Wednesday, September 12, 2007

door to door

I saw him about a month ago when I was leaving Trader Joe's one night after work. M and I were walking out and he's sitting there at a rickety card table with sign that says something about Helping Homeless Vets. I stop and inquire about the organization he's raising money for because I am often (perhaps unnecessarily) suspicious about the ones who send homeless people to store entrances with tin cans. He said they were nice people but that he only got paid enough to rent a hotel room for $40 a night and that was with his VA pension and he was sick of being homeless.

Feeling brave and a bit irked at their benefiting from cheap labor I tossed out I think we can do better than that, friend. To which he replied oh young lady, so you think so. So we got to talking a bit about how much he makes and what he's looking for and I gave him my card and told him to call me if he wanted to get serious.

He most seriously called me the next day and reminded me of my challenge and made it clear that he was done with shelters so don't be sending me to a shelter young lady. I knew that was his challenge to me and so I told him about a place I know that has good housing for cheap and called over to ask for a favor. They obliged and made an appointment for him the next day.

I got a call from the housing folks a bit later who said that his having an eviction on his record wasn't going to make it easy. I knew that might be the case and told them that I had a feeling, one of those feelings that this might be an okay risk to take. They said they'd do more legwork and let me know but made no guarantees.

Meanwhile my friend keeps checking in to let me know what's what. When he's there, what forms he's filled out, etc. We talk maybe once a week and for awhile it's not looking good. I can only pull certain strings at this place but it's a good place and one he can afford. He's getting discouraged but they've been straight with him from the beginning because the eviction was going to be a problem but we decided to risk it anyways. And now the dude is out $20 on the application fee and he reminds me clearly that is half of a nights lodging young lady.

Yesterday I get curious, having heard nothing from anyone for at least a week. I call over and leave a message and today I got a call back, the very best kind of call from the guy in the office who says they just handed M the keys to his new apartment. I smile broadly through the phone and hang up only to have it ring a minute later. Young lady, it's M. I am calling to let you know I just picked up my keys. I get to move in tomorrow. Thank you for going the distance with me even when I didn't think it would work out. May god bless you for getting an old vet off the streets.

Amen, brother. Amen. It's all you. I just made a phone call and gave an old man a bit of shit. He laughed a deep strong laugh and said goodbye. And it's true. I didn't do much of anything at all. This was him following through every step of the way.

M, I hope you enjoy the bed in your very own apartment. May your fridge always be stocked with the food of the gods and may your feet never feel cold.

61 comments:

Mad Hatter said...

How many homeless people in the States do you reckon are Vets? It's such a sad commentary on what's going on, isn't it?

jen said...

Mad, good question. We see a lot of Vietnam vets but am seriously wondering what the future will hold for the vets coming back from Iraq, because the injuries seem to have an increased level of severity - mostly because they wouldn't have survived these sorts of injuries 20 years ago and now we are better at keeping folks alive but I wonder what that will mean for the rest of their lives.

Kyla said...

I just can't say enough about your great big heart, jen. You are miracle in the flesh.

The Chick said...

Now that I'm a parent of a child with a disability I often think about our homeless population that is disabled as well...or suffering from some kind of mental illness. Like Vets, I know the numbers must be high.

kgirl said...

And this comes after major reforms for vet's benefits during the Clinton years. Shameful.

You are such a good soul.

Magpie said...

You kind of made my day. Thanks. You are a good soul.

RLGelber said...

I am constantly amazed...

Sober Briquette said...

Thank you for taking the time to make that call. It's taking that extra step that adds up to integrity.

Bon said...

you do good things, friend.

and it means a lot, even while so much of it is him and all his follow-through, to have someone take a chance on you, make that call for you. especially when the world has taught you not to expect it.

i hope his apartment is a haven for him.

Her Grace said...

It really is taking that first step, isn't it? And trusting your gut about someone you know will follow through. I'm glad that you two met.

Persephone said...

Well done, young lady!
xox,
P.

biodtl said...

I love all your entries, but the happy ending get me choked up every time. Congrats on one more!

mitzh said...

You are golden.

