“Just spending one night on the street” a homeless woman told me, “does not give you the experience of being homeless.” She made this comment after I had spent a night sleeping in the street with a homeless guy and two others after he challenged me to do this because “you’re writing about us, Jeff.”
The woman was right. Since then I have become homeless, living in my car with a friend who has lung cancer. I am now walking the path of the homeless, and am experiencing the same struggles. My goal is to use my God given writing talent to call attention to the homeless and help them overcome.
On my first sample of life on the street, I had no foam padding and improvised by fishing some cardboard out of a dumpster, which added to the blankets I used cushioning. It took awhile to get used the street noises, such as car engines, radios, and occasional shouts of passersby. I slept just a little that night.
It’s no wonder homeless people occasionally nod off in the public library in Levittown, PA, where I’ve gotten to know many of the homeless folks in the area.
SLEEPING CAN BE DIFFICULT in a car. One thing I do to help me sleep is drink Kava tea, which relaxes not only my mind, but my muscles.
I’ve been sleeping in a car for more than four months. There are people who have been doing this much longer than I have. There are people who have been in tents for years, and have had to move several times over periods of time. People who set up in walkways have to pack up everyday!
Things you take for granted, such as having cabinets for food and clothes, a chair of sofa to relax in, a nearby shower, a bookshelf, and other amenities are missing. A big problem with living out of your car is the lack of space for things. Organization is much harder than in normal life. There is little room for storing food so you end up eating out a lot. There are free community meals hosted by local churches, which help a lot. There are free showers at the local YMCA. The homeless are allowed to take showers during certain times.
There is a stigma attached to being homeless. Some places, including the Levittown Public Library, are hostile to the homeless. They consider a homeless person a persona non grata. Some of the fast food restaurants also don’t like the homeless. Some of subtly, others openly hostile to the homeless, even arbitrarily kicking them out. Two Burger Kings in lower Bucks County, PA have discriminated against the homeless, booting my homeless friend when I left her there a couple hours, even though it wasn’t crowded.
Burger King I found to be the most hostile to the homeless. The McDonald’s in Fairless Hills also made my homeless friend leave when it wasn’t crowded, because she was there 20 minutes. As was the case with Burger King, she was not allowed to wait for a ride, but was thrown out to meet nasty weather, even though she is sickly. A Subway near this McDonald’s also booted my friend. The manager said he doesn’t want the homeless hanging out there, even to get warm a short while, even if they nurse a cup of coffee.
Denny’s in Langhorne, PA and Wendy’s in Levittown, PA has been hospitable to the homeless. They judge them by the content of their character.
There are other people out there who are gracious. The hosts at the community meals for the homeless and those in need have been reaching out to the homeless and have been getting to known them and try to help them. The former Advocate for “The Library People”, the homeless that frequent the Levittown Public Library, help meet the needs of the homeless, both materially and morally, whom she considers her friends. She ministered, and still ministers through Facebook and phone, to her friends.
Since associating with the homeless, I’ve gotten a different perspective of them. As is the case with the general population, there are some who don’t want to help themselves and continue destructive behavior.
I can understand the anger, disappointment, frustration, defeatism, even nihilism of the homeless. I’ve experienced, and still experience this. Although I’m in rebellion, I realize that God has put me in this place to walk in the homeless shoes and be his ambassador and lead by example, which I’m finding is easier said than done. Still, in the tradition of Snuffy Smith, I keep on truckin’.
To help meet the great need for shelter for the homeless, Gimmee Shelter, a nascent non profit, was created. http://www.timespub.com/2015/04/30/working-for-a-place-to-stay/