Homelessness & Hearts

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by HeadlightsMom, Feb 17, 2015.

  1. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    Hi everyone. Just touching base as our troubled son is on my mind. Driving home from work this afternoon, I saw a homeless man looking in great distress. Sometimes, when I see someone homeless appearing to be in distress, I consider stopping to see what (if anything) I can do. Sometimes I pass by and it's just a fleeting thought. Other times, when I'm a pedestrian, I have stopped. Once, about 5 years ago, I stopped to talk with an older gent sitting outside of a 7-11 playing his harmonica. His song seemed sad.

    All I kept thinking was, "This could be our son some day." I would want someone to stop to connect with him (in whatever way seems healthy for both). Sometimes, connection is everything. Even just locking eyes, waving or saying, "Hello". I did stop to chat with this man at 7-11 5 years ago. Spent about 20-min with him as he told me about his friend of 30 years who'd just died. Sometimes, I forget that homeless people have friends, lives, families, etc., too. I appreciate reminders not to forget. I do not give money to homeless people (I give to shelters, instead), but I do give food. I gave this man my Gatorade. He was leery at first. I was surprised. And then I was surprised that I was surprised........homeless people may be just as leery of strangers (or moreso) as everyone else. Living on the street can't be easy.

    I need and appreciate reminders like this. Lest I forget that but for the grace of God I may be in their spot. And one never knows what circumstances can befall any of us at any time -- where, grace or not, we could be homeless.

    So, I saw this homeless man (at least he appeared homeless.....I shouldn't assume that, either....one never knows) in distress, staggering, emaciated, wide-eyed, confused. I was driving by on a crowded street...I didn't stop, I just kept driving.

    But I have been thinking about him since I saw him. Thinking of how I do a double-take at people in distress on the streets......looking closely to make sure that's not our son. One day I might see him staggering down the street. Not so far. But I do know he's homeless and the rest often fits when he's in the height of "stuff".

    We have not seen our son in 4 months now. Went right through Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. His birthday is next month and, most likely, we'll go right through that, too.

    While it is true that these 4 months have been far more peaceful (you all know what I mean) and I have had many fun and fulfilling events with family, friends, etc meanwhile........ Every once in a while I see a homeless man and I think of our son.

    Today is such a day. And I'm a bit sad for that.

    However, always wanting to end on a note of gratitude...... I am grateful for the peace we have (without our son when he's mired deeply in drugs and crime), I'm also grateful for the sparsely-sprinkled times of joy we've had with him (intermittently) over the years.

    He is our son, either way. And every homeless person struggling with drugs (or whatever difficulty), is also someone's son. I feel my own heart, but, in a way, I feel all of their loved ones' hearts, too..........and all of yours who walk this similar walk. My heart is with you all today.

    Thanks for listening...
     
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  2. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Hugs.
     
  3. Sherril2000

    Sherril2000 Active Member

    My heart breaks for you. I'm praying for you and your son. My son was a runaway for a year, do I know how difficult it is when you don't know where your child is. I'm glad you've found peace, though. I also know the pain having a son involved with drugs & crime can cause. May God bless you!
     
  4. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    InsaneCdn -- Thank you! Actually, I just wrote a reply on someone else's thread and was reminded of many of the reasons our son is not allowed here now. Of course, I love him and want good things for him (which, ultimately, only he can decide and pursue). However....... I admit I'm feeling better about having some distance from him right now.

    Sherril2000 -- Thank you for your very kind words. Our son is now 24 (25 next month) and this is how it's been with him, intermittently, for 9 years. Some days I'm accustomed to it, other days not. Although it's not good (it does hurt my heart), I was just recalling certain specific violent threats and acts he committed -- toward us and others. While my heart hurts on the one level, it feels some relief on another level. It's always a balancing act, isn't it? I'm sorry to hear you're all too familiar with this scenario, too.

    May God bless all of our kids and.......us parents, too!

    Sherril2000 -- by the way, just noticed you're a new member here. Welcome to the group! May we all find peace in our souls.

    There often comes a point where we have to let go and/or establish some very tangible and firm boundaries for our own safety, sanity and health. We all have that right! Free Will....
     
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  5. Tired Mom

    Tired Mom Member

    Headlights Mom I can so relate to your post. When we visited our difficult child at Christmas there was one night that difficult child wanted to stay at his halfway house so we went out for dinner at an IHOP without him. It was pouring outside and in the waiting area there was a man that was obviously homeless trying not to be noticed so he could stay out of the rain. Inside I was so sad because some how it made it seem so real to me that if difficult child doesn't change this will be him. Having a difficult child with so many issues has changed how I look at homeless people. I am tearing up right just thinking back to that night.
     
