Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My weekend in Uptown with the homeless … and heroin

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 at 11:25 AM

Last weekend I joined volunteered to pass out coats and food to the homeless – so SaturDAY I went to a very popular hangout in this community-less community in Charlotte, “The Wall,” which is an actual wall on Phifer Avenue off Tryon.

Let’s just say this community is highly populated — there are a lot more people living in Uptown than you think. That being said, they are our neighbors ... and to them I shall be neighborly.

As I walked down Phifer, people were staring me down like an uninvited house guest who just walked into their residence … because essentially I just had. But all it took was a smile for them to roll out the welcome mat for me.

While most of them were grateful for the homemade, healthy and hearty soup we were passing out, one woman ... not so much. “You got some cornbread?” she asked. When I apologized for not having any, she responded with, “You ain’t got no cornbread … you don’t even have crackers. I don’t want that.” It made me feel a little bit better about the fact that the person who lives in the bus stop in front of my condo rejected my own homemade leftovers.

I did end up making some new friends at The Wall. I met a man who not long ago had a home and a career, but after a layoff and repossession, can’t even get a lease approved to rent a place. I also met a guy who was once homeless and now just comes out there to The Wall to check on and encourage his friends. The homeless community is a tight-knit sub-culture of society, that though forced to live like refugees, live like a family in their shared home. I was actually envious of the fact that so many of them are able to maintain a positive attitude despite their dire situation. They seemed more happy than helpless.

A moment came, however, that I wish I could have avoided. A woman retrieved a needle from her bra just as I was turning my attention to her direction. Shit … she saw me see her. Busted.

“I get high honey,” she said with a blend of pride and shame in her attitude.

Is this where the witness gets murdered, I wondered with worry. “To each its own,” I replied … who am I to pass judgment?

“Well, I just didn’t want to do it in front of you if you don’t,” she said.

Well, that was awfully polite of her.

“You’re not going to call the cops on me, are you?” she asked.

“No … but I will get you a bowl of soup.”

When I came back with the soup she proceeded to tell me that she was due in court for a drug offense and has twin 13-year-old boys somewhere. I felt compelled to give her a hug; I thought she could use one. Cason-Point: Say no to drugs, kids … give hugs not drugs.

But regardless if they’re homeless because of the economy or because of drugs … they still don’t have a home to go to over the holidays — or at all. Granted, we all can’t just go out buying homes for people – but we can donate food, coats and our time … which you could go do yourself next Saturday. 'Tis the season after all!

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