Tag Archives: Homeless

Nobody helps the homeless like the homeless

I had an opportunity to verify(somewhat) the data I talked about in the last real life story. When I was talking to one of the panhandlers she said that she might make 50 dollars in a day, and couldn’t afford even low income housing. I visually got to verify this as there was only one donation in an hour period, and it couldn’t have been for more than six or seven dollars at the most.

Drawing that back to the title, the donation was once again from one of the more disheveled cars at the intersection. To add to that, there were three panhandlers at the intersection, and while I was talking to one of them, another went and gave her lunch to the third. She’s surviving off the kindness of strangers, and she readily gave up a meal to somebody else.

It kind of makes me feel inadequate somewhat, because it’s easy for me to give. I’m not struggling financially, so going out and giving some food to a few panhandlers is really no big deal, but that lady might have given up her meal for the day, or at least that meal represented a much higher percentage of her daily income than what I give. I don’t want to give numbers about what I make, but suffice it to say I can live by myself without much difficulty. This lady on the other hand, probably makes between 50-100 dollars in a week, so that one meal was likely 5-10% of the money she made that week. To say nothing of the fact that she could have saved a few dollars by eating that meal, and used the extra money to buy an additional blanket.

Speaking of blankets, next winter I think it might be a good idea to hand those out. They’re not terribly expensive, and they’d help out with sleeping in the cold. It got down to almost freezing that night, and two of the panhandlers were going to be forced into sleeping outside in a local park. Writing this up makes me feel a little silly for feeling cold on my forty foot walk from my nice warm house to my soon-to-be-warm car.

Something that always makes me feel awkward, is when I got out to talk with panhandlers, and they thank me for coming out. What they do for each other requires far more sacrifice than what I do for them, and it’s really inspiring to be a part of. I heard a quote the other day ‘the poor are first to suffer, but also first to help’, and it’s absolutely true. Makes me feel a bit more secure about myself. In the extremely unlikely even that I’d ever be in their shoes, I’d be around plenty of people who were eager to help me. They might all be other panhandlers, but that’d be just fine.

As always, would love to hear you guys’ stories, and shout out to /r/homeless.

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Then line, and maybe strategy change(real life story)

Hey guys,

Been a while since I posted one of these. I got snowed out one weekend, and had a weekend-long commitment on another, but now I’m back, and it was really good to get back out there and hang out with the less fortunate.

It was another super busy one. The very first intersection I drove to had three panhandlers. I haven’t seen an almost ‘fully loaded’ intersection like that in a while. I guess times are rough now.

Having three people at one intersection made it a little interesting, and I had to rethink my approach. Normally it’s just walk up to the only person there and ask ‘hey, I don’t have any cash on me, but I was going to get some food if you want to come’, and then we get food. With three people I think it would’ve been fairly rude to just take one person, so I decided I would start with one person, and just work my way around, seeing if anybody wanted to come. If they accepted I would then circle back once I reached the last person, and take all three(or whoever wanted to come), to get something to eat.

Oddly enough, nobody accepted, all three people said they really couldn’t leave their spot, but I ended up getting to feed people by just making a run through a nearby burger king.

I still got to talk to people, but this is making me rethink my strategy. The goal is not just to feed people, but to give them a little time where you can talk to them as another human being on an equal level. However, it does limit me to talking to just one person at a time, and it’s not the most efficient thing in the world. I’m thinking of changing from taking one person(or even a group of people) to lunch, to just going around an intersection, finding what people want, and just making a food run.

This strategy of making a ‘food run’, did still allow for some time to talk with people. I had a chat with one guy for probably 10-15 minutes about jobs. I am extremely blessed to be working in a field that I love, have good job security, and pretty good pay with upward mobility. This guy, until recently, had been in a similar situation(minus the job security). He was something of a local celebrity, and went to school to work in his field, and loved working in his field every day.

The other two people also had what I would consider fairly ordinary jobs that would provide a steady income. Then stuff happened, and now they’re on street corners relying on the kindness of strangers. The scariest part was one of the three said he was there because of a medical situation(got hit by a drunk driver), and the last time I was out both of the panhandlers I talked to said they were on the street in part because of a medical situation. I’ve got pretty rock solid coverage, but it still is somewhat worrisome to think how easy it is to suddenly find yourself in that situation.

I’m now looking through youtube to find a video of this local celebrity, and it’s a fairly surreal experience. Feels kind of like the beginning of a book or something. I won’t post anything if I find it, but I’ve already got one video that might be him. It’s hard to tell because being out in the element changes you a bit, but I think it might be. Famous to homeless(or at least jobless), in no time flat.

Last thought, really thinking about changing from a one on one ‘let’s go eat’ to ‘I’m making a food run, what do you want?’ It would let me do 4-5 people instead of 1-2, and would still let me have an opportunity to share their story.

