Tuesday, February 22, 2011

16th and Island - Chapter 4 - Operation Hope (Part Three)

This is a true story about a homeless family we met at Christmas. Some of the names have been changed.

       I was smiling as though we had just won the lottery.
       Pete and I walked as quickly we could around the corner. We both breathed a huge sigh of relief when we saw Susan's red suburban, even though Susan and Jeb were nowhere in sight.  A very clean homeless man, about 5'7" with striking grey eyes, was sitting in front of the suburban, eating a breakfast of eggs and toast in a styrofoam container. The only give away that he was homeless was his camp set out on the sidewalk.
        I introduced Pete and myself to the man, whose name was Charles, and asked "We wanted to check up on some friends we met the other night, and this looks like their car? Have you seen a middle aged lady and a little boy, about eight years old? They have a strong southern accent."
        "Oh yeah - I know them! I've been looking after them, keeping them safe," Charles replied. 
        "Thanks for taking care of them. We want to try to help them," I replied.
         "Yeah, of course. They are good people. They are in the church around the corner eating breakfast, if you want to go talk to them" Charles grinned. I noticed he had all of his teeth.
         "Hey, thanks so much Charles. You are a good man," Pete said, shaking his hand. 
We walked back to the corner of 16th and Island where the church was, and waited outside for Susan and Jeb. I noticed that the church walls were covered with fascinating mosaic designs, like this one of Jesus holding a lamb:

and this one of the devil coming after another lamb:

         Five minutes passed. I prayed that Susan would listen to what we had to say. We could see the first group we had met that morning were still standing in the same corner,  carrying themselves like they were the jocks and cheerleaders of the homeless world. About twenty or so homeless people were sitting or standing against the walls of the church. The paramedics came for an elderly man in a wheel- chair who was apparently having heart-trouble.
       Ten minutes passed - I paced back and forth and blew on my hands to fight the cold. I prayed that God would give me the courage to be up-front with Susan about what a scary place this was for a little boy like Jeb to be living. A thirty-something homeless woman, who looked like she hadn't showered in a week, was yelling to a homeless man a few yards away from us. "I have two degrees - I just can't find any work in San Diego."  She began crossing the street, and I noticed she wasn't wearing any shoes, just socks. "I used to make a lot of money - phew, I was a high roller - I'm sure I made more than you ever did," she yelled back to man, standing in her socks in the middle of the street as cars honked at her. "Get out of the street, and get some shoes!" was his retort. She crossed the street, and continued yelling across it about her two degrees, while the man she was yelling to just ignored her.  
      Fifteen minutes passed - the smell of booze and urine was becoming overwhelming. "Pete, do you think I can just go in and see if they are there?"
      "Sure, why not?"
      We asked a volunteer where they served breakfast, that we had a friend we wanted to talk to, and he showed us the front entrance. I peeked inside, and saw Susan and Jeb sitting at a table at the back of the room. "I think I should go in and talk to her Pete. I think she needs to be handled gently. Pray that God will give me the right words."
      "You're right - I'll stay out here and watch our car."
      I squeezed Pete's hand, and walked into God's Extended Hand.


  1. Well told story...looking forward to your next installment :-)

  2. so interesting....and sad :( makes it a lot more real to hear all the details

  3. Anon - it makes me sad to write! But I want people to care

  4. I'm still amazed at your memory of the details. You must of wrote them down when this all happened. I'm definitely interested to hear how the conversation went!

  5. Heather - I did write down a lot of things. Also, Pete was with me and a lot of it is seared into my memory because of the nature of what was happening.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...