October 13, 2011

"The Kids Need a Bed Tonight"

Three days a week from 9 a.m to noon they come and they wait. Three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday they come just to get a drop of  reprieve from the outreach hose bib. A bus pass to the VA or to get to a job interview, a bag of groceries, a voucher to get used clothes at the thrift store, maybe a small amount of money to help pay an overdue utility bill, and sometimes just to talk to someone, anyone who will listen.The homeless, the disabled, the sick, the unemployed, the downtrodden, the marginalized, addicts and ex-cons just out of the "big-house". All are different yet all are living with one common denominator running their lives---survival.

It was 8:30 a.m. and the sun was already doing its thing, slowly roasting the folks as they waited patiently for the doors to open, some having been there since 7 a.m. Florida, ah yes, palm trees, blue skies and beaches--just another day in paradise.

Andre and Jessica had made the three mile walk to the St. Vincent De Paul outreach office and had arrived at 8 a.m. They signed in and were #11 on the list. At 10:15 a man opened the door and called their name. As they approached he smiled and said, "Hi folks, c'mon in. Sorry it took so long. How you guys doing today?"

He knew how they were doing and they knew that he knew but his friendly, unbureaucratic manner quickly put them at ease. "Okay, have a seat. I'm Joe. At least it's cool in here, right?"

They sat, sighed and let the cool A/C soak into their overheated bodies. They said nothing.

"Well now," Joe said looking straight at them, "I can see you have some heavy duty stuff going on. I hope we can help. So, what's going on?"

They were a mixed race couple and they could feel inside themselves that whoever this man was it did not matter at all. You can just sense some things. They loosened up. Andre began to speak and tears quickly fell from Jessica's eyes. "Look man, we got two kids, six and eight years old, and we're getting kicked out of our place at 11 a.m. if we don't come up with $58.00, and we ain't got a dime."

"Where are the kids now?" Joe asked.

"In school. Look, we don't care so much about us but the kids need a bed tonight, know what I mean?"

"I do Andre, I do. And for what it's worth, you guys need a bed too. Where you staying?"

"Barkley Motel over on---"

"Yeah, I know the place. Here's the thing, Andre,  we don't pay rent monies from this office. We just don't have the funds. But let me make a call."

He picked up the phone and started punching numbers. He smiled kindly at them and, as he waited for an answer, twirled his finger in the air as if to say, "C'mon--pick up already". After several moments went by he said, "Yeah, hey, this is Joe over at the St. Vincent De Paul outreach office. I have a couple here who--What? What are you talking about? You have to be kidding me. These folks need help right now--not tomorrow. I have no time for this. I have to go. Have a nice day."

Andre's and Jessica's hopes had risen and fallen in a matter of moments. Andre, a big man, said, "Man, what we gonna do?"

Joe asked, "What happens after tomorrow? Getting through today is almost like a stay of execution."

"No, no, tomorrow I know I can get some work. Just gotta get through today. Plus, we got a place lined up for Saturday. Her mom worked it out. She's up in Jersey  but knew someone and, anyway, come Saturday we'll be okay."

"No kidding, Andre. That's awesome. But today is only Wednesday. Well, we can't have the kids coming home today to no home at all. Now, here is a food voucher. Go across the street and get some groceries and bring them home with you."

"They ain't been too nice to us over at the motel."

"Don't you worry about that. Trust me, okay.You go back there, everything will be all right."

When they arrived back at the motel and walked to the front desk the manger smiled at them. "Okay, I have good news for you. You're paid up  through Saturday."

Jessica almost collapsed from relief. Andre held her up and a happy tear rolled down his cheek. Back at the St. Vincent De Paul office Joe was smiling and handing someone a bus pass.