Stories from the Homeless (8)

Monday night (New Year’s Eve), a group of eleven of us went to Love Park to hang out with the homeless. We could have had our own party in the suburbs. We could have turned our eyes to the poor in Philadelphia that night but we didn’t. I am glad we went. I was invited to a party but I chose to go to our outreach instead and found it to be quite interesting. Here are the highlights of the night.

When we arrived, several homeless people who were looking for socks, gloves and other warm clothing articles greeted me. At first, I felt as though I was not doing anything significant. I hadn’t really talked to anyone. I just sat there and talked to a couple of people who came up to grab up some clothing. It was then that I saw Juan. He was clothed to the brim. A blue hat and black earmuffs, Juan looked over and smiled. He came over and proceeded to start a conversation. After talking a little small talk, we began talking about how the night was going to end up for us. “They will be drunk,” Juan said. I figured they probably would be. As I looked behind him, there were three people sitting over on a bench. One gentleman looked as though he was at least eighty. The girl perhaps 37, and the other guy in his mid fifties stood near one another. I made my way over to them and offered my hand as a “peace offering” of sorts.

The girl right away offered her hand. She called herself “Phoenix.” She received the name when she was on LSD – she thought she could fly like a bird or something. Even from a far distance, I could smell the alcohol on her breath. She had been drinking quite heavily. Visiting her homeless friends, Phoenix was in the partying mood tonight. Listening to her talk, I realized that she slurred most of her words and stumbled around. She was loud and wanted everyone around her to know that she was there. I kept my distance to a degree, not sure if she would try and jump on something or me. I was definitely on my guard.

She then introduced me to her friend, “Gut Man.” Gut Man was the old man on the bench. He was so visibly drunk; he couldn’t even look you in the eyes. He would repeat himself over and over again and pretend like he was apart of the conversations. Gut Man got his name because he knew how to handle is vodka. As I sat there with them, he threw out four bottles of empty vodka from his bag. I cannot be sure he had drank within the past couple of hours but I would not have doubted him if he told he that he had. After about an hour of the three of these three, I decided it was time to sit back and think about what I had just experienced. Three people, totally drunk, talking about having sex and getting wasted till Wednesday – I was sad that they had ended up in this state of being. The saddest part of it all – they thought and believed they could never get out of it. They were doomed to be in this state for the rest of their lives.

I had to walk away and consider all of this. As I did so, I met a talk black man who was looking for some coffee and a small sandwich. We were out so I went to 7/11 with him and bought him a fresh coffee and a sandwich. It was no big deal. He was so thankful though. He told me how the cops had treated him because he was homeless and I realized he was the guy that I had heard about from Mont – the guy who was arrested because he wanted to sleep. I told him that I would pray for him. He said he was going to look for a job because he didn’t want to be on the streets anymore. We then parted ways. He said he would look out for me next Monday – I said the same.

We left Love Park and went to Penn’s Landing. Nine of us went there to watch the fireworks. It was after all, New Years Eve. The fireworks were awesome. We really all had a great time dancing, singing, and hanging out. All in all, it was an awesome night. We got to serve the homeless and watch some great fireworks (and get a lot of exercise). I am so ready for Monday

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