Helping The Homeless

January 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

Ever since I noticed it snowing this morning, I’ve been frequently thinking about how J-Man is doing tonight.

I visited with him Monday afternoon and kept him company for about an hour and a half.  I learned that he had only spent two nights in the shelter, which surprised me, because I knew the (temporary) shelter would have been open to him for at least five nights.  He said he wanted to return to his tent because the shelter wasn’t “permanent” and it’s availability was dependent upon the weather.  (FYI: The shelter he stayed in is located 20 miles away.)

He also said that when he was not at the shelter, someone had paid him to perform some work around their shop — so he actually earned cash-money as well.  He was super-excited about earning some “spending money” (as he called it) but was quick to note that it was temporary too.

Somewhat teasing and somewhat tough-love, I suggested that if he was looking for something a bit more permanent, returning to his tent was probably a good idea.  He repeated his previous complaint about those situations being temporary and reinforced his desire to seek something more permanent.  Hoping to turn his optimism against him, I reminded him that he’s always saying he feels “something big is about to happen — he can just feel it,” and perhaps the opportunities that were presented while he was away at the shelter was the start of that “big thing.”

I was hoping this would be J-Man’s Dr. Phil moment (“How’s that working out for you?”), but he didn’t see it that way.  He still believes that whatever it is, it’s waiting for him in Alpharetta, GA.  And who knows?  He could be right — but I don’t share that opinion.

However optimistic he is, I’m beginning to see some denial.  There is an amazing lack of resources for homeless males (especially those that aren’t working and without dependents) in the Alpharetta area.  There isn’t a nearby shelter (that I know of) or an outreach (that I’ve found) to offer assistance.  A wealthy suburb of Atlanta might be a great place to receive help from concerned strangers — but it doesn’t offer much in the way of available work or affordable housing options.

I suppose he has come to find comfort in his immediate surroundings.  So much so, that even knowing what the weather was going to be for this week was not enough to convince him to allow me to take him to the same shelter where he would be comfortable and cared for the duration of freezing weather.  Even the promise of returning him to his tent whenever he desired was not enough to lure him to the comfort of a warm church for the next couple nights.

He declined and in the end, the comfort of his tent outweighed the discomfort of snow and freezing nights for the next two days.  I hope he’s alright and pray that he’ll take me up on the offer should this winter’s weather temperatures continue to yo-yo in the future.

I took a visual inventory of his supplies and he was well stock with propane bottles — enough to easily last through the week despite the weather.  He had plenty of food and even had clean new clothes, socks and shoes.  Not only was he well treated at the shelter, he received plenty of parting gifts (along with the transportation to/from the shelter) from our mutual friend.

Seeing that he was well-stocked, I asked him how I could help while I was there.  He asked for a hot meal but — being sensitive to the strict diet he knew I was on — could not think of a place to eat that wouldn’t require me to purchase (or smell) food I couldn’t eat.  I found his considerations for my self-imposed torturous diet hysterical and suggested that if he felt so strongly about it, I’m certain I could find somewhere serving salad that would heat it up upon request.  He quickly declined and decided a gyro and fries from a local restaurant would be just fine.

After returning with his dinner, but before leaving for the day, another person showed up to deliver some food.  He later told me that she was one of the ladies that had been supporting him for some time.  They discussed replacing his tent (which is terrible disrepair) and tarp that is hung above it to keep the weather off.  Timing seems to be an issue as both of these ladies are often unable to visit at the same time to help complete the task.

I don’t believe in coincidences and if we’re all part of J-Man’s “big thing,” I couldn’t help but to consider that all (?) the individuals that support him live in the same general area along with the church that provided him shelter and the gentleman that provided temporary work.  That sure sounds like a “big thing” to me, but without any “permanent” place to relocate J-Man to our side of town, he didn’t share my enthusiasm that there might be more opportunity somewhere other than Alpharetta.

I am obviously struggling NOT to fix him or the situation he’s placed himself in and accept that I have chosen to befriend a stranger and provide basic assistance when/where requested.  My place is to offer support where and how I can and that’s easier said that done.  Despite my efforts to get him off the street, he will have to make the decision to move in that direction on his own.

Aaron Melton


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