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.