Homelessness inspires novel

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2015

When Jessie L. Jones began working in Washington, D.C., the Suffolk native started noticing the homelessness and the indifference.



“I started noticing a lot of homeless people, and they just starting affecting me personally,” Jones said.

“I felt something had to be done to at least raise the plight of the homeless in the public eye.”


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So Jones was inspired to write a novel based on the problem. In January, she self-published “Who Turned The Lights Off?”

The work of fiction is, as she puts it, spiritually focused, inspiring and dramatic.

Telling the story of Dr. Dan Johnson, a psychologist who ends up on the streets after losing his job, it sheds light on “an all too common problem, declaring a message of reconciliation and revitalization,” according to Jones.

Jones was born in Suffolk. She graduated from Suffolk High School in 1975 and from Old Dominion University in 1979.

Formerly a special education teacher, she said she worked at John F. Kennedy High School for a year, and then, after moving north to find more opportunities, at a private school in Alexandria for another year.

She started working for the federal government in 1981 on a temporary basis, before landing a position with the Department of Navy as a budget analyst and moving on to a few other departments.

“My role as a budget person was to formulate and execute the budget,” she said, adding that writing and promulgating budget policy and procedures involved a lot of writing.

Jones said she worked in the suburbs prior to 2008. She said she became aware of the national capital’s homelessness problem and the indifference toward it about the same time.

“People around it, they saw it … but I think they became desensitized to it,” she said.

“One day I was getting something to eat at a restaurant, and I saw a homeless guy go into the trashcan and get food to eat. That really affected me personally.

“That’s what prompted me to write this book, seeing things like that on a daily basis.”

Jones said she started thinking about writing the book in 2008. She started writing it in 2012, working on the weekends, before retiring in September 2013 and devoting more time to the project.

Jones said she has received positive feedback, both in online forums and on an individual basis.

She still has family and friends in Suffolk, she said, and gets back to visit them regularly.

Jones says writing is her major pastime during her retirement. “I love writing,” she said.

For more information, visit http://bookstore.westbowpress.com/Products/SKU-000962278/Who-Turned-The-Lights-Off.aspx