The picture is from Dallas, Texas. August 2011.
A couple of months ago, I gave a friend some soap. He offered to let me walk with him and the Saints On the Streets crew. I thought that it would be a wonderful experience, but that's as far as it went.
Besides, this is Fort Wayne. A nice, quiet, sedate city in the midwest. We don't have homeless people. Heck, we're the "City of Churches," and churches take care of those less fortunate. So, we don't have homeless in Fort Wayne. Period.
The subject had kinda been pushed by the wayside. Honestly, minus a couple of comments here and there, I'd pretty much completely forgot about it.
Then, I went on vacation...
Dallas is huge. The metroplex just blew my mind, still does. It all started as a joke. We were "Hooker Hunting" on Harry Hines Blvd at 11 in the morning. Which, by the way, was a bust.
A repeat a few days later around 9 at night also revealed zero working girls. So, we decided to go "Homeless Hunting." Hell, it's Dallas. There have got to be homeless people there.
Drove by American Airlines stadium. Fail.
Drove by the Grassy Knoll. Fail.
Drove by the Greyhound station. Fail.
Then, we were just driving up some street that I forget the name of and people were sitting on benches. Those can't be homeless people. Where's all their stuff? Yes, I realize that homeless people don't have a ton of stuff, but where are the shopping carts? The bags?
When I took the above picture from the safety and security of my friend's car, something clicked. I don't know what or why, it just did. I still can't think of this lady, whose name and story I don't know, without tearing up a little.
After we got home, I hit up my friend for answers and to see if the offer still stood. After all, there has got to be a concrete reason why and how. This kind of thing doesn't just happen in America, and most definitely not in our fair city.
Why? I just don't get it. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Mental illness. Even with all of the years that I've listened to Dr. Drew, I will never understand addiction. Continued use in spite of consequences. How can you lose everything? How does it get to that point?
My night out with the homeless started around 7:45 when I dropped my children off with my Dad. It'd been a hellish day for me. Dad said that I needed to do this. So, I did.
I was so nervous. People don't realize how painfully shy I am. Add to that the fact that I was going to see real homeless people!
Drew. He was our first stop. Under a bridge. The guys were talking to him. I just observed. What do you said, do? The flashlights lit up Drew's face. I started to tear up. Then, I started looking at the view of the river. It was quite lovely. I can't think of that interaction with Drew, without tearing up. The intimacy of it all. Drew said he's been feeling tired, so the guys prayed for strength and better health for him. I didn't hear it all, nor did I really listen. I'd seen and heard enough for a while.
Nick and Bernard. I didn't really hear much of what Bernard was saying, but Nick is a real character. He was talking about his kids and things he's been doing to keep himself busy. I kept thinking that his guy cannot be homeless. He doesn't look it. I guess, I'm still a little naive and looking for his "badge of homelessness." I kept smiling. Both guys were so good-natured.
We stopped at another bridge. There were 2 guys sleeping until there, so our group left some snacks and drinks for them.
Then, it was off to the Salvation Army. That was an experience. It kinda turned into a mini block party, which was kind of fun. The guys there needed toiletries and socks. It was very overwhelming, but I really think it all goes back to my naivete. I just don't get it.
The walk back to the car was full of chatting and jay-walking. A lesson of the evening, no one has been hit when jay-walking with SOS. Close calls, but it's never actually happened.
Debrief was hard and full of more questions than answers. I want to know why. How. "Because it is," and "I don't know," are the answers I got and was not happy with. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. At the same time, I'm thinking about and gearing up for another walk around Fort Wayne to spend the evening with the homeless.