Stories from the Homeless (10)

I should have bundled up a little more last night.  With the cold air and the dropping temperature, I should have thought about what I was wearing before I left to go to Love Park.  I went nonetheless in hopes of understanding what it is like to be cold in the city, while having no blankets or a sleeping bag to insolate my body heat.  It was not the coldest night but it was colder than I had previously experienced before.  Everything was wet due to the rainfall we had experienced earlier that day and it was just down right cold.

When I arrived, I threw my hands into my light jacket and began to shiver.  This is what it is like.  As I looked around, I saw two guys in the fetal position over a warm vent, pumping out air from some unknown source.  As I sat and watched, I saw a couple of “rich” people walk right over these two men without even taking the time to notice them.  One group of people had with them, a little girl, who had taken the time to notice one man laying over the vent and commented to what seemed to be her mother saying, “Why is the man on the ground, mommy?  Doesn’t he have a house?”  The woman ignored her daughter’s questions and proceeded to walk in a brisk speed off with her daughter’s hand in hers.  What a shame.  What an awesome opportunity to share the love of God with someone else and mold a young mind and to know God’s heart for others.  I could only watch the silhouettes grow small until the mother/daughter team disappeared from my vision.  I can only hope that the daughter continued to ask her mother questions about the guy on the street.  Perhaps the young child could train her mother to love as Jesus loves.

After they had left, I saw two guys hanging out with one another near where they had received fresh, hot coffee from our group.  I decided to go over there and make some small talk.  The taller guy saw me as I was walking to him and continued to stare at me when I stopped and said hi.  He told me he wasn’t homeless (perhaps thinking I was an undercover cop or something).  His name was Tom (or so he said).  He was a taller man, black, with deep brown eyes that would involuntarily shake every once in a while.  After talking to him for a little, I found out that he was on crack and was hoping to receive another hit before he went to a church to sleep on a cold floor a few blocks away from where we were.  As I continued to have a conversation with him, he would continually look all around us (perhaps looking for someone or hiding from someone – I couldn’t tell you which).  All at once, Tom left and I was left there with the other guy, Dan.

Dan was also on some serious combination of drugs.  He said he enjoyed crack and pot more than he like beer or soda.  He said it was so easy and cheap to get, all he would have to do is give some “favors” to other people and he would get what he needed to balance his drug addiction for the night.  Being 58, Dan looked more like he was in his late 70’s.  His face was ashy and I could see the leftovers of a paper towel or tissue that had helped stop a nosebleed from the drugs he took earlier that evening.  He often repeated himself and had trouble finding words he was looking for.  He was in all respects though, harmless.

Dan and I talked about life, his past relationship with a married woman that was not his wife, religion, and some of his hopes and dreams.  He was, for the most part, very smart.  He was familiar with a variety of issues that revolved around history – specifically ancient history of the church and the reformation.

I left last night, understanding somewhat what it was like to be cold in Love Park.  I walked back to my warm car and eventually crawled into my warm bed with blankets.  Before I closed my eyes, I thought about those who were going to sleep outside in the cold.  I took a moment to thank God for all I have been given and closed my eyes to sleep


One Response to “Stories from the Homeless (10)”

  1. Lynn Says:

    I am a homeless mother of 2 children. I am homeless because I was assaulted then forced to flee my home. In a matter of seconds I was forced onto the streets. I don’t see it as a loss, I see it as surrendering to God. God has directed my paths and despite my circumstances, I have been nothing but blessed.
    Due to the govt deffinition of homeless, in America you are not considered “homeless” unless you are on the street or in some place unfit for habitation or living in a hotel. That means staying with friends or family does not qualify you as “homeless”, even if you are. Families are forced onto the street because they need to be considered “homeless”. When you are considered “homeless” you have better chances of getting help and/or resources–including housing. Better does not mean you will actually get help. The housing crisis is so bad that there is no shelter or housing for the poor and those in crisis. Shelters turn people away due to lack of space. In many areas you cannot even apply for Section 8 or Public Housing bc the waiting list is so long (up to 5-10 years). Subsidized housing cannot meet the demands so it is virtually nonexistant. And our “welfare” system is so broken that it perpetrates poverty and creates additional crisis. Very few people leave Welfare and do better, most are just surviving. The Welfare check has not increased since the 80’s so it doesn’t take much to do better than what you get–but that doesn’t mean you earn enough to live off either. My message is–anyone can become homeless at anytime. Society needs to start seeing the homeless, and look in those faces an imagine your own. To change the system is first to change our own hearts. We must care in order to fight for justice, to make things better.

    Thanks for posting your experiences, and caring.


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