Stories from the Homeless (17)

I have been reading this book called, “Under the Overpass” by Mike Yankoski. If you have not heard of it, I definitely recommend it for anyone who is looking for a book that gives a first person account about being homeless. Mike and a friend of his named Sam go to five different cities spending a month in each city, living as a homeless person. The stories they share give a very real and raw. Anyway, I submit this book for your reading.

This past Monday, we had a small group, which is good at times I guess. Though we were small in number, we took the opportunity to spend more time with a lot of the homeless people. Since we were small in number, we could make our rounds. That is what I attempted to do.

When we showed up, we realized that we had forgotten cups to pour our coffee in for the homeless. Needless to say, we felt a little foolish that we had forgotten something so important. Luckily, we knew that a Starbucks would most likely get us some cup if we asked real nice for them, which they did (provided that we buy a coffee or two, which was not a problem).

I saw a couple of the guys that I had talked to before. The one guy’s name was Mike. The other guy keeps his name on the D.L. He figures that if anyone knows his real name, perhaps he might be found in trouble or something so he just goes by sir, who was kind of odd but I rolled with it. Both men had been on the streets for over 20 years. They chose to live on the streets even though they had a lot of money in the bank. It was easier to live that way they said. They had no bills and had everything they needed. I think they have been on the streets so long, they do not understand what it would be like to live off the streets anymore. Perhaps they really just wanted to live on the streets and live off other people. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. In any case, we sat down and talked about tangible ways we could help them out.

See, this has been my problem fro the beginning. We go down to Love Park and give out coffee, PB and J’s, and some clothes and then leave after a couple of hours. I know I have written this before but it just seems as though we are meeting simple, temporal needs and not helping people achieve goals or even set them. I have never walked to my car after a night with the homeless and patted myself on the back for doing a good thing. To be honest, I am not sure how much we are really doing even though I guess we could be doing nothing, which would be even worse than what we are doing now. I guess I just wish we could have a greater impact on those in whom we meet and help them out more than just giving some temporal, material goods.

One thing I have been thinking about his perhaps looking to see if we can help them put together their resumes or even help them get into a program to get their G.E.D. I do not know how many need them but if we could assist in that manner, perhaps I would feel like we are doing a little more than nothing. These are just a few off the cuff ideas that I thought about and asked “sir” what he thought. His response hit me hard: “They have to want to do something in their life. Many people do not want to do anything and simply live off the streets because it is just a lot easier that way for them. If they want to be helped, then your idea is great and you should move forward with it.” With only one tooth visible, he just kind of smiled and looked at me. We sat for awhile just looking up at the stars in Love Park while a bunch of rich foreigners ran over to the “Love” sign to take a picture, not even noticing the fifteen or so homeless people who were sitting all around them, trying to catch a couple of hours of sleep before a cop came to tell them to move on. No matter how many times I end up seeing that, it bothers me.

My final meeting was with the guy with the really long hair. This is the same guy who had been growing his hair for 13 ½ years nonstop. It was all matted in the back because he always ended up sleeping on it. He sat there and told me over and over again that he was a “messenger from God” and that “God told him that he didn’t need to fellowship in the church.” When I tried to ask him questions, he would only reply, “Excuse me. You don’t know who I am. If you knew who I was, you would not be talking to me that way.” I was getting a little frustrated with him because he was not listening to what I was saying. I simply had to leave him to himself. Walking away, I watched him hit his had several times over and remembered that he most likely had a lice issue and was dealing with the major itch that lice gives to those who have it.

The end of the night showed to be a decent night of serving people and loving on them through conversation and fellowship. I didn’t see Greg this week, which made me wonder how he was doing. I wonder if he simply forgot we were going to be there and was in the library reading while we were in the park. I am sure if I go next week, I will most likely see him. It will be good to see him and see how things are going with an apartment opportunity, his work, church, and his 4-year-old son. We packed up our stuff and headed home to Bucks County to lay in our warm, cozy beds. It still gets me that only twenty miles away from me, there are people who sleep on the floor or on a park bench. That is why I still continue to go. I am so glad that I do.

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