Tag Archives: homeless

Databases

Setting my things down on the empty couch at a local coffeehouse to begin working, I overhear a conversation going on between the shop’s proprietor and another customer. The customer is sitting adjacent to me at a table with two duffle bags tucked neatly under his table and a spare pair of shoes tied to the ends of each of his bags.

Spirituality
Spirituality

A “homeless” man, whom Taoists would term a “noble” traveler, this customer is looking for a safe place to sleep before moving through and out of town tomorrow.

“I was going to stay at Happy Homes shelter tonight, before moving on tomorrow,” he explains. “But, after I gave them my name, they looked me up in some medical database and found out that I had been diagnosed as being bipolar years ago. They told me that I had to see a doctor before I could get in.

He continues, “I haven’t had problems with my bipolar disorder in years, so I stopped taking the medication. Isn’t that stupid?”

Hearing what this man is saying, I ponder the logistics of what the shelter has proposed. Here is a man with an insufficient amount of cash to be able to afford a motel for the night. He is moving through. Yet, the shelter wants him to be able to afford a doctor’s visit. Then, there is the issue of how long it actually takes to get in to see a physician in this area—somewhere between three to six months.

In addition to these logistical issues regarding seeing a physician, I consider the fact that the man is not being allowed to acknowledge his own healing or the apparent improvement in his mental health. The other, larger issue is that of an organization having access, not only to one’s criminal record, but to one’s personal medical records.

Because of the hour, there are three of us in the coffeehouse. To assist in the process of finding a safe place to sleep, I pull out my phone to help search for the addresses of nearby shelters. Due to my walking patterns, I know where most of the neighborhood shelters are located, but I do not have addresses memorized.

In a few minutes, we have the address of another walkable shelter for this gentleman to try. Bending over his things to organize the few belongings he carries, he prepares to walk the eight or ten blocks to the proposed place of safety for the night.

It is late in the afternoon. I hope he makes the shelter’s narrow in-take hours and passes their “entrance examination.”

I would that a prayer of mine could solve this man’s issues. Instead, as he reaches to push the door of the coffeehouse open onto a very blustery late October afternoon, I shout out a lame cliché, “Hey, good luck tonight.” He nods in my direction, in acknowledgement of my statement.

And, I think, “It is I who should be acknowledging you, dear Sir.”

Who Are the Homeless?

Walking toward me, a man with a serious limp asks, “Hey, do you know where the Salvation Army is?”  He has barely finished crossing five lanes of traffic before the light changes and everything and everyone starts moving at forty-miles-per-hour.

“You are just one block away,” I answer raising my voice above the wind.  “You cannot see the sign from here because of the curve in the road.”

Spirituality

“Whoa, it’s cold up here,” he exclaims rubbing his ungloved hands together.

“Where are you from?” I ask, noticing an absence of scarf and hat as well.

“San Antonio,” he shoots back with a broad smile crossing his face.  There is a significant scar along the edge of his left jaw.

“And, you left that warm weather and sunshine for this?” I counter.  We have started to walk together in the same general direction.

“Yeah, I came up her for truck driving school.  And, then, all of a sudden-B A M.  I’m homeless.  I need me a clean shower and a shave.  Hey, are there any good jobs around here?  For twenty dollars an hour?  Like a forklift operator?  [He does not yet understand how different the market is in this region.]  I see it now.  I got it.  I got it,” he gently dismisses me.

“I hope everything works out for you,” I say in parting.

“Yeah, me, too,” he responds waving his hand.

Homeless with the American Dream

“Dude, I can help you with that,” one man is leaning over another seated man filling out an online registration form for homeless services at one of the public library’s computers.

At the adjacent computer terminal, I drop into a chair to check email.  My skin is prickly from the long, hot walk to the library, and I am looking like a boiled lobster while trying hard not to overhear the conversation next to me.

“I got it bro,” the response comes.  “But, thanks for the help.  Hey, man, you know about this place?” the seated man asks gesturing to the screen.

“Yeah, they got a ten-o’clock curfew.  That’s alright.  What I don’t like is the showers and beds and sh*t. They’s all communal.  I ‘m real clean.  I can hardly stand to shower there, let alone sleep.  I got to get me a job, so I can have my own place—my own shower.  You hear me?  Family sent me ahead, ya see?”  (There is a formal recounting of all of the immediate and extended family members relying on this man’s ability to find and retain employment.)

“Yeah, yeah.  I hear, ya.  Who’d ya say was hiring?”

“There’s that warehouse.  They’s taking applications.  Do you need me to help you with that?  I can help you.  I got me a bar of soap and found a stream.

Spirituality

Cleaner washing in that stream than some of those places.  I know they [the local Christian charities] mean well—but germs, man, I’m really funny ’bout germs.  Family is counting on me.  You see what I’m sayin’ bro?”

“Yeah.  I got it,” the seated man replies.  “Thank you, though.”

“I’ll catch you later.” The other man moves away, returning to perch on one of the library’s high stools facing the windows looking out onto the pedestrian traffic on the street.

Exhaling, I finish my computer session, grateful for the home I have.  Gathering my things together, I exit the building to breathe the hot, heavy air and begin my walk home.  I consider how alone the man with the extended family must feel,  I hope Grace keeps him safe.