  6. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    Tired Mom -- Thanks for sharing your story. It is hard on our hearts at times, isn't it? I "feel" you.....today I really "feel" all of you who can relate. Thanks for also sharing your heart.
     
  7. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    HLM, those moments of recognition that it could be our kid out there on the streets is sobering, I know. I understand that feeling well. My heart is with you.

    Sending you a big hug.
     
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  8. 2much2recover

    2much2recover Well-Known Member

    I have given money to homeless people in the past, not much $5-10 bucks. I did hear that it is better to get gift cards like from McDonald's and give those instead, it's just that I forget to pick them up and carry one on me. My heart breaks to hear the story of your son.
     
  9. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    Headlights,

    first of all, thank you for being kind to that homeless guy, for seeing him as a person. My son has been homeless now for three years, and he looks as one might think...not like the son of two professionals, but like a wild crazy dirty homeless person. I hope that sometimes people talk with him and see him as a person as well.

    second...I totally understand your fear of seeing your own son like that. Of course I DO have that privilege sometimes...I see mine begging in front of McDonalds on a cardboard mat sometimes, although not recently. Once a friend of mine emailed me to say he say him begging on the off ramp of a nearby highway. Often when I am out running I pause, or veer to the side, to peer into the face of the bundle of rags lying by the side of the river path...to see...is it my son? so far it has never been, although few times I've seen him smoking in an alley behind dumpsters.

    Who foresaw this world? even I have a hard time seeing his humanity sometimes.

    Tomorrow I"m taking him for lunch at a big food court. In an effort to share our humanity.

    Echo
     
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  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    This is hard to type.

    I worked (volunteered) at a local homeless shelter in a basically affluent area. I learned tons working there, although the clients were not very forthcoming in their stories and we didn't ask them. We just sat down and enjoyed a lovely home cooked meal with them (the church ladies really outdid themselves). If we stayed all night, we were available to talk to anyone who needed it. A few times a man who lived in a car with his dog was able to bring his dog in. We didn't ask the church if that was ok...lol. He was a very nice dog and we'd feed him too. We had lots of warm clothes for the people there and they got to sleep and stay until 6am. We packed them bagged lunches then gave them free train tickets so that they could get to the next church that would have this service. The churches switched every night. We also set up job interviews, social workers would come in to help with benefits, and there were counselors for drug problems too.

    The saddest part is that almost all of the residents who came and left, when they did give a little away about their lives, were addicts who had burned their bridges with all family and friends. They did not seem to want to quit the drugs or the lifestyle because they usually did not go to the job interviews or follow up with social services for the benefits and I don't know what happened with the drug counselor...if they were able to talk some into going into rehab. I would have babysat that dog if the man had wanted to go into rehab. Most of the people were men and very secretive about their lives, but they cried a lot. They knew.

    This was before I told Bart to leave and, in fact, locked him out.

    I was not yet good at really detaching when Bart first left. Ex used to pay for him to go to seedy hotels, but I was really glad that he was out of my house due to his scary behaviors, but also glad he was not on the streets. Still, those hotels were nothing to be excited about. Lots of seedy creatures walking around and lots of drugs and police visits. Bart did not do drugs and was sad and scared. I used to visit often and bring food and talk to him. My ex asked me if he should buy a condo up here so Bart would have a place to live. He wasn't afraid to live with Bart. I told him yes!!! Once it happened and Bart moved in, I was very relieved. Ex had a very hard time with him, but I felt relieved that he had a roof over his head.

    None of us want our adult kids to end up in the street and it broke my heart to see the horrid conditions Bart was living in. But at least he wasn't cold, even if he was scared. And, really, I couldn't have him with me since he regularly bullied me and came so close to assaulting me and he was so big and strong. And I had Princess there and he terrified her.

    These days when I see a person holding up a sign that says "Homeless, anything helps" I almost always stop and buy dinner or hand over a blanket. One guy, who had a car, turned out to be a con artist who had a house and kids and a job and did this little show in a lot of places before the cops would find out and chase him away. This was a guy I had spoken to about places to get help and I'd given him a big camp blanket I kept in my backseat that was probably worth something. But...you know...I wasn't angry at myself...I meant well.

