Cody asked for candles. "They really help, man." He lives in a tent in the woods.
Adam's faced looked pummeled. He wore no glasses either. Apparently, he got jumped. A guy asked him for a dollar, and when he said that he couldn't help, the guy knocked him from behind. A poor guy beat up a poor guy for a dollar.
This is a different world. You've had a fight with your only friend because she asked for money to pay for utilities. She spent too much on drugs.
This is a different world. You have a home, but you traveled downtown for food because you have limited resources. It's 8 PM and you need to get back home. It'll take two buses and one hour to go four miles.
This is a different world. You've been laid off because of the recent slow down in business. Your sitting in your home in the dark. You can't pay your utilities.
This is a different world. You need ten blankets, one girlfriend, and two cats to stay warm tonight. You live in a tent in the woods.
Shawn stood cold at our window and told jokes ... of course. He works construction and paints during the summer, but the winter weather frowns upon such work, so Shawn goes hungry.
"That's life," Shawn said with a shrug.
That's life? I thought.
Is that life?
Shawn continued, "Some days are feast and some days are famine. Feast, famine, feast, famine, feast, famine, famine, famine, famine, famine."
Is that life? For a lot of us, it is life.
He walked to the back of the van to tell the kids a joke.
It was another sub-zero night. Many wanted to spend the night indoors, and we helped some make that a reality (Thanks Peter Maurin Center)
However, Josh was going to spend another night in his tent. He claims to have pounds of blankets, and a girlfriend to snuggle up with ... if she doesn't take up all the room. He acted as if he were lying there squished and stiff because of all the room his girlfriend took.
Another forgotten veteran. Ignored to invisibility.
The guy yelled out to me, "He wants to talk with you!" as he held the phone out to me.
I took it. It was Frank's buddy Mike. He wanted me to stop by the library because there were some hungry and cold friends there who weren't able to get to the alley soon enough.
We drove down to the library, and there were quite a few people. We served soup and hot cocoa -- big hits.
The temperatures were dropping fast. I could feel it in my hands that wouldn't work when I was trying to write my email down for a lonely, cold woman.
Soon, some vans pulled up. The men inside said they were taking the people outside the library to the Peter Maurin center. Some mats and pillows had been set on the floor. Anything was better than staying outside, which would have been sure death in this cold.
We followed, bringing the remainder of our food. It was a great experience for the kids, as they talked with our buddies inside, like Nicki and Mark and John and Tommy.
I talked mostly with the officer on duty who was going to watch the place until 4 AM. A great guy all around. Very candid with me.
A few years back, the cops plowed through the woods, trashing the belongings of all the people living along the tracks. This officer told me he was one of those cops, and he told me of how he felt for the people whose stuff he was confiscating. They were orders from the city, but the cops ended up looking like the bad guys, and this officer wanted nothing to do with it. Heck, he's working this extra gig so he can make enough money. "Can't make it in this job unless you take on side jobs," he said.
Stopped at Frank's Place for the first time in a while and dropped of some food and a space heater. Frank watches over a dozen guys or more, trying his best to keep them out of trouble and find them a job. It's one of those tiny efforts to help our struggling Akronites.
We got talking after HOPE about what was the best strategy to dealing with people who are homeless. Different cities confront it differently.
Akron has placed its weight behind the Haven, which during the cold months, is packed with men lying on mats.
Jason told us about an effort in Denver to build a large apartment complex in downtown to help the people who are homeless. The city decided to take the issue on itself, show it had some interest in the people, give them a feeling of self worth.
Should there be more smaller pockets of "Havens" around that speak specifically to the small group they cater to? Is a one-size-fits-all approach comprehensive enough?
We didn't know the answer, but we figured there were dozens of combinations. Getting anything in motion seems to be the most difficult bit.
There's a lot of space under the Y-Bridge. For years it's been a forgotten, untended void in Akron.
But is it a void?
Not really. It's actually a temporary residence of some of our Project HOPE friends.
Last night, current Y-Bridge residents told us that they were informed that the area will soon be cleared for a parking lot
The layout and population under the bridge changes quite frequently. There's been Wednesdays when we've visited a dozen buddies down there, and other times we've visited one lone tent.
The wooded area in the region is prime real estate for people who are camping -- it's close to the downtown amenities -- the library, Salvation Army, soup kitchens, and the lot.
Mama hands us some Christmas cards.
Over the years, the people living in the tents have been pushed further and further from downtown as a sort of answer to homelessness.
I think it was last year when the Beacon ran stories about how the people on the corners flying a sign were a danger, a nuisance, and all out scam.
We like to demonize the poor or make them invisible -- that seems to be our answer homelessness.
No doubt, not everybody is pleasant. Not everybody is truthful. Not everybody is friendly. But these facts are universal no matter what class your judging.
Sure, I get frustrated with some of our HOPE friends from time to time. I've even quarreled with some. I do the same with other friends or coworkers, but it doesn't mean I dump on them or forget about them.
I also have students in class who I find difficult and who consistently don't want to put forth any effort, but I don't give up on them and focus on just the easy students; though, that would make my job easier.
I handed out a one-time bus pass last night to a buddy. He said, "Well, this will get me half way to work. I have to make a bus switch along the way." I handed him another. The dude wants to work, but he owns no vehicle and is bound to the bus route. Few of us would put up with such inconvenience.