Recent Winter Experiences with the Homeless
I saw a four-foot man pushing a grocery cart. The cart contained three large bags of cans and bottles. The top bag was at least four feet over the man's head.
I saw two tents pitched on a sidewalk outside a Buddhist temple/retreat center in SE Portland. An elderly Asian man was sweeping a circular flagstone paths that ran through a series of statues. An iron fence separated the temple and the tents. The gate to the temple was open. I wondered if the Temple administered to the homeless people living outside their property. How could they not? Or maybe they were sick of it all. I wanted to stop and investigate but there was no place to park. I made a mental note to return.
I bought Mark, a member of the Old Crow Book Club, a pint of Fireball cinnamon whiskey. I stashed it in the crook of a tree for his later retrieval. We had earlier had communicated this hiding place.
A week or so later, in the afternoon, Mark asked me to buy him another pint. It was 27 degrees outside and would drop even lower in the evening. I refused his request. I suspected he might die that night if I did, from the whiskey and further intake of alcohol. I didn't tell him the reason for my refusal. It was the first time he gave me a look of disdain.
The editor of the weekly newspaper advocating for the homeless in Portland, Street Roots, wrote a column calling for transparency in city and county government when it came to homeless polices.
I concur. I also want transparency from the nonprofits receiving millions of taxpayer monies to implement programs to address the crisis. I also want transparency from the newspaper about their refusal to investigate the performance of nonprofits, their own outreach programs, and the homeless people themselves who participate or don't participate in the programs. No one gets a free pass. That's called journalism and it's not happening at Street Roots.
I stood in line at a coffee shop and observed a barista prepare a free mocha drink for a homeless man who waited nearby, but not in the line.
The man's name was Marty and he was silent and smiling and coming apart at the seams as he waited. That is a curious combination to behold.
The line came to an end and Marty stepped forward. She gave him his drink. No charge. He thanked her and walked away, out of the shop.
A week later I told the barista I had noticed her act of kindness toward Marty.
She said, “I don't do these things to be noticed.”
I said: “I could see that but your act of kindness moved me and I wanted to tell you.”
She thanked me.