Sometimes on the streets there is just a weird vibe. Last night was one of those nights. I still can’t put my finger on it.
Thursday nights are spent with Dry Bones at their weekly bowling event and hot meal downtown. Dry Bones gets a bus and takes everyone that shows up out to a bowling alley. We are there for a little over an hour, load back up onto the bus and head downtown where a hot meal is waiting.
To start the weirdness, the crowd at bowling was a lot smaller than usual. Which is fine. It was just different. At the meal we had about the normal amount, maybe a few more than normal. As weather gets nicer the population at the outdoor events tends to grow. There were a lot of kids that were just passing through last night–hitchhikers and train hoppers mostly. It’s interesting to see that culture interact with the mainstays here in Denver.
Most of the individuals that I have gotten close to in the past few months were either gone, or just not themselves last night. They weren’t as happy to see me, or anyone really. Most didn’t feel like talking. They pretty much wanted to get some food and head out.
In processing last night I have realized how little things impact our friends on the streets in much more dramatic ways, and so that can affect their moods and actions in a bigger way.
Example 1: If I miss a meal that is being offered for free, I can get into my car drive to a restaurant and buy food. If my friends miss that meal, they sleep hungry that night.
Example 2: If I lose my ID, I can grab my birth certificate and social security card which are kept safely, and go to the DMV and wait and have the problem resolved in a day. If our friends lose their ID, they need to track down their birth certificate and social security card. If they are missing one or both, what is a several hour process for me could be a 6 month or longer journey for our friends.
Example 3: If I wear out a pair of shoes I can: 1) Change to a different pair that I already own 2) Buy a new pair. If my friends’ shoes wear out, they must wear them until they can get some for free, and those have probably already been worn by other people, or they won’t fit quite right, or try to save some money to buy some. Since our friends walk a lot of the places that they need to go, a bad pair of shoes is very noticeable to them.
These are just simple things that I gave little to no thought to prior to working with this population. But when you live in these conditions a bad day is amplified greatly. So, if a few of our friends are having a bad day, it’s noticeable in the group.
Everyone has bad days, it’s just that our friends’ days can get pretty bad, pretty fast. This just really helped me see the need for love in the lives of our friends on the streets.
And in regards to Purple Door, we’re trying to make it so the little things aren’t as big in the lives of our friends. We want them to be able to have a job and earn money so that they can buy the things that they need. We want them to learn skills on how to deal with issues that arise in a healthy way. We want to walk with them as they journey to a level of stability that makes every day inconveniences into simply that–an inconvenience–instead of an issue that is going to set them back a great deal.