I wrote so much on my homeless journey, but even with the 100+ handwritten pages, I feel like I just scratched the surface of simply understanding the difficulties of it. I don’t have a clue what it’s like to really be homeless, yet learned enough to know it’s horrific.
Every homeless person I’ve met or talked to has a different story, yet most of our working class sees homelessness as a place they’ll never be. ‘Those people’ have addictions, they’re lazy or have some other type of dysfunction. No matter what their situation, they’re prejudged by many as being a drain on our society.
When asking for assistance, I never said I was homeless because (a) I didn’t know what would happen and (b) it’s somewhat embarrassing. In suburbia, to look homeless is to not look homeless. I looked and dressed like I always do, yet I didn’t have access to the same hygiene routines.
Gathering what I’ve learned from homeless people, not sharing your homeless status isn’t a pride thing, it’s a fear thing. In suburbia, it’s all about fitting in, because if you don’t, there’s no place you’re welcomed or even allowed to be. It started to become increasingly difficult early on to look like everyone else. There’s no place to shower and no place to wash clothes. After two days, that might not seem like a huge deal, but factor in the sweating from lack of air conditioning, not having a clean bed to sleep in and sleeping your clothes.
2 more churches and a trip to the grocery store.
My gas gauge is falling fast. I never noticed how quickly it can drop. If I looked at it while driving, I bet I could actually see the downward movement of it. I think it’s dropping faster than gas prices are rising.
I really want to feel what a homeless person does, but I know that just isn’t possible.
I decided to make my way to the grocery store and buy a couple of things. I spent a lot of time carefully choosing what I would buy. I of course, chose a package of razors. I only need one, however my least expensive option was a 12 pack. Price shopping is limited to where your gift card is good. The dollar store would have been great, but that was not an option. If I had received cash, I would have shopped a little differently. I left the grocery store with my razors, deodorant, a box of saltine crackers and a jar of peanut butter.
I’m now at another Starbucks and feeling really sick. It’s awful not to have a place where you belong. This really feels awful, even as a person pretending to be homeless. I have an out, but many others don’t. I’m going to shave my legs here. I know, that’s way more than you probably ever wanted to know, but it’s my reality right now. Right now, I’ll spare you the lack of bathing options info.
Geez, I look like I have chicken pox! The cheap razor cut my legs up in a bad way! All of the cuts have turned into tiny little red scabs. Great. What’s worse, the hair or the cuts? I just don’t have an answer for that.
I have another idea. What if people were to help with specific things, like laundry? A bunch of people could get together and schedule a day to be at the laundromat to help people with their laundry (physically and financially). If there’s a local need for laundry, like I have right now, what if I knew there was a day and a place where I could go and wash my clothes for free? I still have the coffee stained shirt in my car, in need of a washing. I have no extensive wardrobe to pull from. The coffee stained shirt is one of three that I own during this time.
I decided to stop at another church. This one is pretty big, and they’re building a large addition, so they must be doing well. The halls are filled with children. Vacation Bible school? More than likely. I ran into two ladies, one of whom asked if I was looking for someone. I said I was in need of some food and possibly some other assistance. Feeling really out of place, I then asked where the church offices were. One of the ladies asked me to follow her. As I followed, she explained that she knew the church would help, she just wasn’t sure exactly how they do it.
When we arrived in the office, she asked a lady in the office where Mary might be. Mary was busy, but should be available shortly, so I was asked to have a seat. A seat right next to a big box of Dunkin’ Donuts. A lady walked by and grabbed a donut, I guess not thinking to offer me one. These are clearly inner-office donuts. Another girl, sitting in her cubicle, slowly pushed her chair forward towards her desk, so close that I know it impacted her ability to breathe. Mission accomplished. She has successfully moved far enough behind her cubicle wall that she didn’t have to make eye contact with me. She immediately began pounding on the keys of a large calculator. “How much will this one cost us?” Okay, maybe that’s not what she was calculating, but she was clearly avoiding any contact with me.
Several minutes later Mary came out of nowhere, and with no introduction, said, “How can I help you?” I explained that I needed some food or any other possible assistance and asked if she would be able to help. She said I need to go to FFS (Frisco Family Services), as the church supports them with food, money and volunteers so they can send people there for help. She asked if I had been there, or if I knew where it was because she didn’t. If so many churches are supporting FFS, why is their food pantry so empty and why can’t anyone tell me what to expect when I go there? They all seem clueless as to what may happen when I go to FFS, not being able to answer one single question about the process. Are people that go there getting the help they need? Can they give me immediate help so I can eat today?
Mary then told me about a local food pantry in Plano, off the tollway and Plano Parkway. Doesn’t she know that would use up all my gas if I drove there? And, with no guarantee of help? Nope, I’m going to have to pass on that one. Then she said there was some new program run out of the Catholic church, although she didn’t know much about it. She suggested I call them, and she felt pretty confident that they would call me back. What she wasn’t sure of, was how long that might take or how quickly I could receive assistance. She said it’s run out of some lady’s house. I thanked her for the information, still wishing she would offer me a donut, but I left donutless. On my way out, I was looking for a business card, but instead of finding any print pieces, I found a basket of prepackaged snacks. Should I take one? I decided not to. I’m still craving a donut.
Since I’m on this side of town, I decided to check out another large church. They teach the prosperity gospel, which is still a complete mystery to me. I’m not sure how anyone could appreciate that, especially a homeless person. I’m curious to see what this place holds. The outside of their new building is beautiful, and very expensive looking. As I was about to pull into a parking space, I started reading the sign that said, “Parking for _______ Church Staff.” Apply brakes! Staff? Where are the first-time guest signs? There weren’t any, just signs for staff parking. I could carry on with this topic for a while, but I think there’s enough info in what I’ve said for you to decide how you may feel about this.
I parked in the direct sun, away from the building. I tried one set of doors that were locked. There were 3 sets of double doors, just like at my church. We only keep one open during the week. Why don’t we just unlock all of them? Locked doors aren’t welcoming, and it’s very uncomfortable if you don’t know the system to get inside. How should I know which of the six doors would be unlocked? Another easy change to make.
I tried a different set of doors that opened into a large bookstore and cafe. Wow, this is 1,000 times fancier than any coffeehouse or bookstore I’ve ever been in, but void of people. I looked around, and I did see a sign that said open. I thought maybe I stepped into my first day in an episode of Life After People, until a guy behind the oversized counter poked his head out to say, “Hi.” Quickly shifting gears out of my fantasy mode, snapping back to reality, I smiled and asked where the office was located. He gave me driving directions and walking directions. Wow, this place is really big. I chose to walk, as gas is not free, and not even far into this homeless thing, I’m worried about it.
I finally found the offices after having to stop and ask someone. There was a nice reception area before you get to highly secured offices. I made my ask the same way I did everywhere else. Once again, I’m being referred to FFS. “We support them financially so we can send people there for help.” I thanked the girl that helped me. She apologized for not having the answer I was looking for.
I’m not at all offended that all the local churches are sending people to an agency that can help. What I do find a bit disturbing is that none of the churches know that much about it and they’re sending me away having no idea whether or not I’ll get help there. The other thing that bothers me is the lack of preparation for these situations. People in need will show up at your door, locked or not. As Christians, we are called to help people. I feel like churches should help, or be absolutely positive that if they send someone to an agency, that help will be provided.
I decided to go back to the grocery store since it was near by. The peanut butter I bought was runny, and not like car heat runny, it was like spoiled runny. The kid at the store was really nice, and he gave me a refund in cash of $2.79. Cash.