I was recently asked the following question on Facebook:
"Why don't you ever talk about the boys? Why do they get left out of a very real problem?"
If you look through my blogs, you will see stories of men and women. Sometimes, a story has the opposite gender represented when gender is irrelevant to the point of that story. It's part of my way of trying to assure anonymity.
Those thoughts aside, let's compare and contrast men and women living addicted and homeless on the streets…
The similarities between men and women…
Men and women all buy, generally speaking, the same drugs from the same dealers. Some have preferences on where to buy but all buy.
All use street drugs… There are variations on who uses what and how they use it but all use something, somehow.
Almost all of the men and women I've come to know and love live in tents under one of two different bridges. Some visit the bridges for a sense of community and live elsewhere. Some live in abandoned houses and come to the bridges to take their medicine in the community as a way to be as safe as possible.
Both genders live and laugh and love and hate and fear and feel shame about their current life and hope for a better future. Both run the risk of going hungry and thirsty, not sleeping for days, overdosing, being revived and overdosing again.
The contrast between men and women comes in the fundraising activities to support their addictions.
Men stand on street corners and/or at busy intersections with a sign asking for money. Occasionally, these men are cursed at by passing drivers. On rare occasions, a driver will throw something at the man. That item will or will not hit it's intended target.
Some men spend their days in gas station parking lots asking for change from customers. On occasion, these men will offer to wash the windows of the customer's car for a dollar.
Some men walk around the area with a shopping cart and look for anything metal that can be taken to the local scrap yard. It's amazing how much stuff can be hauled in one cartload. These men had to endure an interruption in their collection delivery following a massive fire at the local salvage yard on July 11th.
Most of the women rely on 'dating' for their income. While the men are enduring harsh words and occasionally thrown items from passersby, the women are hopping into cars of unknown-to-them men.
As I shared with you in "I need my Medicine." These women endure tremendous humiliation so as to find the funds to support an addiction they'd rather not have:
"One was an important lawyer who picked me up in his Cadillac, took me to a center city hotel, tied me to the bed, had his way with me, got dressed, untied me and left the room. I had to use some of the money he gave me for public transit just to get back here to buy my medicine."
Taking mass transit back from a date is not always an option for some of our society's daughters. I shared this story with you on March 21st of this year:
Last Thursday, I met a young woman in Emerald City. I introduced myself as I handed her a water and a banana. She told me her street name. It was a fun street name that led us to some enjoyable conversation with smiles and a couple good laughs between us. Casey told me that on Friday, 24 hours after I met and laughed with this fun named young daughter of her parents, she was on a 'date' and never returned to the bridge. She was raped and murdered several blocks away.
Speaking in general terms here: Ladies date to fund the purchase of their medicine. They don't date because they enjoy it. Somewhere, somehow, with too many possible storylines to convey here, these ladies became addicted and struggle to find their way out of that addiction.
I don't know the story of how this young lady ended up dead from dating. I do know that she did not want to be there or involved in addiction at all. I also know that she had a great sense of humor and a charming smile that her family will miss for the remainder of their days.
Even when the woman knows the man as being a regular customer, she is not necesarily safe. Just a few weeks ago, one young lady of these communities hopped into the car of one of her regular 'clients' and had her neck slit by the man hiding in the back seat. She survived last I heard.
Preparing for their Fund Raising Efforts…
When the men prepare to go raise funds, they walk to their favorite street corner with their cardboard sign or they find a shopping cart and walk for blocks as they look for metal objects.
When I see them leaving, I say "Be safe, (First Name)." They say. "I will."
When the women prepare to go raise funds, they do what most any woman would do in preparation for a date. They will get cleaned up as much as they can on the streets. They will do their makeup in the reflection of a broken mirror that someone found on the street. Some of the ladies do their makeup as they gaze at their reflection in the side window of my Chevy Uplander. The smile of an anticipated date is absent and replaced by solemn thoughts such as:
"Will I find a date before dope sickness sets in?"
"Will I actually be paid?"
"Will I be raped (again)?"
"Will I survive this night?"
When I see them leaving, I say "Be safe, (First Name)." They say. "I'll try."