Working with What You’re Given


A homeless person is ignored and overlooked for the most part. It is like being invisible. Unless there is a direct confrontation, such as an appeal for help taking place, you become background to the hustle and bustle of city life. You get used to it and become immune to feelings. And even if you do address a friendly face, often there is a blank look and no response. It is the plight of those in need, especially in urban areas where familiarity seems to breed contempt. People pay lip service all the time to the situation, but few act on their words.

So you have to get by the best you can and work with what you have or are given day by day. Most of this includes shoes and clothing, occasional personal items like brushes and combs, and often some money to buy food. Objects become used for things other than what their manufacturer intended – items like corkscrews and lighters which are commonly cast off by people on a night out are used for a wide variety of different things. Soap becomes a luxury and shampoo, well, that’s a rare gift. If a significant amount is donated, it is accepted with profuse thanks, and is promptly spent. Here’s why. On the street, so to speak (it could be a park or alley), it gets stolen. You can understand that. What this means is that you go out and buy supplies for several days at a time. While you often share, as others have done with you, you wish you had a portable refrigerator to keep things fresh.

Having fruit and vegetables is a huge treat since they don’t keep for long. You don’t know where to put them. They spoil or get lost in the shuffle of moving about from place to place. When you have them, these rare treasures are to be husbanded and kept secure. If I had a small battery-operated mini refrigerator, I could store the excess for later consumption or sharing. It would be a little taste of technology not usually afforded the homeless.

I have seen people with such devices. They are often seen in tent cities where the homeless congregate and stay put for a while. There they are somewhat of an anomaly, but oddly enough, they can become a necessity of life. Once you acquire one as a donation or castoff from a store, for example, it becomes the center of attention. Remember, food and shelter are a way of life: getting them and keeping them. Your entire focus can be on your next meal. Having a storehouse of something fresh is such a boon as to be almost unimaginable.

The world takes things like portable refrigerators for granted. You have one, you fill it, you take things out, and you replace them. You do it as a matter of course, without even thinking. A homeless person looks at it differently. A refrigerator of any sort can make the difference between subsistence and good health. Health, of course, is an elusive thing, but it does dawn on you that staying alive means eating more than packaged cereal right out of the box. You don’t go so far as to rack up your vitamin intake, but you know that carrots or tomatoes go a long way toward keeping you out of the medical ward.