You put the sunshine through those days that are filled with gray clouds.

Bless your heart, Jen.

Gayle said...

Thank you for being such an inspiring example. You remind us that ever person in need is offering us an opportunity to demonstrate compasion and grace. What would the world look like if we each stepped through our own personal door of fear and reached out like you do? I for one, would like to live in the world.

Orangeblossoms said...

"M, I hope you enjoy the bed in your very own apartment. May your fridge always be stocked with the food of the gods and may your feet never feel cold."

Amen. Amen. Amen!

Jennifer said...

You didn't do anything at all? I beg to differ. You make such a difference and you are such an inspiration. Truly. Also, you make me cry, but I forgive you.

NotSoSage said...

I don't know what to say except that I think you're amazing. Even the little things count, babe.

KC said...

This filled me with enough warmth to last several days. He did follow up, it was him, but you were the angel to lead him the way.

painted maypole said...

he wouldn't have known the door was there if you hadn't shown him... just caring enough to do that is huge, and he will tell you so.

I love when you share these stories, Jen. Thanks.

Indygirl said...

I don't remember how exactly I stumbled across your site but I am so glad I did.

My 10 year old son & I have just started volunteering at a shelter in our town. They specialize in homeless families so for now, we're supervising the playroom for a few hours on the weekend. Sometimes it's heart-breaking, sometimes it's uplifting, all the time it's exhausting. And I just want to get more involved.

I commend you for taking on such a big issue every day of your life. You're a living example and bright light in an overwhelming world.

I can't wait to take time and go through the August Just posts.

Thank you.

alejna said...

Thanks for another great story, jen. You rock in so many ways.

It's good to be reminded that even comparatively small efforts to help can make a huge difference in someone else's life. This man was capable and reliable, as he proved with his follow-through, but without that boost you gave, he wouldn't have made that move.

I wish him all the best in his new home.

Beck said...

Good work, Jen. And now he'll be warm and safe for the winter. I'm all choked up! Totally choked up!
Good work.

kiki said...

my friend, you make my eyes teary on this wednesday morning. i'm glad this worked honey, you deserve to have more of these moments for all of your hard work. much love. xo

cinnamon gurl said...

That's awesome! Good work. I hope he enjoys his apartment for a good, long while.

Julie Pippert said...

That---you, him, them, the apartment---is fantastic.

Like you and Mad, I am concerned about War on Terror vets. The worst injury and also the most common is brain. I am worried about long-term, once they are released from the system.

Julie
Using My Words

Lawyer Mama said...

That is FANTASTIC! And I'm so sad that a vet can't afford a decent place to live. I share all the worries about vets from our current conflict....

liv said...

I'm so glad you shared this. And exactly what so many others have shared---your big heart, going the distance, the shock of vets on the streets, what does this all say, what does all of this mean?

QT said...

Oh I am so happy for him. And happy that he was not another let down - the people you try to help and then blow themselves up for whatever reason. It makes me all warm & fuzzy to think of him snuggling down in some clean sheets tonight after a hot shower.

I, too, wonder about the vets coming home now, missing limbs. What is in store for them?

J Fife said...

Making a difference - that's exactly the type of job description I wish we all had. You are an inspiration.

Her Bad Mother said...

"May your fridge always be stocked with the food of the gods and may your feet never feel cold."

Beautiful that. Beautiful, you.

Binky said...

Another story to think back to when you worry that you are not making a difference in the grand scheme of things. You made a HUGE difference in that man's grand scheme.

Gwen said...

jen, jen, jen. You give me hope. You really do.

Ally said...

Jen, I'm wondering whether you'd consider posting a general post about homelessness sometime soon. Specifically, I'm interested in knowing your take on:
1) how to explain homelessness to children in terms they understand;
2) how to best respond to pan-handlers/road signs;
3) how to best involve our children in finding solutions.

I'd be really really grateful to know your opinion and advice on all of this, as it's a subject that's been coming up a lot in our family lately and I haven't quite figured out what to do about it.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

Beautifully written, beautifully done. And his feet will be warmer because of you.

