Where they are … where we could be…

This morning my husband and I were in the capitol city of Augusta, doing our “thing”.  Driving around, running errands, playing Po-Go with the locals, and around every corner I was reminded how poor the poorest of our communities exist.  I’d say “live” but what I saw made me realize, again, that these people aren’t “living”, they’re merely existing.  

It’s the first day of fall and even though we’re slated to have  a straight 4-day run of 80º+ weather starting tomorrow, this morning it was downright nippy out, with a solid cool breeze to boot.  And when I arrived at one particular monument the local homeless folks occasionally bed down at for the night, it stopped me in my tracks.  

Someone had left their winter hat, and a blanket they used to keep warm at night, crumpled up and crammed into a corner of one of the city’s largest and least accessible monuments.  It’s not tough to get to this monument, but it’s located inside one of our busier traffic circles (rotary, for you folks from away).  You have to really want to walk up to this monument if you want to see it up close.  Parking your car across the street and watching traffic closely before you dart across and into the circle is a bit of a hairy situation given the time of day.  But once you get over there to the outskirts of the circle, there are waist high hedges all around, and a few trees that have branches and foliage that dip down to the ground. Homeless people can take a person by surprise because they can hide themselves away behind these low dipping fully leaved branches to make a temporary home for the day/night and you could wind up walking right up to them and never know it until you're foot to face.  I’ve almost tripped over someone laying on the ground, numerous times.  

But this sight here – of this blanket and that winter hat – laid about before me … Me … carrying my $thousand+ dollar cell phone, wearing $200 dollar sneakers, brand name shorts, and a super warm $80+ dollar sweatshirt – who was just complaining about how chilly I was before I came into view of this monument. It made me hang my head in shame.  Here I am, playing a game on my cell phone, which costs more in 1 week than this person will likely have to their name this month if they don’t spend their days holding a sign out by the road that has them begging for money from strangers.

I felt like a bad person, and y’know?  I had thoughts as we were driving to other stops we make in a normal drive through town. I wonder if these guys who are drunks or drug addicts were drunks or drug addicts before they became homeless?  And that’s *why* they’re homeless? Or if they went homeless for some other reason and they started meeting other homeless people who were drunks or addicts and these people gave them a reason to think that drinking or doing drugs would make this whole situation that much easier to deal with.  “Have a drink, being homeless and living on the streets doesn’t feel so bad when you’re wasted.  You won’t even think about it as much.”

As we drove through the city I could see all the different homeless people all over the place, waking up for the day.  The city itself was pretty quiet but the time we got there.  No traffic because everyone had already gone to work.  So the homeless population was out and about, ambling around, looking for a place to be.  Sitting on park benches, random picnic tables dotted around town, waiting outside of public buildings – probably so they could get inside to use the bathroom, or just get warm.  I don’t really know.  But I thought about it.

Can’t help but think about it.  And when my husband said, out of the blue, “this town doesn’t have any homeless shelters, does it”, I responded that it does, but when I thought about that I realized they’re on the outskirts of town.  These people would really have to hike a distance to get to the shelter, and during this time of year is anyone driving around looking for people who need a place to sleep for the night?  In the winter I sure hope so. People could die outside during an average Maine winter night.  

It just got to me, that’s all.  So here’s a picture of what hit me so hard this morning.  Made me realize, again, how lucky and blessed I am.  I’m one of these people who never really needs that reminder.  If you ask me, we’re all just one unfortunate circumstance away from being homeless.

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