Monday, August 30, 2010

“This guy is a recluse”

This is a story I wrote about a year ago after spending a day talking with homeless people at the Columbia MO, Project Homeless Connect event. St Joseph is going to have their own Project Homeless Connect event on October 19th. We will need volunteers that day so be watching for more information on how you can get involved.

Ed could be your grandpa. He’s thin, dressed in a neat shirt with a ball cap on his grey haired head. He looks like he might be an older farmer or a retired construction guy. He’s a veteran. He speaks with a clear and authoritative voice. The more he speaks the more it becomes apparent why he is homeless. Ed isn’t giving us much information at first. He’s being coy about his background, or where it is he sleeps and eats each day. He’s testing us to see how long we will put up with him, can he goad us into some reaction. We’re patient and it pays off, he takes a liking to us and begins his story. “I came here to do a petition drive for an attorney. I got more signatures than anyone! The law was unfair to people who might get caught smoking pot, that one trip-up can ruin their life if the laws aren’t changed. I don’t smoke or drink but the law is unconstitutional and so I thought it was the right thing to do to try and get it changed.” Then Ed told us he can’t go to the Salvation Army anymore, his story is interesting and somewhat believable, except there is surely another side to the story. He claims to have been an activist for civil rights in Norman OK back in the 60s. He tells us stories of standing up to racism when he was involved in campus ministries. The stories continue and he is happy to talk. How much of it is true is uncertain, the fact that he could be a handful for anyone trying to help him is readily apparent. He’s smart and obviously thinks he should be above this homeless thing…but for some reason he will be back on the streets or somewhere (he still won’t really tell us what his living situation is) when he leaves this building. After almost an hour of sitting at our table and talking with us in between our conversations with others, he still won’t tell us his name. Another man comes by who knows him, “This guy is a recluse,” he jokes with us. But there is obviously much truth to that statement.

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