Homelessness, Land of Uneven Surfaces

Sir, can you spare some change?

No, but I will buy you something to eat if you are hungry.

Three minutes of trying to get her act together, finally entering the Fast Food Place where they were standing six feet from the door.

Semi dirty hair, dirty hands, face, and skin areas, clothing and bags dirty.

“I just got out of an abusive relationship…referring to meth scabs maybe?

My Daughter is with a sitter today. Okay…

It’s my day off from work today…..

I stay in a hotel, it’s forty-two dollars a night.

I’m getting section eight housing in one week ten days…eighty-five dollars a month, I can swing that.”

I place my order, less than $3.00. Their food bill adds up to $9.86!?

She suggested, “Let’s sit here?” Okay.

I sit down, she leaves to fill soda from machine. Minutes click by. I wonder if she forgot what she was doing. Her number is called, called again, called a third time.

She comes back to the table. I say, “You order is ready, they called your number.”

She gets her food, three large drinks and a sausage biscuit and sits down.

Easy slide to the bottom when you are homeless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Some Woman told an employee, they can’t believe they let people like me in here. Then she tells Me, ‘I am filthy and I stink’. Why do people think they can talk to me like that, like I’m a piece of trash, and not human?”

I am thinking to myself, well the filthy comment fits, I’m in agreement with the woman about the comments. However, there is no excuse for people talking like that to anyone like that, true or not.

She takes large drink of one large shake, then another, and nods off.

“You okay?” She wakes up, starts spreading jelly on her biscuit and her hands….Nods off again. Drooling this time.

Hello?

Opens her eyes, repeats section eight housing story. Nods off again. Opens eyes, “I’m so tired.”

I say, “It appears to me, whatever you have doing isn’t working to well for you, have you heard of “shelter name”.

I won’t go there! I won’t go to any shelter. They get into your business, and I don’t want that. I have been waiting two years for cheap housing, and I’m not going to blow it. I have to wait a week, and three days, and I’m in. Nods off again.

I wonder to myself if she has a week and three days left. I think it may be a coin flip.

I suggest (because she was nodding again), “Why don’t you use a different name? It would give you a chance to clean up, eat and get some real sleep.”

“Have you ever been in one of those places? You don’t know what they are like! (hmmm) How can you sit there and tell me what to do? I don’t want CYFD (Child Welfare) in my business. Why does everyone who gives me money or buys me food think they have the right to tell me what to do?

Maybe they care about you and your condition?, I’m thinking, if I were someone else, I may have paid you for other things, if I didn’t care about my health and well being….

“Are you from here, where did you grow up?”

“I was born in the xxx area, and grew up in the xxxxxxx area.” I’m getting housing in one week and three days, $85.00 a month. My own place. A bed for my daughter.” Nods off…

Opens eyes, “Did you hear a thing I said?

I repeat back what she told me, only one iteration though. “Are you sure about not getting some help, you look like you could use some good sleep.”

“I’m so tired….Why do you think you have the right to tell me what to do? I’m sick of people like you telling me what to do! Who do you think you are?” (I am thinking, ‘someone who is concerned about you doesn’t count I suppose’.)

I’ve had about enough at this point. This woman either hasn’t hit rock bottom, or she does not realize she has already crash landed, and they only place left to fall is to die. Frustration overrides my concern. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. In her case, I’m not even sure, if she knows what is going on.

“Do you have some money you could give me? Anything will help.”

“I do not have any money to give you. I spent almost ten dollars on your food. That was a lot of money for me to spend on you.“

“I only need like twenty more dollars to get a hotel room for the night…for my daughter and me. I have almost half of it.”

“I do not have any money to give you.”

She starts falling asleep again.

“I have to go now, I have somewhere to be. I truly hope the next time I see you, you have your apartment, your daughter, and you are doing well. I hope I do not see you as you are now. Good Luck, and my best for you.”

No response, or perhaps that was the response. As I drive, the conversation slowly fades away, forgotten.

Today, I am getting ready to meet someone, when crashing into my thoughts is the woman I left at the table yesterday. Almost overwhelming thoughts of her. It’s not apparent to me why she has taken over my thoughts, and what these thoughts mean. Twelve hours later, and they still haunt me, coming in lingering waves spacing farther apart, and smaller with each arrival.

Perhaps it is because she isn’t the run of the mill homeless person I am used to seeing. Most homeless people are obviously homeless, but getting along somehow, semi clean and looking like they eat enough.

This woman was skinny as a rail, no fat on her. Dirty, and nothing worth anything on her person, worn out cloths and flip flops. She had a half pack of cigarettes, and a container of bright pink lipstick she wore above and below each lip. She like her clothes looked worn out. The one bag she had her possessions stuffed into was in worse condition.

I say more than a few short prayers today for this woman. If anyone ever needed at least praying for it is her. I know she is beyond anything I can do for her. I doubt she even remembers yesterday, the meal and halting angry conversation.

Giving it All Away

Child Prodigy?

Striking child’s art! Perhaps a  child’s rendition of a homeless man?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was at a McDonald’s waiting in line for coffee. There was a homeless man in front of me who had a single dollar bill and had ordered off the $1.00 menu. He was digging in his pockets for change.