    The truly homeless break my heart, no matter why they are there. Mental illness is a huge reason. Addiction is a mental illness. And many have mental illness plus drug addiction. I hope every homeless person I hugged felt a little better after that, when I volunteered at the shelter.
     
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  11. raylea

    raylea New Member

    My son is homeless so I have a greater understanding of those we see on the streets. He tells me just the fact someone will look them in the eyes and actually say hey how are you today? gives there heart a lift. Not all of them out there will pester for a handout if you look at them.
    My son lives so far away from me Ill never see him on the street but am thankful and saying a prayer for those sweet people who might look into my sons face with kindness and acknowledge hes there and just say hello, or good morning. Hes a wonderful person, just wasnt as easy as he thought it might be to drop into a city with nothing and get on your feet. I am concidering volunteering
     
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  12. Annie2007

    Annie2007 Member

    My son is homeless and as of last week I don't know where. Every time I see someone homeless I think of my son. To a stranger he is just another man on the streets. But to me he was my whole life. I will die before he truly knows how much I love him.
     
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  13. Lil

    Lil Well-Known Member

    Tonight we went to dinner at Perkins. There was a man we believed to be homeless, sitting at a table, drinking coffee and eating chips from a bag. When we were paying, Jabber said, "I'm tempted to put another $10 on here to buy him a meal." I said, "Why not?" We had the waitress ask if he wanted dinner. He declined. We bought a $10 gift card and told her to give that to him and if he did not take it, to please give it to someone else who came in who looked like they could use it. She said they get lots of homeless people there and give them free coffee, also that the man is in there pretty much every night. I hope it does someone some good.
     
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  14. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    Wow -- So many of us experiencing heartache around homelessness. Thank you all for sharing your poignant stories and profound insights. Each one of them moves me in a unique way. "Homelessness" sounds so generalized, but it's clearly also so individualized. Each person is more than a demographic....they're an individual.

    My husband and I were discussing our son last night (who has been intermittently homeless for years....and, honestly, usually if he does live somewhere, it's a drug-infested gang house -- neither is good). I feel at a new and strange place with him inside me. Something has shifted (like, just now).

    Yes, I have felt deep love for him --- he is still our son and we will always love him in deep ways..........ways that I generally only find when we lock eyes (so rare these days) and we just "know". Yes, I have felt fear of him --- when he's in the throes of a mental health episode or drug rage, he is completely unrecognizable to me. I, like many of you probably, have seen and heard things my mind and heart can never erase -- unfortunately. And, yes, I have felt times of neutrality about him -- and there's clearly a peace around that.

    But last night I felt something odd and new........... I genuinely FORGOT about him. I mean, really FORGOT about him. Like, nearly FORGOT I had a son. Not really, but..........do you know what I mean? We're remodeling our living room and getting rid of a couple of pieces of furniture. Ordinarily, my first thought is that I wish our son lived somewhere so I could give them to him (rather than giving things to him and him turning right around and pawning it for drugs). But this time, I didn't even think of our son. I thought of our daughter-in-law (whom we love dearly - mother of our grandson) and daughter in law's siblings (5 altogether). It's not like I skipped over our son in wisdom, sadness, consideration or anything else. I simply FORGOT he existed. And that's never happened before. It troubles me a little that I FORGOT about his existence. Strange sensation. It feels like there's a connection to my "prepping" myself since he was 18-19 (and survived a game of Russian Roulette, while his friend was killed). I think I've been prepping for losing him for 5-6 years. I keep thinking, "How many years can one be mired deeply in gang violence, meth and homelessness and survive?"

    RE -- It feels like a new door has popped up in the "Hallway". An unexpected door. I'm not prone to forgetting people -- let alone my own son. I guess, for a moment last night, it felt as if our son had died long ago. Strange. Grief in that feeling........and yet, admittedly, some degree of peace.

    I don't know where he is now. Not sure I want to know (details). Haven't seen anything on FB in a few days. Perhaps I'll check the online jail roster. Perhaps I won't.

    I feel more "connected" to him this morning. Sort of. But I'm not sure which is easier to bear..... The forgetting or the remembering.......
     
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  15. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    I have completely changed my attitude to homeless persons since my son grew up and became one of them, intermittently, when he's not living in his tree.

    One of the things I find most sad is that now I imagine that my son will be just like this person in ten years time. It is so heartbreaking.