As usual, I’d love to hear any experiences you guys have had with the less fortunate. I’ll see you guys later!

S.D.G

Double date!(real life story)

But not the kind of double date you’re thinking. This was another lunch date with the less fortunate members of society. What made this time unique was that I took a pair of sisters to lunch who were collecting money at a stoplight.

As I left the house to look for someone to take to lunch it felt somewhat routine. Like taking someone on a third date. There’s still excitement, but you have at least some semblance of an idea of what you’re doing. So I start checking intersections, and as before, saw someone that I had seen previously. It was at the intersection where I had taken someone out last time. Only it wasn’t the guy who came with me, it was the guy who had turned me down(John). This put me in a slightly odd situation as he was clearly in need(it was like 22 degrees farenheit), but I had already seen him, and he had turned me down. So I figured he probably would turn me down again.

Having made the decision to find someone else, I drove on, and a few intersections beyond him I saw what at first glance seemed to be two high schoolers collecting money for something on opposite sides of an intersection. They weren’t homeless, but if they were out here there was a decent chance they knew where the homeless were. So I pulled into a nearby parking lot and headed out to greet the first ‘high schooler’.

Upon approaching I saw that first of all, she was at least ten years older than me, and second, that her sign was about needing money, and not about collecting for a cause. So I quickly flipped my mental script from ‘hey, have you seen any homeless around here?’ to ‘Hey, I don’t have any cash on me, but do you want to get some food at that Panera?’. It became very obvious that she spoke virtually no english, so we had an amusing interchange where I used my horrible spanish to communicate my message to her, and she user her comparable skill with english to ask if her english speaking sister could join us, indicating the lady across the intersection. I said of course she could, and we set off to meet her sister(the two ladies in the photo are not them, just a random photo I find on photobucket).

We continued to have a funny ‘spanish 101’ conversation where we both talked about the weather. I took two semesters of spanish in college and it finally paid off! After a bit more awkward spanglish we met up with her sister and headed off to lunch.

As always, this is where things got interesting. Turns out they were both mothers. Their husbands were off looking for work, and both family units lived with the father of the two mothers. They moved from Spain to the US two years ago, because the economy got too rough and they lost their home. They talked a lot about how they’ve been making ends meet for their kids(both had kids under a year), and it made me think about all the married people I know. To these two sisters marriage is probably just as much about survival as it is about happiness. I have absolute confidence those familes will stick together because they have to. They don’t have the kind of resources to make it on their own. Even with five working adults they’re barely making ends meet. It’s making any relationship advice I get sound weird. Not necessarily bad or good, just weird. Like hearing advice about car maintenance after you’ve been hanging out with people who have to job everywhere. The advice is still valid, but seems odd in light of the fact that transportation means such different things to different people. Not that one is necessarily inherently better or worse, it’s just some people need to jog places, and some people need to drive places.

While not homeless(they lived with their father), these ladies were equally as desperate as the last person I shared a meal with. As before they were still very polite and considerate, asking me about myself, asking me if I was okay with every stop of the money spending process, being very respectful of boundaries. They also gave me a new perspective on my own position in life(again). The first gentlemen gave me a perspective on what it’s like to be out in the elements and without medical support. The second gentlemen reminded me how thin the line is that separated me and him. Now these two ladies have made me see relationships in a new light.

As always, I would love to hear about any experiences you guys might have had with the homeless.

This feels like who you should be(real life story)

Had lunch with another homeless friend yesterday, here’s how it went down.

It was a fascinating and highly rewarding experience. As soon as I step out of my door until I get back home I think about what it must be like to be homeless and it’s like stepping into a different world. For that 90 minutes or so all the other problems of life seem kind of laughably insignificant. It wears off after a day or so, but it’s a very peaceful feeling.

Anyway, step out of my house, start doing my circuit of all the intersections I’ve seen homeless people at before. About ten minutes in I see the same gentlemen from last week(Carchoo, Romanian friend). I was faced with a rather interesting decision at this point. Do I take him out again? Or do I try and find someone else? He still needs help the same as anyone else, but I figured part of the point of this is to give them a positive experience with someone from the middle class. I decide that it would be best to give somebody else that positive experience, and resolve to circle back to him later with some food I had in my car.

I drive on, and about five minutes later run into two gentlemen on different medians but at the same intersection. I park, run into a nearby store to pick up some snickers bars, and head out to greet the two gentlemen.

The first guy(let’s call him Ryan because we actually never introduced myself), I walked up to and called out ‘hey friend, I don’t have any cash on me, but I know there’s some restaurants in that shopping center. Do you want to grab some food.’ He quickly agreed, and I said we should go talk to the second gentlemen(I think he said his name was John). We walk on over and this second gentlemen was very polite and friendly, but declined. I gave him the bars I bought and he thanked me profusely before we parted ways.

