Their Challenges

Being homeless is not like being on a camping trip…even a miserable one. Weekend campers know they can go home Sunday evening, have a shower, a hot meal, and go to sleep in a comfy bed. Homeless people know only that the rain will let up eventually, long after everything they owned is soaked and ruined. 

The homeless know there will be no fire that night and no hot meal.  And when it is time for bed, even the bedding is drenched.  They know hungry mosquitoes will swarm in squadrons when the sun goes down which is also when Brown Recluse Spiders, poisonous snakes, and Bull Ants emerge from their burrows…and even a single bite can land one in the hospital or the morgue.

The next day the sky clears, but that means temperatures spike and the humidity is so high it is hard to breathe.  But it is perfect for the deadly black mold which can make a tent and its damp contents dangerous to one’s health in a matter of hours.

All the food is ruined, but it really doesn’t matter because the campfire wood is wet, so there is no way to cook anything anyway.  The food bank is closed, so everyone hunkers down to a long, hungry day ahead.

People with jobs do their best to look presentable, and one by one leave the encampment by foot or bicycle, heading to work.

The people with no job prospects have it worse.  First they spread wet blankets and clothing on bushes to aid their drying.  Beyond that one task, there is nothing to do.  Some walk aimlessly around the neighborhood looking for the odd job that pays cash.  Some go to the library where it is dry and they surf the internet.  More than a few go to the gas station to buy a sweet icy drink with their last damp dollar and then they search for a place they haven’t been “trespassed” from where they can charge their government-issue cell phones.

As the day wears on, they return to their camp. A few take naps, others nurse the toothache that has begun to throb or the mysterious bite that is starting to fester. There is no dental care available, except for extraction, so they wait and hope for the best.  The hospital emergency room may help with the bite, but they may also turn away a homeless person; it could go either way, and could be embarrassing, so they delay treatment.  By dinner time everyone is back at the camp, waiting for the people with jobs to bring home fast food to share with the others.

The evening is hot and muggy.  In the near distance a thunderstorm booms; everyone hopes it will stay away.  Soon people retreat to their tents hoping to find relief from the swarming mosquitos.  Although they are exhausted, bored, and depressed, it is too hot to sleep.  The bedding is still damp anyway, presaging another uncomfortable night.  The interminable daily cycle starts anew.