Stories from the Basement

Stories from the Basement: April 2014

By Donna Clark RN, Director

Spring is a time of hope and promise; a time to remember God’s promise to us and to reaffirm our beliefs. We see more smiles and hear people talk of plans for the future. This winter just doesn’t seem to want to go away and the ice yesterday morning was a surprise for me! Our clients living in tents have continued to live as if it was January. Those cold wet days are as debilitating as the snow we had back in February. Tents leak, bedding and clothing get wet and life becomes hard.

I have been asked why these people continue to live like this when there are other ways available to them. Well, when you live in the woods you live by your rules. For someone who has decided to stay away from rules or has had too many rules to deal with, it makes their life easier to live. The veterans have had their fill of rules, abuse, and fear. The mentally ill don’t have to feel abnormal or angry when they only deal with their small controlled world. The living is hard but not as hard as it would be if they were living in the society that you and I know so well. Statistics have proven that most chronic homeless people have been abused as children and never learned how to trust, cope, or have any self-worth. Self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol becomes the approach to what sanity they can find. In a world that requires hard work, confidence and ambition to “make it” they can’t fit in. It terrifies them and rather than fight they just go away.

One client has lived in a camp for 5 years now and she is very happy to stay there. She appears to function well at the soup kitchens and in our office but if thrown into a situation with expectations of coping with another competitive person she will just fade into the back ground. I have watched her cringe when trying to get bread off of the giveaway table when someone else tries to take the loaf she wants. She feels it better to disappear than stand her ground. Fear, low self-esteem, and inability to think problems through contribute to the desire to retreat to the woods.

Jesus asked us to reach out to the marginalized of our community with love. The next time you see the panhandler, the dirty ragged person on the streets or work in a soup kitchen remember to pray for them. Most are hurting souls who are lost and looking for love. Don’t give them your money but give them your love.