Me and Ryan head over to a Pappa Johns and order a couple larges. I did a magic trick, and about this point he lightened up. Until now he hadn’t been tense, but he was definitely awkward about it. He was kind of confused and asked me if I was just walking by. I don’t think this happens very often to people in his life circumstances, but once the trick started he eased up a lot. Once again he was one of the friendliest people I had talked to all week. All smiles and laughs, very attentive to the conversation, he was about my age and I guess it felt good just to talk to someone his own age like they were a friend again.

After the trick I asked him about how he got here, and he said he had a drug problem. He went to rehab, and some bad stuff happened. His parents said they’d let him back in if he got his act together, and here he was. It all happened fairly quick from what he told me. He had only been on the streets a few weeks. The guy couldn’t have been older than 25 and might have been as young as high school. I thought about how much money I had in my back account and how the line between me and him is really not all that wide. I’ve got tons of family in the area, but even so. It really would not be hard at all for our positions to flip.

Our meal ended on an odd note. He excused himself to go to the bathroom and didn’t return for a half hour. I had to leave, so I left him a note and the rest of the pizza, and headed out. After my prior engagement ended I circled back and the pizza and his stuff were gone(I asked someone to watch them for a little while, and I was only gone for an hour so I think he got his things back). Not the best way to end things, I would’ve rather ended with a proper goodbye, but that’s life i guess. It was still one of the most positive and friendly interactions I had all week. Even when I circled back to Carchoo later in the day and handed him the food he was all smiles and asked after my family. Still hesitant to accept anything.

So about that title, while I was driving away and reflecting on things it occurred to me that a lot of times in life we aren’t in the spots we think we should be. We aren’t doing as well in school. We aren’t getting into the relationships we want. We aren’t getting promoted at work or making the kinds of friends we want. There are achievements and milestones in life that we feel we should be hitting, but aren’t. And to me, being someone who does this for homeless people is always something I felt like I should do. I think most people feel like they should do more, and when you actually get out there and do it there’s this peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re being who you should be. It eases the tension in life, unwinds the springs, and just gives you a sense of belonging. That sense of belonging extends to other people. You get this team spirit for humanity complex. This notion that you’re all humans, and you’re all on the same side.

I still think I’m kind of a crappy person because part of my motivation is still being able to post about it later, but you can read more about that in a previous post. And the point of posting these is to try and demonstrate that this isn’t a very difficult thing to do that can be highly rewarding for all parties involved. It costs about forty dollars if you go for all the bells and whistles, and only takes about ninety minutes.

If you guys have had any interaction with the homeless I would love to hear about it in the comment.

So I’m a terrible human being(real life story)

Long story short, took a homeless guy to dinner(not actually homeless, but we’ll get to that later), and it went perfectly fine. He seemed surprised/ecstatic about it and was very accommodating, but I feel like a jerk and I’ll explain why at the end. For starters I’ll explain how this happened in case anyone else is thinking of doing the same thing(which I highly encourage).

After writing I Can Freeze Time I resolved to take a homeless guy out to dinner. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and after writing the story I realize my weekend was pretty open, so why not? I’m a big guy so I’m not really worried about anything happening, and it doesn’t cost that much.

So I get in my car and start driving around town to all the intersections where I see people typically begging for money, and it takes a good fifteen twenty minutes, but I eventually see a guy by the side of the road with a crutch looking like he’s begging for money. I don’t see a sign but I figure the sun is going down and it’s pretty cold, so nobody who doesn’t have to be outside is going to be sitting at a windy intersection.

I see that he is having trouble walking, and I’m not comfortable letting him get in my car(although in hindsight I totally should have), so I drive around to a nearby grocery store, pick up bottled water, trail mix, and beef jerky, and walk over to the intersection where he’s still sitting there. On the walk over I realize how very cold it is outside, and decide maybe I should try and take him to a restaurant so he can get out of the cold for a little while. And if not I can always just give him the food I’ve brought and be on my way

I get to the intersection walk over and say hi to the guy and ask him if he wants to go to dinner. At this point a couple things I didn’t count on happened. First, the guy doesn’t speak much English(I found out later he was Romanian), so it’s a little hard to communicate ‘I want to take you to dinner’. Second, this guy was hard to give stuff to. I had to reiterate several times that I wanted to take him to dinner(even though he spoke enough English to understand that), and when I gave him the food I had to confirm for him like four times that yes the food was for him. It wasn’t that much food. It was like twenty dollars worth of boring old backpacking type food. I’ve blown way more money than that on stupid things. There’s an xbox game sitting on my shelf right now that I’ve never even put into my machine that cost twenty dollars.

That was about all there was to it. We then walked over to the restaurant, ate, and I left. I spent less than an hour with him all told, and the whole thing ran me less than forty dollars even including gas.

