I don’t know what our homeless friend is going to do now.
I haven’t seen him in a couple of days.
Rain has been in the weather forecast, so we placed the meager belongings he left behind in a large black trash bag last week. At some point, he picked it up.
But it’s November, which is the start of winter here in northern California. It gets cold at night and we typically experience quite a bit of rain. They’re talking about flash flood warnings on the TV news. It’s time to start thinking about sand bags again.
Although we don’t have feet of snow and below zero temperatures like our friends in the Midwest, Northeast and Canada do, it’s not the type of weather that inspires camping out-of-doors.
Our homeless friend mentioned that he needs a tent. His mother still won’t allow him to sleep in her house, although she allows him in for the occasional meal. So far, he’s been able to make camp in the grass on the corner of her property. But I’m not optimistic that even that concession will last long, as he continues to be unable to meet his mother’s demand to contribute to the water bill.
And then there is the matter of his shoes. Word is that they were falling apart when his mother generously purchased him a new pair. He wore them for only a short time before he gave them away. To another homeless friend. An older guy with physical disabilities who was desperate. Our friend told us that the recipient needed the shoes more than he did.
So what do we have here? A homeless man with a heart of gold. Someone who has nothing, not a roof over his head, his few possessions in a plastic bag. And what does he do? He thinks first of others in greater need than himself.
We found out about his shoes late last week when he stopped by and had some breakfast with us. He was here to water our rose bushes. And he asked if he could please wash our cars. Not for money; just to say thanks for our kindness.
My wife had a package of shoe inserts. She offered to give him a set since he walks so much. He took off his shoes, she checked the size and began cutting down the Odor Eaters to fit. She was nearly bowled over by the horrible smell.
While our friend would have a bit more walking comfort for a while, we knew that what he needed was a new pair of shoes to replace his filthy, worn-out ones. We thought he deserved a second chance. Since he forfeited his last opportunity to a charitable impulse.
We made a Wal-Mart run the next day and purchased shoes for him along with our regular shopping haul. He tried them on and pronounced them a good fit. He expressed his gratitude over and over.
It is no surprise that our friend complains of being cold at night. Nor is it a surprise that he has sought the shelter of last resort: Sleeping in the church bathroom.
The bathroom has no entrance into the church, just a door to the outside. So we have left it unlocked for just this purpose. Even though we fear that addicts will find out and start using the bathroom to shoot up.
Yes, it’s a risk. But it makes sense. You see, Pastor Mom is deeply committed to the well-being of her flock, the community and the homeless among us. I think we need more like her. But I’m prejudiced.
Then came Saturday night.
The mercury hung in the low 40s, the sky clouded over and the wind began to blow. In the afternoon, we had allowed our homeless friend to run his few clothes through our washer and dryer. He came to pick them up just after sunset and I asked him to sit down for a few minutes. I asked if he was hungry. He said no, he had eaten two tacos that he was able to get at a fast food place for a dollar and change. And he was headed to his mother’s to have chicken and dumplings for dinner.
After dinner, his mother required him to leave her house. Out in the cold again. So he did the only thing he knew to do. He sought refuge in the church bathroom.
But then came Sunday morning.
Pastor Mom and my wife were out of town, at a hospital ministering to the dying daughter of a friend. An assistant handled the church service for the day.
While the Spanish congregation held its service in the chapel, the family Sunday school took place in the social hall. At 11 a.m., the English speaking congregation headed over to the chapel.
It was inevitable. Someone needed to use the men’s rest room. But it was locked. Someone was in there.
Our homeless friend.
Not all of the facts are particularly clear. Apparently, our friend was using the last few minutes left on his mobile phone when people started banging on the door. He was ordered to leave. He refused. He just wanted everyone to go away and leave him alone.
Voices were raised. Threats were made. The incident escalated and, through the door, our friend was told that the cops had been called.
And when he finally opened the door, he was told that he’d better run, the sheriffs were on their way. Except that they weren’t. It was a lie.
I have no idea what really happened. My guess is that our homeless friend forgot that it was Sunday and that the bathroom would therefore be needed. Regardless, however, we humans do require shelter from the cold and wind. Even on Sunday. You know, the day we pray to God to look kindly upon us? The day that we praise the Lord for the many blessings he has bestowed upon us? The day that we pass the offering plate and give of our bounty to help the less fortunate? Yeah, that day.
Later, I heard that our homeless friend apologized for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And for initially refusing to leave the premises.
The door to the church bathroom stays locked at night now. The church higher-ups let us know that this is necessary due to insurance considerations and to preserve the church’s tax exempt status.
We gave our homeless friend a thermal blanket liner to place inside his sleeping bag. But I have no idea where he is sleeping now. I haven’t seen him around.
Update: As we were getting ready to go to bed tonight, there was a bang on our door. It was our homeless friend. He was hungry, and we fed him. His sister is allowing him to sleep in her car temporarily. He says he will be obtaining a tent tomorrow.