There is a Homeless Man in My Street

There’s a homeless man in my street.

He wasn’t always homeless but he is now. It’s winter and its cold and he’s homeless. And I wonder what I should do… We don’t see homeless people in our suburb. I don’t even know if there are any others, but to have one in your own street… well, its disturbing and unsettling.

He doesn’t ‘look’ homeless – not like the picture above. He is neat and tidy, he smiles at you and can be seen reading a book on a park bench often during the day. He could be someone’s dad, or grandad out for a quiet stroll.

I first met ‘Bert’ 5 years ago when white ants had attacked our timber floors and I needed someone to repair them. He lived in the next street, worked in timber flooring and I figured I would use a local guy. He came around to quote on the job and spent maybe 5 minutes on the quote, before producing a package he wanted me to look at – a CD and some documents.

Bert had an invention he was trying to get investors for and it wasn’t going well. He showed me his invention, told me all about it. I wasn’t interested as it seemed like a bizarre concept no one would ever be interested in. But he was convinced… obsessed… consumed by it.

I never did get the quote, or the floor fixed.

A couple of years later his house was on the market. The word around the neighbourhood was that he had invested all of his money in the invention and had lost the house as a result. It was a significant house and very sad as he had built it himself. But the invention needed to be pursued.

I heard nothing more of Bert for another 2 or 3 years. Then I got wind that he was living in a local share house with a young couple. He lasted a few months there, but drove them crazy with his constant badgering and salemanship. They had to kick him out to stay sane.

He went to another house in our own street, but after 3 weeks hadn’t paid his rent. Again he was asked to leave.

Now he spends his days on the street, lives under a tree at the top of the hill and when the weather hits he takes shelter in a half built house across the road from our home with the perrmission of the owner. He can be seen most evenings walking the beachfront and watching the sunset before walking past our home to the top of the hill, or the half built house.

I bumped into him again down the beach one evening as I was flying my drone and taking pictures. He introduced himself, unaware that I knew who he was, and asked the usual questions about the drone – how far it can fly, how much it cost and so on. I answered him and chatted for a few moments, but with an aircraft in the sky I needed to pay attention to what I was doing. It was then that he began his sales pitch.

I politely declined and told him I needed to concentrate. He mumbled under his breath and took off.

Then I left home yesterday with Lucy my dog to get a quick evening walk in before sun-down. He was already walking up our street. I said ‘Hello Bert’ and he stopped to talk. I didn’t want to talk as rain was pressing in and I needed to get the dogwalk in before getting drenched.

We chatted briefly and I asked him when he would be finding a home again. He told me he is waiting for the invention to be taken up and to become profitable. Then he will be rich. He launched into telling me again about the invention and his ideas for changing the world. In his Eastern European accent he is hard to follow, but I got the gist of what he was saying. I told him again that I wasn’t interested in his invention and I excused myself. By that point he was ranting and railing about the environment and ecological destruction etc etc… He continued at volume as I walked down the street.

Maybe he’s just eccentric. Maybe he’s a little crazy. I don’t know for sure and it seems no one can get past his obsessive talk to who he is. He has been rude to people, harsh and even a little aggressive at times.

He has evoked curiosity among some neighbours and nervousness among others.

At our local coffee shop last week he became a topic of conversations between an older lady and myself. She is also a Christian and lives at the top of our street. We both looked at one another and said ‘We have space in our homes… but… but…’

What would Jesus do? I’m really not sure. Sure – he’d want to help the man. He’d love him. I just don’t know what that looks like.

I left a $50 note at the local cafe last week to help with their food bill as he sometimes drops in there for a feed. But was that a way of ‘helping’, or just a way of appeasing a burdened conscience? I never know for sure.

As I drove home from church last week I felt disturbed that a man was walking the street – my street even – in winter weather, while we lived in homes with spare rooms.

And I wonder, will we be held responsible in some way for that callousness? If there are sheep and goats, am I a goat?…

I tell myself, there is a reason he is on the street and offering him a room in your house or a key to your caravan may band-aid his symptoms, but it won’t solve his real problem. I think thats true.

But I still dunno if Jesus would say that…

So there is still a homeless man in my street.

6 thoughts on “There is a Homeless Man in My Street

  1. Is this man wanting help. It seems like there are those who have tried to help him. Salvation Army often have accommodation for homeless men. Your heart is in the right place and sadly there are some things we just can’t fix.

  2. There’s a homeless young man, named Troy, who sits on the footbridge at the train station. He moves from station to station, he tells me, to beg. There are others who appear to do the same — a rotation of beggars. Some have longboards.

    Troy was thrown out of home by his dad a few years ago. I haven’t found out why.

    Troy has no skills, apparently. HIs last girlfriend also threw him out. Maybe she saw no future in life with a beggar. In Pakistan, being a beggar is a recognised vocation. Not so here.

    I gave him $10. He said it would go to buying something to eat. He sleeps rough. A friend is trying to get some accommodation to share out Midland way.

    I haven’t seen Troy this week. Maybe the Midland gig worked out.

  3. I have a neighbor who always seems to have someone staying with him. Kids kicked out of home, people “between jobs”, folks who need a hand. It’s a gift and I don’t know how he does it but I’m pretty sure the relationship forms before he invites them to his home. He makes sure their need is real *and temporary*. Then they generally have responsibilities around his house.

    I’ve tried it once (taking in a “homeless” divorced woman) but I wasn’t good at it and, besides, most of the burden fell on my stay-at-home wife while I was at work. But I’ve found I don’t have the generous, forgiving spirit my neighbor does.

  4. Thanks Bob – yeah I don’t know that I have the capacity for this kind of help – but I feel a bit lame saying that

    • At the end of the day, I think it points to how dearly we hold on to our “things”. That isn’t an anti-materialism statement but it may speak more to selfishness. We view our homes as our sanctuary where we can be ourselves and have ultimate control over our space/time. An invitation into a home is an intimate event. Some extend more invitations than others but that doesn’t mean they are “less selfish”. It just means they are more social.

      My neighbor, on the other hand, has always viewed what he has with…not sure how to articulate this..detachment. It isn’t *his* car, it is something that takes him from place to place. It isn’t *his* home, it is the place where he stays warm and dry. It isn’t *his* food, it is what he has to feed his body. It isn’t *his* time, it is what he is doing right now. It isn’t *his* career, it is what he does to contribute and how he earns in return. All very loose relationships. All can be gained, lost, swapped with much less stress than I could ever achieve.

      As such, he doesn’t have much. But what he has, he shares. This is a trait I see as very common among low-income folks. Having little of value allows them to value things less. Which, ironically, makes them much more generous than those who have more. And the generosity extends beyond money to time, labor, relationship and…homes.

      He is a great guy to know. And very challenging as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *