Ann Arbor's homeless

by Melissa Peerless
Daily Staff Reporter

Although University buildings
are the last place students want to
be at night, for some people they are
a grand hotel.
"We have problems every day
with homeless people trespassing
on University property," said Frank
Cianciola, director of the Michigan
Union. "University facilities are re-
ally the only places that aren't
locked at night, so people who don't
have anyplace else to go try to take
refuge inside."
As evidenced by Cianciola's
comments, Ann Arbor, like all
metropolitan areas, has a large num-
ber of homeless people.
Jen Rubin, a Rackham graduate
student and member of the
Homeless Action Committee
(HAC), said, "People have pretty
much agreed there are about 1,500
homeless people in Ann Arbor.
That's a fairly large number for a
city this size."
Rubin said that this number may
be misleading in that it is probably
lower than the actual figure.
"The problem is more than just
homeless people on the street; how-
ever, they are the only ones who get
counted in the figures," she said.
"People are doubled and tripled up
in housing facilities to avoid being
on the street. Many people have been
displaced from Ann Arbor and gone
to Ypsilanti or another surrounding
area. These people are not counted in
the figure of 1500."
Some community and student

organizations have established pro-
grams to provide assistance to Ann
Arbor's homeless.
The Shelter Association of Ann
Arbor, which currently sponsors a
night shelter housing 50 people and
a walk-in day shelter, was founded
in 1984 as a temporary relief service
as a volunteer project of St.
Andrew's Episcopal Church.
Ralph Bogl an administrative
assistant at the Shelter Association,
said, "We have more going on dur-
ing the winter when it's really cold.
Last winter, we had to send people
to some local churches and hotels
because the shelters were overflow-
In addition to the Shelter
Association facilities, several local
churches work together to provide a
revolving shelter, in which home-
less people sleep in the basement of
different churches each night. They
also provide a free meal service each
In addition, homeless people may
take refuge at the Arbor House
shelter which is sponsored by the
Salvation Army, the Prospect Place
Family Shelter, the Ozone House
for runaway teens, and other facili-
However, Bogle stressed that
while providing immediate, tempo-
rary shelter for the homeless is a
necessary service, a more permanent
solution must be the ultimate goal.
"The city of Ann Arbor simply
must find a way to get some more
low-income housing. That's the
only way to assuage this problem in

the long run," he said.
Bogle's philosophy runs parallel
to that of the HAC.
"HAC is not service-oriented.
We. don't feel that service is unnec-
essary or a waste of time," Rubin
However, Rubin did say that she
feels the system by which some
shelters operate essentially makes
homelessness a full-time job.
"They have to get to the shelter
and get in line and wait there all day
every for their whole lives so they
never get past their homelessness,"
she said. "We want to make Ann
Arbor city council respond to the
needs of the homeless and get low-
income housing built."
Using what little funding is
available from federal grants, the

Ann Arbor Housing Commission is
trying to provide more of the des-
perately needed housing.
Conrad Benson, interim director
of the Ann Arbor Housing
Commission, said, "Ann Arbor wa
recently given approval to build 25
new low-income housing units. Fcv
of these grants were given becauge
renovating existing structures usp-
ally takes priority over building
new structures."'
While the building of new low-
income housing units is definitelca
step in the right direction, the City
of Ann Arbor has a long, difficitlt
road ahead in its struggle to eradi-
cate homelessness. Huge waiting
lists at shelters coupled with reccnit
cuts to state social services funding
show that this problem is going
nowhere fast.


A sign at an Ann Arbor homeless shelter reminds occupants that their
Sstay can only be a temporary one.


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