Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dealing with a HOMELESS GIRL, my experience

Last night I was sitting at a coffee shop, busily scribbling down thoughts for a potential blog post. Suddenly, I felt a “tap tap tap” on my back. For a split second I felt a twinge of familiarity from the presence—as if I knew it, “Why else would someone be tapping on my back if not to say hi?” A millisecond later, I realized I’d never seen her before, but there was still a feeling of warmth and familiarity.  “I need your help” she began.  “Would you like a ride, because I can help you with that” I said abruptly, cutting her off before she asked for money.  “What I need is a place to stay. I’m trying to get enough money to pay for a motel to stay in tonight.”  

 I needed to know more about her situation. In the past I had experienced rejection and temporary homelessness in my life, so my psyche was pricked.  I asked a series of questions. In the end I discovered that she and her boyfriend had been homeless for six months and had been living outside, on the streets or in various parks or shrubby areas for most of it. Her boyfriend of 3 years was an electrician, who had lost his job and his house and everything else a couple years ago.  After over-staying their welcome with family and friends, they had finally been forced to live on the streets.

 Although I have seen plenty of homeless people, I never had bothered to interrogate them or get to know about their situation. It is always easier to just make a general conclusion and dismiss someone when you don’t know all the facts—not asking specific questions about a situation will ensure wrongful judgment.  Most people, it seems, won’t be bothered by needy people and I got to witness this as I drove her to various places that evening to beg. I told her that she could come and sleep at my place if she needed a place to sleep for the evening but she declined. Although I did cave in and give her $10 bucks (and transportation to other places to beg) I felt somewhat helpless as I wasn't going to be able to give her $50 for her hotel stay that evening.

I discovered that one of the best places to beg is a gas station at 10:30 pm on a weekend night. A venue such as this has a constantly changing atmosphere with lots of people carrying cash. Several people offered her a dollar or two. Some guys asked her for her phone number but refused to give her a dime. One guy actually asked her, “What can you do for me for $40 bucks?" She was a 25 year old and quite attractive, might I add. She told me that she was very numb to it all. She was acclimated to the ridicule and the abusive treatment of others. When you are homeless, it seems like you are treated as an inferior human being. Your positive rights are greatly diminished.

She and her boyfriend were both able-bodied and young but they had clearly been making every effort to improve their living situation.  He would take day jobs at Labor Ready when they were available, she would offer cleaning services or any other service that could bring in a couple bucks. Once she dumpster dived for another couple and took out all the cardboard so that they could take it to a recycling plant and make a little money from it.

They would often beg and she mentioned that sometimes you can make a decent daily wage by “signing” (apparently holding up a “anything helps” sign at a stop light or intersection).

That night I learned a lot about what it means to be a homeless person. It was an interesting experience spending an evening with her and attempting to help her out.

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