We ran into Roy today, wandering around the supermarket parking lot as usual. We hadn’t seen him in a week or two, but we drove through a fast food place for a soda on the way downtown and there he was, stumbling about. There was no doubt that he had gotten hold of his drink or three earlier in the day. I have no idea whether alcoholism drove him into homelessness or homelessness drove him to the solace of alcohol. Maybe he’ll tell me all about it one of these days.
My wife has given Roy spare change on a number of occasions when he was hanging about the supermarket entrance, hoping for a few coins. Today, however, we gave him five dollars. The subtle grin on his face told me everything I wanted to know. My wife pointed out that it has probably been a long time since he has seen a fiver.
I have to wonder where Roy curls up to sleep at night. A warming center has recently opened at the church across the street from the shopping center, but something tells me that he has never seen the inside of the place. With the rain, wind and cold that we have been experiencing lately, I just hope he makes it through the winter.
One of my favorite bloggers, Dennis Cardiff, recently pointed out that the Homeless Memorial Project has documented 740 deaths among the homeless of Toronto since 1985, 72 such deaths in 2005 alone.
The New York Times recently cited statistics that show that, nationally, homelessness has been reduced by 12.9% over the last seven years. You wouldn’t know it in Washington, D.C., however, where there are 124 homeless people for every 10,000 residents, more than twice the national average.
Wikipedia claims that in Seattle, another place known for its cold, wet winters, each night at least 2,942 people have no roof over their heads. About this time last year, a PIT (point in time) survey found a 67% percent increase in the homeless population. A homeless camp known as The Jungle, situated under a freeway, has become infamous for incidents of violence.
Much has been written about law enforcement clearing snowy Denver’s homeless camps in the name of enforcing laws against “urban camping,” causing some to display buttons reading “Move Along to Where?”
In Sacramento County, California, where I reside, 79 homeless people have died in the past year. This tops the 78 homeless deaths that occurred here in the previous year. Not all of these deaths are from exposure (some are the result of overdoses, violence or illness), but it is likely that the cold and wet contributed to the demise of these neighbors of ours.
If you have a warm bed to sleep in tonight as I do, be grateful and remember Roy and the thousands of others of Americans who do not.