As I awaken, the bright red crystal display on my “fancier than I’ve ever had before” coffeemaker pierced the darkness of my room, filling my mind with thoughts and memories of days gone by…the days and nights of homelessness.
As writers often do, I have begun my day in the middle of the night. This time it has been as a result of a phone call the previous day from my dear fried Russ, a homeless people’s advocate with S.H.A.G., Seattle Homeless Advocacy Group. The new homeless people’s newspaper needed contributing writers, and I had been there, so…up and at ‘em!
The fall of ’87 was a rotten year for apple pickers (pun intended, but what the hey). The poster on the pole outside the plasma center in downtown Seattle promised abundance beyond belief. But Mother Nature, in her fickleness, postponed the crop. After six weeks camped on the Wenatchee River, and having picked only stolen applies, I made the decision that my years of nomadic homelessness had taken its toll, and I must find a way to get off the road.
Incredibly, a call the next day to a friend and spiritual supporter in Seattle, named Gideon, proved to be the turning of my situation. My name had finally come up on the HUD housing list. After 17 months of waiting (it was so long that I actually forgot I was waiting) I had an apartment!!
The joy! A chance to rest my weary nerves! Safety! Security! My very own hot water heater! I made it back to Seattle in record time.
After signing all the paperwork, and upon receiving my keys, I felt like I had floated across the street to my new apartment… I have an address!
I spread my bedroll out on the freshly vacuumed carpet, and placed my bag of daily living essentials into its usual “pillow position.” These two items were everything I possessed.
Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by the vastness of my small studio apartment. No furniture, no pictures on the walls, even the acoustic sound was strange because there was nothing to absorb noises. I had practically nothing, yet I now had everything!
The next few years were a very unusual adjustment for me. I still went back to the old camps and sometimes stayed overnight. Through a couple of hard winters a couple of homeless brethren stayed with me at my apartment. We get some real cold winters in Seattle.
I am, needless to say, a very fortunate person. I believe it, am fully aware of the fact, and heartily accept my blessed fate. I am filled with gratitude and life for being one of the lucky ones.
Some people might ask where just such a magnitude of a grateful attitude came from. Well, it is said that suffering is good for the soul. Well yes, I can attest to this timeless truism…however, it is only to a degree.
As for me, I was saved before that suffering became heartbreaking. To those of you who are beyond the point of heartbreak, I pray you will endure, because I believe things will change with enough faith, hope and love.
For those readers who have not experienced the dilemma of homelessness, I ask you for a moment to visualize this: You leave your job after a tiring day, and return to find an empty lot, overgrown with weeds, where your lovely house once stood. What a gut-wrenching feeling! You’ll have to make camp in the middle of your lot, and “Pray God I’m not attacked in the middle of the night.”
This is the way it feels for much of the homeless population on a daily basis. Please believe me, it’s not a pleasant existence. If you would, the next time you see a homeless person, remember your good fortune and please be aware of their despair.
As a society, let’s remember that every individual deserves the right to have the opportunity to meet their basic needs: food, shelter, warmth, and security. As a nation of such abundance and resourcefulness, let’s pull together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding to overcome the homelessness situation in this country, once and for all. Remember, even what you do as an individual, from the smallest to the greatest, counts.
The article is dedicated to the memories of Marge Flint and Charles Glen “Blond” Johnson, two of my best friends, who died at separate times in their homeless despair…but who are together for eternity, with our Lord Jesus Christ,…in their Heavenly Mansion. John 14:2