Among the revelations that I’ve had while performing homeless outreach is that everyone needs help regardless of residence, age, gender, ethnicity, class or income. I know this has certainly been the case in my life. Over the years, I’ve needed help with bills from my parents; moving residences from my friends; and even today, I needed help jumping the battery for my car. Frankly, I don’t know where I’d be without all the help I’ve had in my life.
I was mindful of that when working with a 33 years old young man who had only been homeless for only three days. Nick is a former Division I wrestler from Ohio State University and he’s battling heroin addiction. He’s developed skin lesions from the subcutaneous needle injections and is terrified that he’ll have permanent scars on his arms. I took a few minutes to clean out the abscesses, apply some antibiotic creams and fresh bandages. As physically strong of a young man as he is, he’s clearly startled with the new surroundings and apologetically humiliated about having fallen so far in his life. As I spoke to him, I imagined his worried mother asking me to be kindhearted to her struggling son.
I also met Aaron, who like many homeless had severe foot rot and frostbite on his lower legs and feet. Wearing a striped coat and hat, he immediately stripped off his socks and asked if I thought he’d lose any of his toes; I told him that I simply didn’t know. Per routine, we cleaned his wounds, bandaged them up and left him with items to keep warm and fed.
Another gentleman had previously cut holes in his boots as they were too small for his now swollen feet; and thankfully he hadn’t suffered any long term harm from the elements quite yet. He gladly took some fresh socks, food, hard warmers and an extra white comforter to warm in the sub-freezing temperatures.
And Jon, who said that I was a “…brother from another mother…,” kept telling George Carlin jokes as he stocked up with a new backpack, food, socks, first aid supplies and some hand warmers. He flashed a nice smile for a photo with me before going to the Blue CTA line to sleep for the night.
It weighs heavy on my heart that these new friends aren’t in a position in life to get help as readily as many. Nevertheless, I’ve learned and witnessed that some of these brief interventions can be spirit lifting and more often than not, lifesaving. May God Bless them and those that have stepped up to help them including Jennifer Oberle Schaltz, Jean Grys, Todd Hayes, Jon Hill, Danell Culkin, Michelle Vant, Teresa Mack, Gillian Fealy, Gurneet Sagger, Ian Goldberg, Peggy Goldberg, Cindy Quiles, Tim Casady, Cory Helmick, Julie McElwee, Stacey Smith Kelley and everyone that’s relayed encouraging words.
If you are so inclined, he is a link to contribute to this cause: