Costa Mesa Homeless: My Time With Dave (Part 2)
January 31, 2013 12 Comments
I arrived at Starbucks at 8:20, 10 minutes earlier than agreed upon. I parked and started pacing.
At 8:30, it occurred to me to check inside Starbucks, but not finding Dave, I left and continued searching the parking lot. As the minutes rolled by, I wondered if Dave had a change of heart.
Then, out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone rounding the outside of the building.
It was Dave, waving a newspaper and smiling. “Sorry, my alarm clock didn’t go off,” he said, quickening his pace. “No problem, glad you could make it!” I replied, making our way to the car.
It never occurred to me that homeless people wake up to an alarm clock.
The day before, I found Dave at Target — in the same spot we’d met the week prior.
“Hey, how have you been?” I asked, shaking his hand and pulling him in for a hug. “Good! Yah, it’s good to see you!” he said, smiling at me. Then he paused.
“No, actually, it’s been terrible,” he said, shaking his head. “What do you mean?” I asked, confused by the rapid change in his tone.
Turns out that and Dave and his friends had suffered from the rain that blanketed Orange County the past week. The tarp sheltering them from the elements was so weighed down by rain, that it broke and dumped gallons of water all over him, his friends, and their belongings.
“Wow, man, I’m so sorry,” I said.
I asked if he was hungry. He nodded, so we crossed the street to Sonic Burger, and sat down to chat.
As he ate, Dave shared that he has two boys, ages 12 and 7, whom he hasn’t seen in a while. My heart broke as he described how he ached to see them. “I might be able to see them this week, maybe Tuesday or Wednesday,” he said, wolfing down his burger. “I really hope I can.”
“How did it go with the OC Rescue Mission?” I asked, hoping for some good news. “Oh, it was good, but … I have a problem,” he said, looking at his burger. “I don’t have an ID. It got lost. Costs 26 dollars to get another from the DMV.”
“If I took you, could I help you get your ID?” I asked, wondering if he would take me up on the offer. “Oh, yah, definitely. I would for sure.” I made a mental note to follow-up on this later.
“Do we need to head back?” I asked, noticing that Dave seemed to be wrapping up.
“Yah, we should, ” as said as he gathered his trash and walked to a wastebin.
As we crossed the street, Dave paused mid-thought. “I was wondering. I’ve been thinking about turning a corner. I’m wondering if I could come to church with you,” he said, looking straight ahead and squinting.
Surprised — but happy to do so — we arranged for me to pick him up at 8:30 the next morning. “I’m just embarrassed, you know, going like this,” he said, looking at his clothes. Dave was wearing the same thing I saw him in the prior week.
“Come on, let’s go,” I said, motioning him to follow me into Target. My intent was to get some toiletries to make him feel a bit more comfortable.
“Do you have a tooth-brush and tooth-paste?”
“Yah, I do, I got that. But you know, people don’t realize that it’s the simple things we really need,” he said. We picked out shaving cream, razors, and then grabbed a 10-pack of socks.
“Thank you Dave,” he said, as we left the checkout line. “I really hate asking for money. It’s so embarrassing.”
That night, I updated my Facebook status, sharing news of Dave’s unfortunate tarp break. Minutes later, I received a comment from Kristy, offering sleeping bags, toiletries, and other items to get Dave back in shape.
Kristy is someone I’ve met through Dave’s and J’s stories on this blog. I can’t recall how we initially connected, but I know that it’s been sometime in the past 2 weeks.
We made plans to meet the next day.
Amazing, huh? The power of God working through social media.
And so that’s how I ended up driving to a Starbucks in Santa Ana, picking Dave up at 8:40, and heading to Rock Harbor in Costa Mesa.
As we waited at a red light, a light rain hitting our windshield, I mentioned how much I love hearing rain at night — but that it occurred to me that rain is his nemesis. He agreed.
“I used to love the rain too, man — loved hearing it while I was in bed,” he said. “But not anymore. It sucks. All our stuff was ruined – wet, mildew everywhere, just sucks man.”
After parking, I led Dave to the church’s patio to find a donut and coffee. Clutching his donut, Dave poured himself a cup, adding some cream and sugar.