    There is an elderly man who sells the Big Issue on the streets of our nearby town (you can google the Big Issue if you're not familiar with this UK thing). He has a beard and a dog. Stereotypical. Several years ago I would probably have crossed the street. Now I always stop and have a chat and buy a magazine. I have come close to telling him about my son on several occasions but, as yet, I haven't. Maybe I will one day. Maybe I'll ask him what he was like at 27 and how he got to be in his current predicament. Maybe he'll have some insightful answers. Maybe he'll just tell me to mind my own business. How strange that I can feel a closeness to an elderly homeless man that I don't know. If my son ends up like this I hope someone like me will stop and have a chat with him and not cross the street to avoid him.
     
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  16. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    This is such a sad and thought-provoking thread. I see homeless individuals in a new light now too, definitely more inclined to help with a meal or a hug and also far more suspicious when I am asked for money. When my son got back from his cross-country adventure, he marveled at how gullible people were to just give him money, and he said (at the time he was clean and sober) that if he were to help a homeless person, it would be with tube socks and a toothbrush, not money or gift cards. The money goes for alcohol or drugs, and the gift cards can be sold for money, or there are plenty of other food sources available.
     
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  17. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    HLM, I appreciate your thoughts on homelessness, it is an important topic. I just saw this on FB and thought I'd post it here......it really gives a different perspective.....

    http://www.idealistrevolution.org/h...hing-about-themselves-that-will-surprise-you/

    And, I give money to homeless folks. I always have. Frankly I don't care if they use it for drugs or alcohol, that isn't my business, I just see a human being there, asking for help. It isn't like I am giving them $1000 it's just a pittance.....on almost every occasion, when those eyes met mine, there was real gratitude in them.... and often they say, "God bless you" and we would exchange a smile. It touches me very deeply each time.......I did this before my daughter became homeless, however, having met some of her homeless friends, now I have an even deeper understanding and compassion......it is a world and a lifestyle I don't know a lot about, but for me, it feels right to offer money. It's a small offering. And, if at times they think of me as gullible, so be it, to me it's my humanity.
     
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  18. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    I don't give much to the homeless anymore - I now live in an area where they do not seem to exist. It seems to be more of an urban problem.

    When I was young and single and living in the city, we were taught to give things, not money. A pack of mints, a tooth brush, mittens, a toque. One of my workmates smoked, and when approached by a homeless person who wasn't obviously high or drunk, he would offer them a cigarette - they often took it.
     
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  19. HeadlightsMom

    HeadlightsMom Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for sharing. This thread is helping me explore and process the matter of homelessness in a very wide, diverse and helpful way.

    ** I have determined that the single greatest source of my battle within myself re: our very troubled son is HOMELESSNESS. A guilt buzzer tends to go off in me on this matter by far more than any other. I'm not feeling that Homeless Guilt Buzzer (the dreaded HGB) today, but I have felt it exponentially more often than any other guilt buzzer in my head. I always feel so much better knowing he has a place to lay his head. Food, I give him whenever I can -- when I know where he is.

    This thread is tremendously clarifying for me. Again, thank you all for your comments!

    RE -- Yes, a friend posted that link/article on the faces of homeless on Facebook. I saw it and loved it. Thanks for sharing it again. So much amazing humanity out there and, fact is, any one of us could be just a heartbeat away from homelessness given a big life event. For example, I have a life-long friend who had a medical emergency and, despite being employed and with decent medical insurance, he simply could not pay his bills. He lost his home and was homeless overnight....in his 40's. That opened my eyes a lot.

    LucyJ -- That is a brilliant idea to respectfully ask someone how their life evolved. They may or may not be inclined to share. But I suspect they might share more than we know -- especially when they know that we genuinely care and why. I may borrow your idea.

    Homelessness has been all over my mind for the last several days. There must be a reason......something for me to learn, say or do...
     
  20. Childofmine

    Childofmine trying to do this thing one day at a time Staff Member

    This is a good thread and reading it, it occurs to me that I today see homeless people through the lens of my own son. Maybe you to too.

    My son has been homeless some five different times in the past few years, some of those times for months at a time. Through cold winters.

    Who would ever have thought it? I would have told you, some five years ago, that there would never come a day when I would allow my son to homeless...over my dead body. That was the old me.

    Right now my son is not homeless. He has lived in an apartment that he is paying for since late October of last year.

    Today when I see homeless people I think these things:

    Why don't you get a job and work?
    You are here because of your own self.
    There is help but you don't want to get it.
    You are here because you don't want to follow the rules of society.

    Those are thoughts I had about my own son for a long time.
     
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