Seattle Mamacita said...

i love ally's suggestion and would love to hear your suggestions. You put a personal face on this issue on a weekly if not daily basis and it gives us all perspective especially this post taking this step made such a difference in this man's life.

flutter said...

God, I just love you, jen. Thank you for that thank you for helping thank you for walking the walk

meno said...

It's a good day when you can do some good for someone.

How nice of him to call and tell you too. You're awesome.

thailandchani said...

Glad you were able to help him get settled somewhere.


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

Aliki2006 said...

It took commitment from him, but it took you to get the ball rolling.

So sad, all the homelessness and the suffering...and how there just aren't more of you out there, making a difference.

Ruth Dynamite said...

One by one you work your magic.

You are special, Jen. So very special.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Good on both of you. This makes me believe that problems CAN be fixed one person at a time.

FENICLE said...

You see so much more around this world than I do.

I believe in helping one person at a time...

crazymumma said...

These men, mostly men, some women. They go somewhere and they fight for us. For the way of the life.

And some become homeless because coming back from atrocity cannot be an easy thing goddamn.

And tey have to fight again for a shred of dignity.

I do not like war. I do not agree with war. But I am ever grateful and respectful of those who put themselves out there.

May he have shelter and food for the rest of his days.

Marymurtz said...

If it were in my power, I would nominate you for a Nobel Prize. You are a goddess of unbelieveable magnitude.

Amy York said...

What a fantastic story... I love happy endings! Thank you for sharing. :) Hope M loves his new place!

Blog Antagonist said...

I know your job must be incredibly stressful, and at times, demoralizing. But moments like that...man. You made a difference in that guy's life. You done good.

jen said...

Thanks everyone, but I really mean it when I say I didn't do anything. Nothing more than when any of us refers a friend to a place they know of. He did it. But it makes me so happy that you are all celebrating his success too.

Ally, let me see what i can come up with. thanks for asking.

Amanda said...

What a ride, thanks for taking us. You're incredible.

Tabba said...

Jen, I bow to you
to M
and to the agency willing to give him another shot.

Hel said...

What I love most about your stories is the way you are able create a space where both you and the other person can just be yourselves.

carrie said...

I just wanna kiss you right now!

(in a totally plutonic, you rock, sort of way!)

Oh, The Joys said...

These are the moments that make your head down on your desk these days worthwhile, jen.

Janet said...

I love a happy ending.

Beautiful story.

nomotherearth said...

You are amazing. You had me in tears at "I think we can do better than that". I'm awfully hormonal, but still!

cce said...

Everyone else has said it so well but just adding my own bit of awe and applause b/c you inspire. If there's a God, then rest assured, that God has only the finest accommodations waiting for you.

Carrie said...

That was very nice of you. I always admire people who are willing to help the needy.

Momish said...

He is lucky to have been holding that sign just as you walked by. I hope he takes full advantage of the opportunity fate handed him. From what you write, it seems he will and that makes it so much more rewarding for you as well.

To make a difference! WOW!

P.S. Your comment to Mad gave me chills. I know from my experience working with adults with mental illness that a lot of people out on the streets have mental illnesses. Many of the adults in the group home I worked at were two shakes from being homeless. For many it was their last resort and one small break in the cycle could render them without a home and the support they desperately needed. It is such a hard balance with so many things that could go wrong. I am always holding my breath waiting for that moment I walk past a homeless person and it turns out to be one of my ex-clients. It scares me.

Lisa said...

You are such a wonderful person. I wish many were like you.

Cecilieaux said...

You are a wonderful person, as Lisa said, but let me throw out a discordant note.

I can see the debt we owe Vietnam vets, who were drafted.

But these new folks? They signed up to kill or be killed, maim or be maimed. They've gotten paid for it in whatever coin they wanted.

jen said...

Ah, Cecil, but it's much deeper than merely signing up, right?

Fed a pack of lies. Shady recruiting in the poorest cities in the nation. Poor minority kids being coerced into thinking this is the way to get out of their lives of poverty? Desperate choices had to have been a part of it - how many rich white kids are in the Army these days I wonder.

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