I want to be able to say, here, talk to this person and they will address your needs from your current position through to stability, housing, employment, and healthcare.
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A Cart With a Story to Tell, but It's Not Telling
If by chance you've followed me on Instagram for any period of time, you might have noticed that I take pictures of randomly, ironically, or just plain oddly placed shopping carts. It's a thing I do. Don't judge :)
There's one shopping cart that I haven't posted on Instagram as yet. I haven't posted it because it saddens me, and I don't know what to do about it, so I do the only thing I can.
Starbucks is a bit of an escape for me. I'm either lying in bed or slowly and painfully trudging the few blocks to and from Starbucks where at least I can sit and focus on writing or whatever is at hand. If you've ever been a regular at Starbucks, you'll know they have a surprise and delight policy in which every now and then, they'll surprise and delight you with a free beverage. That's awfully nice of them, and I always appreciate it when I'm the lucky recipient. In addition to the surprise and delight, there are some stores that are very good at dealing with and catering to the homeless.
A couple of days ago, I was surprised and delighted with a free beverage, and so I asked if I could buy a credit for Rich, the local homeless man who parks this cart outside. Rich is a delightful and eclectic, if not down right odd man with a wonderful sense of humor who doesn't bother anyone. He sits and reads, and sometimes eats fried chicken.
There's been a lot of turnover in staff in this particular Starbucks as it's staffed by many military spouses. There also seems to be a fairly big turnover in the regular crowd, and so fewer people are adding to the credits. When I asked if I could buy a credit for Rich's next coffee, I was met with confusion. The staff member didn't know what I was talking about and didn't know how to handle the transaction. After a number of staff were called in, an old-timer piped up and solved the challenge. We simply write down credits for Rich, when he comes in, we give him a coffee and mark it off. Done deal.
Now, bear in mind, this is suburbia, and suburbia is not the most popular of hangouts for a homeless person. It must be more difficult to survive in the burbs. That being said, this particular store is not frequented by the homeless, as many other stores are in more urban areas, but even the stores that are frequented by homeless people are accommodating with water, but getting a water doesn't entitle you to a table where you can sit comfortably.
Rich comes to Starbucks when it's hot to cool down. Rich comes to Starbucks when it's cold to warm up. That's completely understandable, and making sure that Rich has a cup of coffee allows him a comfortable chair to sit in to read.
I've tried over the months to get a grasp on Rich's situation, but he's very reluctant to share. When I ask him where he stays at night, he says, "around." He told me when it hailed the other day that he prayed that what was covering him would hold up.
I've heard stories of other coffee shops offering a sort of pay-it-forward option for people to buy food or drinks for homeless folks. It's worth asking wherever you go if you can buy one forward. I know for Rich, this is one of his places of respite, and I would hate for him to be turned away because he can't afford a beverage.
There are resources for people that are homeless, such as The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and city run programs such as Denver's Road Home and I'm sure that most other cities have similar organizations. For some reason though, I struggle with what the best option is for me to take here. The homeless people I talk to tell me that organizations don't really help them. I've been told they're a waste of time, or that waiting lists can be so long it's not worth it. So I'm left with a conundrum. Do I support the organization or do I try on a more local level to help someone in the moment? I don't have hardly anything in terms of financial resources, even for myself (you'll note I'll get a small regular coffee and free refills all day), and so I can't solve anyone's problems.
I want to be able to say, here, talk to this person and they will address your needs from your current position through to stability, housing, employment, and healthcare. There's just one problem. I don't have anyone like that to refer people to. Have I not done enough homework? Please tell me if this person in an organization exists. I hate that the best I can usually offer to someone who is suffering is a feeble, "Good luck, brother."
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