And this is part of the reason why I’m a terrible human being. Forty dollars is seriously not that much money. My disposable income is definitely more than that, as I’ve said. I’ve practically thrown away that kind of money on a whim before. I’m not loaded by any means, but I could definitely afford to do this weekly, if not several times a week. So why don’t I?

Fear is probably a part of it. You’re kind of drawing a wild card when it comes to talking to people to in general, and homeless are kind of on the edge of society so it’s even more random what you might find when talking to them. Now that I’ve actually done it it’s something I’ll probably do much more frequently, but I feel pretty terrible that I haven’t done this before now.

That fear is the other reason why I feel terrible. I approached this I like would approach petting a wild animal. As I was driving around in the back of my head I was thinking ‘Okay, what if this guy tries to follow me to my car?’ ‘What if this guy pulls a knife on me?’ Like the guy was automatically creepy or just a flat a criminal.

What was the guy actually like? Super nice, he tried to keep the conversation about me mostly. Asking about my family, and telling me exhaustively ‘God bless you. You are a good man’. I was a little afraid of getting robbed, and later one when I got comfortable enough to do a magic trick that involved looking in the back of my wallet, the guy wouldn’t touch my wallet. I pushed it towards him and repeatedly said ‘look in the back of my wallet’ and the guy pushed it back and shook his head. I had to open the wallet for him so he could see the card I had hidden inside to finish the trick.

When we left(he told me his brother was coming to pick him up, so I’m not sure if he really was homeless, poor, or just made up the story about his brother to make me feel better), he showered me with more praise than I think any single person has ever given me ever. It took a full minute to say goodbye because he just kept telling me how great I was.

I’m not sure I’ve ever made anyone as happy as I made this guy, and all it took was about an hour and a half all told, and forty dollars. 90 minutes, and less than the cost of a new xbox time to make someone feel like god himself reached down from the heavens to make their day. And I’ve done it exactly once in my entire life even though I’ve had to do the resources to do this for a while now.

You know what the worst part is? Besides the fact that I’m posting this so I’m going to get some kind of credit for this. The worst part is that this is uncommon. This is news. I get that some people who aren’t large males like me might genuinely have some concerns for their safety, especially if they don’t have groups of friends to go with. But I know practically no one who has done this, and I have plenty of large male friends and coworkers. I feel ashamed that this is something abnormal, something to post about. I wouldn’t post about a date I’ve been on or getting a promotion at work, but I’m posting about this because it’s the most outlandish thing that’s happened in my life since I started this blog.

I hope I haven’t made you feel terrible too. I’m just trying to express how incredibly hard I thought this was going to be, and how effortless it turned out to be. The guy was a perfect gentlemen. If it had been a date he’d be getting a call for a second date tomorrow. Yet it took me years to get up the courage to do this.

Now I may have lucked out, maybe this is the nicest homeless guy ever, but I don’t think so. I think there are plenty of people out there just like him, and I hope that reading this takes some of the pressure off, because it’s really opened my eyes. I hope you take a homeless person out to dinner, might just open up your eyes too.

I can freeze time, but there’s a catch

I have to take someone with me when I go, that’s the rule. Whenever I stop time, I need a companion. It’s a weird rule, and one I don’t really see that much of a point in, but it makes for an interesting time.

I tried taking people I knew first, friends, family, classmates, girlfriends, but the trouble was their brains just couldn’t process it. During the time freeze they would either run off and do their own thing which they’d always wanted to do, or they’d go catatonic with shock and not do anything the whole freeze. That might’ve been alright, after repeated trips they would probably get the hang of things and we could have some proper fun, but the trouble was after the freeze they convinced themselves it didn’t happen.

Some of them would claim they had been drugged by someone. Others would tell me it was all just a lucid dream. When I asked how I remembered the events the same as they did if it was just a dream they told me that they must have already talked to me about the dream and got so excited by it that I had one of my own. It’s amazing how far people will go to maintain their perceptions of reality.

I had a problem then. If I couldn’t take anyone I knew, who could go with me? There was no way I was letting this power go to waste, so who should I take along? After family I tried starting the freeze out with someone then ditching them. That didn’t work, as soon as they were out of sight time resumed as normal.

Next I tried random people from the gym or the coffee shop, but most of those people either fainted or called the cops on me. Or called the cops and then fainted. I don’t think the police had a complete description of me yet, so I stopped trying random people from shops.

This was really beginning to irritate me. I needed someone who I didn’t know, but who had seen enough weird stuff that a little magical time freezing wouldn’t completely weird them out.

That’s when it hit me. I didn’t think it would work. I mean, how could this not end badly? But I was running out of options, so I gave it a try.

“Hey man, I don’t have any money, but I’d love to take a walk around the city with you.”

“I appreciate the offer friend, but you don’t want to walk with me. People give the homeless weird stares.”

“Well you know, I might have just the thing to fix that.”