The man asked if I had a dollar he could have so he could get a second burger. I gave him a dollar. He asked for a second $1.00 burger and an order of hash browns. He pulled out a pocket full of change and placed it on the counter.

The Manager asked the cashier of he had enough money. The Cashier said if he did not, she would make up the difference.

After the counting was complete, the man had a dime, a nickel, and a collection of pennies which the Cashier had pushed back to him.

The man collected all the change and put the change into the Ronald McDonald House collection box. He donated all the money he had….

Art of Saying Hello

One of the most overwhelming psychological problems facing homeless people is isolation. Think of yourself as homeless for a moment. You have no family that wants you around, no home, no address. You spend today day trying to make it to tomorrow.

Most people do not want to talk to you, they give you some change to make you go away. People fear you, people make you invisible. No one gives a crap if you are around tomorrow or not. Now imagine that is your life, and you are walking down the street, and you say hello to a passing stranger in an attempt to reach out and make a connection, however small. You may as well have said hello to a tree.

If you were alive in 1614, saying hello would not be an issue. You would seldom venture more than a short walk from your home, especially alone. You would be born, grow old, and die with people who live close to you. Once you walked more than a short way from your house, you were a stranger, either someone to leave alone, someone to rob, or worse.

Because you are alive in 2014, quite a bit has changed. You are safer now than in any time in history. You do not have to worry about war and plunder arriving in your neighborhood. You can walk down the street without being robbed. You can drive across town or across country without fear of being raped, robbed, murdered, or captured for slavery. Sure it happens, but let’s be real for a minute, it is not something likely to happen to you. There are easier targets for those people who prey on others.

We now know the bogyman is a fable. Dirty old men are very hard to find. Your neighbor or the person walking towards you is probably not a psychopath concealing a bloody knife they are about to use on you.

Don’t be afraid to say hello to a passing stranger, homeless person, adult or child you do not know. You never know how much one word may mean to another. Saying hello costs nothing, and has the ability to change both your worlds. Unfortunately in extremely rare instances, your saying hello may be the last word you ever say to another human being, or the last word they ever hear.

No longer do you need to be frightened of strangers. All fear does is lead to isolation and loneliness. The greatest love stories, the strongest relationships, and the greatest people you have ever met or read about practice the art of saying hello.

Saying, “Hello” is more than good manners. When you say hello, you acknowledge the other persons existence and worthiness. You let them know they are alive and they are somebody. You may be the only person the other person will see today, and you connected with them in a small insignificant way.

Homeless and Invisible, Mexican and successful

In the 1980’s when Ronald Reagan was president, America felt about the same way it feels now. America was looking for a hero, a financial fix, and a sense of self worth.

Earning a living was a hard, pretty much like people are trying to make ends meet today. Feels like Ground Hog Day lately. In an effort to reduce taxes, someone decided that institutionalizing people who were not a threat to themselves or others was a violation of their civil rights.

In a short period of time the walls of sanitariums fell, and tens of thousands of people were free to live a life that was their ‘legal right’, or in other words, literally kicked to the curb to fend for themselves. Nobody really noticed what was happening except their taxes went down. This homeless group of people were pretty much invisible, migrating to inner cities where few saw them on the streets.

During this same period Caesar Chavez prevailed in nothing short of a revolution for Migrant Farm Workers. Migrant Farm Workers were Mexican citizens who did low pay long hour ‘agricultural’ jobs, aka picking fruits, vegetables, citrus and such.

More and more Mexican citizens decided to stay and try to make this country their home. Speaking poor English, no real rights, and no financial support, they thrived.  They too were not noticed at first. There were few of them, and they lived quietly in rural and eventually inner city areas eking out what passed for a living.

It is interesting how some things have changed and other things have not. Mexican Migrant Workers have joined the American workforce with some becoming American citizens. Some small percentage have become wealthy, experiencing first hand the American Dream.

The homeless are still homeless. As natural born citizens many Homeless people lack basic skills which would enable them to hold any kind of job, have a place to call home, and a support network to help them. Many Homeless people who are mentally ill, or otherwise challenged and are brushed under the rug, as they fall through the cracks of life. They are rarely mentioned, barely noticed.

The Homeless population may be indicative of how we choose to treat those less fortunate than ourselves. People who legally may not be a threat to themselves or others, but emotionally or cognitively are not able to manage the basics of a normal life.

Homeless People wander and live in the streets, preyed upon, locked up, and murdered. This happens every day in our streets. We more fortunate Americans are unaware, or pretend not to notice. After all we can’t afford to help them.

I am in awe of the power of marketing. This is mass marketing in its finest hour. Mexican immigrants are the new pioneers, demanding their fair share from their newly conquered lands. The Homeless remain all but invisible. They are not able to get their act together, protest, and be heard.

Yet, the Mexican/American population of these United States shows the American Dream is still alive, and thriving. How is it a people who weren’t born here, may not speak any English, have several roadblocks in their path, become successful Americans, while the Homeless are ignored.