written by Samantha Hamil (www.samanthahamil.wordpress.com)
Do you ever leave the mall or a fast food restaurant and see the person standing outside or on the corner asking for some change? How many times have you walked by this person knowing there is a dollar in your pocket? All too often.
Have you ever taken the time to talk to one of these people? To find out their story? I think a lot of people have it ingrained in their heads that homeless people are mentally ill drug abusers. The mental illness rate among homeless people is high, however with the economy changing people who may have been your neighbors are now living on the streets.
About 15 years ago I was in New York. There was a woman sitting along the street asking for food and money. I went into the closest deli and bought her a meal. I went back to where she was sitting, excited that I was able to do this for her, and gave her the food and drinks. In return, she threw it at me. The whole thing! From that moment on I was discouraged by homeless people. It wasn’t until a really close friend of mine became homeless that I changed my mind. She was homeless and going from shelter to shelter and living out of her car for a year and a half. She was too proud to ask for help. There came a time when her friends knew but she wouldn’t admit to them because it was degrading to her. She would sneak meals where ever she could get them and shower at a local college. Staying in shelters she was able to talk to people and find out that the majority of homeless people have a normal life one day and the next they are living on the streets. The only way my friend succeeded is because someone took a chance with her. An owner of a company realized she was living in her car and offered her a job and gave her meals. He never asked her if she was homeless, he just gave to her because he knew she needed help.
I guess my point to this blog is that it takes a lot for people to stand on corners and ask for money. It takes a lot more to be aware of people who may need a lending hand and won’t ask for it. Last week I was coming back from Vegas with some friends. We stopped at a gas station and I walked inside I saw a young boy sitting on the curb. I looked at him smiled and said hello and continued on inside. He looked as if he were homeless and being about 15ish I was concerned. When I walked outside I went over to him and asked him how he was doing. He looked up at me out of the corner of his eye and said in a whimpering voice I have been better. I went on to ask him if he had a place to live or if he was hungry and he said “no ma’am, I could use 35 cents to make a phone call though” I asked if he had someone to call and he said yes, that he had been left there. I smiled and said I will be right back. I went to my car and got a 5 dollar bill I had in case of emergencies and I went back over to him. I handed him the 5 and said get yourself something to eat and good luck getting home. I am sure there are local agencies that can help you if you need it. He said “Thank you, this means a lot” I smiled and went back to the car to finish the road trip.
I think good people find themselves in bad situations a lot and if anyone is like me, they often have too much pride to ask for help when they really need it.
Do you know there are over 2,600 homeless people in Ventura County? Those are only the confirmed ones. So, next time you decide go in a drive thru get an extra burger or a drink or give the guy in the street a dollar. Take the extra 10 minutes to stop and listen to their story. That one good deed may change that persons life forever.