Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Homeless in Small City that Tries

Oh, there are so many reasons why I don't like this town. 1. There are very few sidewalks. 2. There are very few bike lanes 3. The city keeps moving anchor services, such as the post office and hospital to the very edges of the city. Opposite edges of the city... but alas, that is NOT what this post is about.

This morning, our Sunday school class from our church agreed to host breakfast for a rotating homeless shelter. This particular shelter rotates among the churches that are equipped to handle it through the coldest months. There are other shelters in the city such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. But they have rules that not all homeless people can abide by, for instance the guests must be sober to stay overnight. So this rotating shelter takes the people that can't make it into the other ones.

I have helped peripherally with the shelter, but never served breakfast and ate with the guests. I expected the worst. I was a bit intimidated to join the guests for breakfast, remembering another time I had worked with a fellow "down on his luck" who was entirely inappropriate and made me very uncomfortable.

The people at our table included a man who was decked from head to toe in leather. He had a long leather riding coat, leather pants, and his head and eyes were covered by a leather biker hat. He kept his head down so you couldn't see into his eyes. His clothes were immaculate, not worn, and under the leather he had a starched white shirt with the pristine collar pointed up. He did not speak, but occasionally nodded in response to a direct question from me, such as "was that enough?" He carried with him a old style, but in perfect shape carry-on bag that looked like it had many notebooks in it. I didn't pry or stare.

The next man was middle eastern, and very sweet. He was engaged directly in conversation, even asking his own questions. He was very grateful and classy.

The other man at our table was a black man who also was very pleasant. He didn't offer conversation, but did answer questions respectfully. There was a nice moment when I asked if all the churches served them pancakes, and they nodded yes. When I asked which church had the best pancakes, they answered, this one, of course. We all laughed.

What was remarkable about this was that for being this city's roughest homeless people, they appeared sober, clean, healthy, well dressed, well mannered. For all the things I hate about this city, if it can take care of its homeless pretty well, then it can't be all that bad.

Now can we have a few sidewalks for the homeless and the rest of us to walk on?????

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