Being homeless at all is no feat. That’s why I was surprised why anyone would choose to go homeless when he has a home he could go to. The streets are not safe and oftentimes mean. You could get mugged anytime, killed if you’re unlucky.
But Sarge, like some homeless veterans, has a more serious problem than just being homeless. He is suffering from a post-war syndrome.
I don’t know exactly the technicalities and other issues about it, but a lot of them had that seemingly unreal perception on things.
There’s also this one man who I refer to as simply the Rainman. You could ask him about any mathematical problems and he’ll give you an absolutely correct solution. He would provide you with calculations like an age-old university professor except that you would notice that his eyes are looking through you. He hears you but he doesn’t see you. You ask him about where he came from or anything, he’s gone.
And then there’s this old couple from Hawaii who were wandering the streets of Venice for about two weeks now. Their favorite spot is the corner on Venice Way under a small tree. The wife said at first they just wanted to experience the feelings of being alone in an unfamiliar place, the exhilaration of being free from the daily pressures, and just be homeless. They even had a budget of $8,000 for them to last a month.
Unfortunately, her husband, after much prodding from dealers, is now into drugs. And what worries her is that their money is almost gone. She’s thinking that they might not last one more week without food. Worse, she’s afraid that her husband wouldn’t want to go back home with her.
With no money and nowhere to go, now they might experience the “real” thing. The feeling of being alone and utterly helpless.
There are others who are nuts and just plain crazy. They do not belong to the streets. But nevertheless, all of them needed professional help. I don’t know all their problems, I don’t know what they’ve been through. All I know is that they are suffering and they needed help.
It’s now past six in the morning, and like my every morning in this part of Venice, I could see them loitering on the corner coffee shop, sipping their early morning coffee. Without talking to each other, they just sit there. No hellos, no gossiping, no small chat. To some, they easily pass as beach regulars enjoying the sunrise.
However, if you take a closer and second look, you would figure out that they they’re not sipping some latte or whatever Starbucks had a new name for to get a rush of caffeine. They are there for the warmth of the hot coffee and the rising sun, after a long freezing cold night.
It is not hard to find a lot of them. When you get to an offramp, on the sidewalk, in the park, there’s always someone with a piece of cardboard with a handwritten note on it begging for some change, some begging for food.
With those ragged clothes that look like it hadn’t been washed for a year, with weary faces who look like they had given up on everything, and that confused hungry look, you wouldn’t fail to at least notice them.
One time I saw a man who is obviously homeless. He sits on the curb just outside the Chinese restaurant where I was about to eat. I went back to my car to grab some few loose change then grab a couple of dollar bills. I was about to give it to him when he said no. I was surprised. He looked like he needed it but he refused. I just shrugged my shoulders and went my way.
After I finished my quick dinner, I ordered another meal to go. I gave it to the same man I saw on my way in. This time he readily accepted and thanked me for it.
You see they don’t want our pity. They just want to go on with their business, and you go on your own. Even if their business is doing nothing. Whatever their sickness, whatever their disease, whatever their addiction, whatever their suffering from, they all have one thing in common, the sense of hopelessness.
They were so lost and hopeless. For them life, however way they see it, is simply over.
In fact almost all that I see and lucky enough to talk with say they don’t want the money. All they want is sympathy. Sympathy for them who, according to one, just wanted to fade away without any body making it a big deal.
Everytime I see one, I would instinctively stop and give them whatever spare change I have in my pocket. Or buy them an extra meal when I’m going off a restaurant or something. It’s not my catholic guilt if you ask. I don’t believe in altruism. I just want somebody to do the same for me, if that person happened to be me on the receiving end.
Who knows, after my long bouts of depression, I might end up homeless myself.