Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Can You Spare Some Change?

Looking for advice on what to give? See also this more recent post.

I always find it weird when other people ask me for change on the streets. It really does surprise me. For the most part all the varieties of street people just acknowledge each other with a nod but every now and then someone doesn't realize I'm also homeless. Of course, I never have any change to give. Between Jesus and me our only income is him picking up change forgetful people leave in parking meteors. The bank account is sacred. I can't spare any change out of there. It is for emergencies only. 

People always say they don't want to give change because they don't want to feed drug habits. So, often these people insist on bringing food instead. I've heard complaints from people being rejected when offering homeless people food. As I explained earlier, this just isn't a need here in Portland. There are plenty of places to be fed. However, I sympathize with those who would like to give without feeding drug habits because yes, a lot of people would spend the money on drugs. So far, that stereotype rings true.

Even though we are well fed there are endless needs that aren't met. Mostly things like warm clothing and blankets that can easily be carried around. Remember, when you're homeless you have to carry everything you own with you.Then there's toiletries. The airplane sized shampoos and conditioners could go a long way but shelter usually provides those for the youth. What we don't always get are things like deodorant, body spray, pocket packages of tissues (I didn't realize these would be missed until earlier today when we sat in the grass and I started sneezing), chapstick, sunscreen, and those other things you never really think about until you need them.

Weapons are also a need but I imagine that would be quite awkward. "Here homeless Joe, have some knives. And some pepper spray for you homeless Jan." Yeah, I'd be pretty weird-ed out by that but it's true. Anytime I walk alone I become acutely aware of the fact I have no pepper spray. While Portland is probably the best city to be homeless it is still very noticeable how unwelcome we are. We need things to keep ourselves safe.Weapons are actually allowed in shelter and in day services as long as they are checked in to staff. You can get them with your cell phone when you leave. That being said I don't know who has weapons or what weapons they have. Jesus carries a knife but that's all I know. You don't talk about what you carry to keep you safe if you're smart.

And it may sound selfish but we also need things to entertain ourselves. This lifestyle is very boring. I would be so happy with some puzzles or board games that actually have all the pieces. I would kill to have the opportunity to go dance at Lenora's ballroom again. I didn't realize how much I missed dance until I passed two girls on their way to swing dance at a different ballroom. I was so envious I couldn't stand it. I miss dancing. The carnival just left town and it often felt like it was taunting us with all those delicious funnel cakes and things to do that we couldn't afford.

I know the response would be, "Well get a job." The people who say this don't realize how hard it is to get a job when you're homeless. The job market right now sucks for anybody but for homeless people it is a million times worse. I can't walk into a store and ask for a job, carrying everything I own with me. Nor do I have nice clothes to wear while I job hunt. So, as much as I would love a job it's just not that easy. And I don't have a ton of internet access to fill out applications.

So moral of the story is if you can give; or at least stop using drugs as an excuse not to. If you want to give something that's not money there are needs other than food. In all honesty, compassion is number one need I see on the streets. It goes further than you think.

I've been doing this for ten-ish days now. I realize there are so many things I've taken for granted. August gave me towels fresh out of the dryer for my shower the other night. The feeling of wrapping up in a hot towel was amazing. I miss things I never thought twice about before like pillows, fuzzy blankets, stuffed animals, hot coco, my comfy bed, clean socks, hair straighteners and curling irons, being able to do laundry whenever I want, the edge of the bathtub I can put my leg on so I can shave, and so many millions of things you don't usually think twice about.

For a long time I've been unable to look homeless people in the eye. It hit too close to home when I saw them and I knew I was one step away from being one of them again. I now meet them in the eye and nod. I wish the people who sell Street Roots good luck. I not only acknowledge these people that I tried so hard to ignore previously; I somehow mesh together in some tangled web with them.

My life has always moved at the speed of light. I am highly adaptable and I find a way to make the best of even the intolerable. I don't know how much longer it will be before I am no longer homeless but whether it be ten days or ten months I know in the end I'll have a ton of good writing material and I'll be better for it.

--mm





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