Hard Times

A young man was standing on the divider on my way out of the Target parking lot. He was holding a sign begging for money. He reminded me of my son, when he was in his twenties. It always gets to me to see kids like this.

I turned back and came around again to give him money. He walked up to me with difficulty. He had braces on his legs and when he reached out with his hand he had some kind of disability where his fingers did not quite bend. I thought later it could be cerebral palsy. I was haunted after that.

I called up a local social service agency and talked to a social worker and told him what I saw and asked what could be done. The social worker said often times the kids we see on the street are abusing drugs and it is hard to get them to come in but that his agency still tried to help. He told me there had been a local government meeting on how to deal with the problem of homeless youth.

The social worker told me he thought he knew the boy I was describing and that the young man and his mother had come into his agency at one time. He told me if I saw the boy again I could give him information about the agency and encourage him to come in and to say Hi from the social worker. I asked him if I could volunteer for his agency and he said they did not need volunteers at that time.

I drove back to Target during the week a few times to look for that young man. One day I spotted him walking back to a van from the divider. I was scared to approach because I did not know how he would react and I did not know who else was in the van. Maybe it was a whole group of people who went out begging together.

What makes us fear getting involved and be suspicious?

But I had information ready to give him about the social service agency. I parked my car and walked across the parking lot to his van as he was getting into it. As I approached him he looked a bit wary. I told him I had seen him the other day and wanted to help. He said, “Hard times.” He reached out to shake my hand and introduce himself. I stared at his fingers and tried to suppress my look of distress. I think he noticed.

An older woman was in the van, his mom? She looked a bit threatened. I then realized the guy was older than I first thought. They were probably not the same people the social worker had met. I went on talking, nervously,  about the agency and the social worker who said he thought he knew them and that they should come in. The woman looked confused when I said this and then I realized that they did not know the social worker.

I went on about how the agency could help with housing. I handed him the index card with information about the agency and their hours.

The man and his mom thanked me. I never saw him begging there after that. I hope they found help or maybe I scared them off.

I was inspired to write this post by two other great blogs about homelessness and the fear of getting involved.

Luciledegodoy

Writeoutofthedarkness

3093763311_2a83db98ba_z  Homeless Boy and his dog

8 thoughts on “Hard Times

  1. Laura L.

    You did a good thing. And it is hard. It probably shouldn’t be. But not everyone out there on the street is stable and appreciates the attention. And we know it. Life is rough and lots of people who need help aren’t getting it.

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  2. Deborah Drucker Post author

    Thanks, Laura. I forgot about this experience until I read those other posts. It did make me feel better to talk to the social worker who let me know others in community were concerned and working on it too.

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  3. Terri

    Awww… Thanks for the pingback. I really appreciate it! I also appreciated hearing your story. I would like to think it ends by them going to the social service agency and getting assistance. But, like Laura said, they may not have. >sigh<

    I know from my own experience that these people often have so little dignity left that they fiercely – and sometimes misguidedly hold on to – what they perceive they have left. Some feel it is better to have control of their own life even if it is miserable because at least it is their own. Accepting help allows other people to have some say on their lives, their decisions, their choices. And of course, there are the people who are there by choice. Have you ever read 'The Glass Castle' by Jeanette Wall? If you haven't I would highly recommend it!

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  4. luciledegodoy

    Thanks for the pingback, Deborah. Moreover, thanks for inspiring me – through your story and Terri’s – to take a next step and contact the social agency who can provide appropriate help to the lady I met.

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  5. gregmercer601

    What’s it hurt to offer help, really? I’m suspicious sometimes, but really, if we offer some help, it’s up to the other person what to do with it.
    It’s far better for your soul, for your character, to take that chance than it is to play it safe.
    Isn’t it?

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      Yes. I think what drew me to this person is I saw him as more vulnerable due to his disabilities and I thought he was a young guy. But I am glad I followed through and gave him the information about resources. And while looking into I found out other people in the community were concerned about the homeless as well.

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  6. Prajakta

    Finally found this! There really is no clear answer, is there? We try to do something at our level and make peace for a while. Yet, the question stays unanswered, “What finally happened to him?”

    You did the best you could. And in the end, that is all we can do for a while.

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    1. Deborah Drucker Post author

      I know the problem of homelessness and poverty is overwhelming and I get frozen by the magnitude of it. Maybe it is just to do small things like make donations. But it is hard to close our hearts isn’t it? That book I mentioned to you is hard to read because it talks about a lot of the suffering. I read it with my library book club but we all found it pretty hard to read about.

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