“Dave, is that you?” asked a woman standing next to Dave. Surprised, I looked at Dave, wondering what I had missed. Turns out he had met her the day before at Target. She had spoken to him for a few moments, offering consolation and listening to his story.
“What are the chances of running into her here?” Dave asked, as we made our way into the main center. I smiled. No such thing as random occurrences in my book.
We found my wife in the front row (our usual spot), and sat down.
I watched Dave interact with my wife, noticing his personable demeanor. With little hesitation, he easily broke into conversation. “How are you feeling about going back to work?” he asked, weaving in a topic I had shared with him the day before.
Small talk: A skill that’s taken me years to develop, but one Dave seems to exhibit naturally. Impressive.
After service ended, we made our way to meet Kristy in Santa Ana, where she was in the midst of serving the homeless. Pulling into the parking lot, we saw about fifty men, women, and children milling about, some speaking to each other in small groups, others sitting by themselves.
I passed a man sitting on the curb, with piercing eyes and a stare that made me shudder. You probably know the look – the look you image when you think of a crazy homeless person. I’m still not really sure at what point that “look” becomes part of one’s demeanor. Maybe I’ll find out.
“Hello, follow me!” Kristy said, energetically motioning us around the back of an adjacent building. She led us to her car, overflowing with supplies. “I look like I’m homeless myself,” she said laughing, as she kindly asked Dave what he needed.
As we talked, I noticed a woman approach a car in the parking lot, peer in the window, and walk around to the passenger’s side. “Frickin’ prostitutes man. There are kids around!” Dave muttered, shaking his head.
But on the bright side, Dave gained a new jacket, 3 sleeping bags, and 3 toiletry bags — all thanks to a stranger moved by his story on Facebook, and who happens to be passionate about helping people like Dave. Awesome.
As we left, I asked Dave where he wanted to be dropped off. “Let’s go to Target,” he said, as we made our way down the 55 freeway, continuing to make easy conversation.
Then he paused.
“So, I didn’t ask you this before — why do you do this? Why do you hang out with homeless people?”
I chuckled, and described my reasons.
“It sucks that people are afraid of you,” I added. “You aren’t intentionally homeless. It’s easy for people like me to forget that. But I know that it wasn’t your goal to be homeless. I also know that what separates a guy like me from you is a far thinner margin that most people realize,” I said, shaking my head. “And that’s why I want to spend time with you. I hope that others would do the same for me.”
As we pulled into the Target parking lot, we made plans to again meet up the following weekend. I can’t wait.
Will You Help?
I’m not sure what’s going on with me. I feel like I’m drawn towards something with the homeless community. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do, but things are coming together in a way that seems effortless. Connections between people are being made, communication is flowing, and resources are aligning.
Whenever I’ve noticed this in the past, I’ve learned to stay available and let it happen.
Also, through these interactions, I somehow feel more complete – more “centered.” It is difficult to describe, but I feel more comfortable in my own skin, like I’ve found a “true north”, even though I don’t know what it means to head in that direction. If you have some suggestions, please let me know in the comments.
And for some reason, I feel compelled to ask if you are interested in joining me in this journey, helping in one of these areas:
- Spread the word by sharing the link to this post (tiny url: http://wp.me/p2VnXW-u3). Your comments and prayers are an encouragement.
- Contribute towards the $26 dollars Dave needs to get his ID at the DMV. If Dave gets an ID, he has a better chance of entry into the OC Rescue Mission, which will position him getting back on his feet.
- I feel that offering Dave an evening in a hotel to shower, shave, and sleep in a warm bed would be meaningful. I have no idea why I feel this, but I see a picture of him and his friends enjoying a night of normalcy — perhaps somewhere near a laundry mat where they can wash their clothes, or maybe through your kindness, we can get them some new clothes to feel human again.
If you’re drawn towards helping Dave and his friends, you can click here to contribute. I’ve set up a Pay-pal account to accept donations of any amount. If no one contributes, I’ll take that as a sign that this wasn’t meant to be. If you contribute, I assure you that every cent will go to Dave and his small community.
Now it’s your turn: Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments.