I’ve been living in my car for a few months now, and have been hanging with the homeless for a little more than a year. This has taught me a lot about homelessness.
Shortly after I starting associating with the homeless who frequent the public library in Levittown, PA, I was challenged to spend a night on the street with some homeless people to experience what I was writing about. After that outing, a homeless woman mentioned that spending one night on the street doesn’t give me the experience of what it’s really like to be homeless. I realize that this was only a small taste.
Now that I’ve been living in my car, I can say that I at least completed Homelessness 101.
In the 50’s or early 60’s there was a cartoon with a moral called Mr. Wizard. The cartoon is about a boy who wishes he were something else. In one episode, Mr. Wizard turned him into a bird. When a larger bird swooped down on him for a meal, the boy cried “please Mr. Wizard, take me back, I don’t want to be a bird.”
Likewise, I don’t want to be a homeless person. I understand enough what it’s like to be homeless; I get it! Please Mr. Wizard, take me back!
Homelessness is challenging, to say the least. Some homeless escape through alcohol. Less of them through drugs. Most of the few druggies in the Levittown library circle are refugees from recovery houses (they got kicked out). But the biggest escape, addiction in this community is tobacco.
There are two homeless drunks who are hanging out at a public place that has become a special place for the homeless to congregate, a virtual clubhouse. One of them got arrested the other day for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, and was held overnight. I think there weren’t any formal charges, and this guy is back at the clubhouse. This same thing happened several months ago.
A homeless friend told me that the other guy, who got busted with him last year at this same place, brought a bottle of booze to the clubhouse. Holy déjà vu, Batman!
This time, there were only minor problems at the clubhouse. The guy who brought the bottle knocked the hat off the other guy’s head and said “you’ve been wearing that hat long enough.” The guy who had his hat knocked off told the other guy he’d better stop or he’d beat him up. He complied.
The guy who brought the booze usually gets violent when he’s drunk. In fact, at a community meal, he threatened to fight me. As we sat waiting to be served the meal, he got mouthy, and made a veiled threat to ambush me when we got back to the library. But he couldn’t wait and he called me out. He asked me to step outside. I had to use the bathroom, and as I approached it, he threatened to fight me on my way to the bathroom. He came up behind me. I turned around and went into a defensive position, waiting for the drunk to make a move.
One of the hosts got between us and broke it up. The host thanked me for “keeping calm” and preventing violence. After the meal, I stayed inside while the drunk bad mouthed me to another guy, who tried to reason with him.
Later that night, at the clubhouse, the guy was drunk again, and started badmouthing me. I stayed between an obstacle and him. Still, he threw a lit cigarette at me, and missed. As I told others, if he hit me with the lit cigarette, he would have been found unconscious the next morning, as I probably would not have been able to keep my cool and would have laid him out, which would have been easy in his drunken state.
When I visited the clubhouse at one point today, the guy with the booze wasn’t there but shortly returned. He didn’t have the bottle with him but he seemed slightly inebriated. He wasn’t belligerent. In fact, he was very friendly, even thanked me for giving him rides to community meals and to his place in the woods. I parted peacefully, not wanting to push it and to finish this blog.
I told him that we have to stick together and reminded him that I am in the same boat, although, as he said, “at least you have a car.” That’s right, it’s tougher without a car, but even with one, it’s still tough. I think I aged ten years in the last few months, as I’ve been cramping up as a result of sleeping in my car. Kava tea, which is a natural muscle relaxer, has mitigated this somewhat though.
The drunk who recently got arrested was gone, and I saw him heading off somewhere, I hope not to get booze.
I mentioned the bad and the ugly, so now for the good.
* One homeless guy I met about a year ago had been taking odd jobs and saving up money. He bought a car and got a job driving a school bus. The job is part time, but the job has a future, and he’s moving on up. By talking to him, as is the case with many others, you would never dream he was homeless.
* A woman who had been living in her car got a job and a place, after having spent countless hours on the computer looking for jobs and going to interviews.
* A guy who was thrown out of a recovery house and lived in the “library” homeless community, brought his drug addiction with him. On one occasion, he almost got arrested when he walked around high as a kite. When I lovingly confronted him about it, he got very testy, hostile with me but soon apologized. He said that he knew that two other people and I really care about him. Some time after that, I heard that he had gotten a job. He had told his few friends that part of the reason for his addiction is that he is bored. Holy idle hands are the devil’s workshop, Batman! I didn’t see him for a few months until one day, he approached me and gave me an update on his life. His demeanor seemed to improve dramatically. He admitted he still has things to work out, and is still tempted, but he was on the right track.
I related the good, the bad and the ugly I’ve experienced in the homeless community. I still think I’d like Mr. Wizard to take me back to a “normal” life. God is keeping me in this situation for a reason. I wrestle with his will versus mine. As Gunny Highway told his unruly guys in the movie Heartbreak Ridge, it’s a test of their will against his, and they will lose. Likewise, thy (God’s) will be done. Like Gunny Highway, who had the best interests of his men at heart, the Lord knows what’s best for us. We just have to have faith and persevere. “Mr. Wizard” will take me back when he pleases.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” –James 1:12
Although some homeless people have been able to move on up, and others are still surviving, we as fellow Americans should help our homeless neighbors find their way, starting with shelter. Our project to supply the homeless with land, tools and materials to give them a chance to homestead, as our nation did in 1882 with the establishment of the homestead act, will give the homeless an opportunity to help the homeless become independent, productive members of our society. You can help by going to http://www.gofundme.com/lq6sfc. You can skip the ad after waiting a short awhile.