Please Know...

As I come to know the men and women of Kensington, specifically the homeless and addicted, their stories become increasingly sensitive and personal. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist in regard to these fine people. Names are rarely their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In Memoriam

I'm Still Very Ready to Go.

As I was getting close to Emerald City this morning, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, I saw "Bob" (See 'Detox Bound' in this linked blog.) with his 'hungry' sign as he stood on the white line at a busy intersection.  We chatted while my light was red.  "I'm still very ready to go to detox." He told me.  Here we are, five days after his declaration of readiness to be done with addiction and he's still on the street begging for money to support his addiction.  If he could have gotten treatment when he was ready, the worst of his detox related discomforts would be over by now.  And his wait is not over.  This nor'easter that is rolling into our area over the next couple of days will delay his detox until at least Thursday or Friday.  That's days 7 and 8 from the day he determined to be done with this lifestyle.  Would we require physical trauma victims to wait a week before receiving requested treatment?             

Do you have my Phone?
         
There are a few residents of Emerald City whose cell phones I will charge while I am visiting.  This morning, while coming back home from my pharmacy where I picked up two units of Narcan before the storm really got rolling, I heard the sound of a cell phone - but not MY cell phone.  I looked down and did not recognize the phone on the floor next to the charger.  "Oh, NO!"  I thought with a bit of a panic knowing that someone would need this before the storm hit.  Snow was already falling. 

"Does this belong to Lady A or Lady B?"  I thought to myself although with their real names.  There's only one man who ever asks me to charge his phone and I knew this was not his phone.  "I must be getting senile."  I thought.  I don't remember Lady A or Lady B being at my car at my last visit on Sunday.  I drove 35 minutes to Emerald City from my home in Delaware County in a rather heavy snowstorm that was predicted not to cause road problems until later in the night.  I stopped at Acme only to find no bananas available for my visit.  I wondered if anyone would call me "Bananaless Man."

Once in Emerald City, as I made my way down the sidewalk under the relative weather protection of this railroad roofed community, I saw the man whose phone I occasionally charge.  Is this your girl friend's phone? I asked.  His girlfriend is Lady A…  Or is his girlfriend Lady B?  It's so hard to know when I don't use actual names in these stories!  He said "No." so I figured it must belong to the other Lady who lives further down the sidewalk in a small tent.  Just then "Casey" walked up to me and asked with a smile "Do you still have my phone?"  "It's your phone, Lady C!" I proclaimed with a smile as I thankfully realized my self-misdiagnosis of senility.  Casey then shared with me some very sad news…

In Memoriam

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.

Lady in a Box

With this nor'easter bearing down on us bringing 8 to 12 inches of snow in the next couple of days, I wanted to try to visit as many people who I know as I could.  With a bitterly cold light wind blowing through the Frankford Avenue underpass, I was distributing water and no bananas.  At one point, I was talking to a group of five men and women.  I glanced over to a large cardboard box with something of a window in it.  Two eyes looking alive but lifeless were looking out.  I went over to see if they were ok and if they wanted water.  They hardly reacted.  I said it again and the person seemed to become aware of my presence right outside the window.  She said that she was very cold and did not have a blanket or good enough coat for the upcoming storm.  Fortunately, I had a coat with me but not a really good one for the temperatures.  

As I was walking back to this woman's box home that already had a dusty layer of snow on the cardboard roof, I saw a brand new quilt still in its store plastic zipper bag.  I was about to grab it when I decided that might not be such a good idea.  One person suggested that the "owner" of that spot on the sidewalk might get angry.

I sought a second opinion from Casey who happened to be there having walked from the other community where the above stories transpired.  She agreed that I should not take it from that pile.  "But I can." She said of herself.  She got it from the abandoned pile of other items and handed it to me.  I slipped this quilt through the window to the lady in the box.  Her eyes sparkled for just a brief moment as she saw what was coming her way.  She thanked me and then asked, "Do you have any bananas?" 

My reputation as "Banana Man" follows me everywhere I go in these bridge communities. 

18 Months in Jail or Rehab?

I was just about to leave when I saw yet another woman with whom I'd had an important conversation the week before.  For as much as I would like to share with you the details of what we chatted about, there's no way that I can without breaking confidences and anonymity.  Suffice it to say that there is one other very intelligent woman with whom we both care in this community.  She needs to decide if she would rather do 18 months in a rehab and probably regain relationship with her children at some point during those months or continue to risk life on the streets and wind up in jail for an 18 month sentence that is hanging over her head with no chance of regaining those relationships during those jailed months.  The outrageous strength of addiction, with its mystery ingredient that none of us understand, leaves this woman in an unsure what to do state of mind and unable to bring herself to commit to the obvious answer.

Please Pray for these good people.

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