Officer Alex spends a couple of days in social service.
Six hours. Six hours is how long they had been waiting on the side of the road in the darkness of Hamilton County where streetlights weren’t even an afterthought and sidewalks did not exist.
I’d checked on them as an afterthought on the way home since it met my general criteria of persons that were “stranded”, meaning they were not near a house or an operational business. (You’re not exactly stuck in a blizzard near the peak of K 12 when you have a Kangaroo convenience store within a quarter mile, after all.)
Tonight’s couple, however, had run out of gas in the hinterlands, between what is known as Birchwood and “downtown” Harrison, where the two gas stations and a large church are. They were a couple in their late 20s, but just dirty enough and gun-shy enough to tell me they had been around the law plenty in their lives and the taste in their mouth over such was nasty.
They did not trust cops and clearly did not like them, but just as clearly they were screwed and willing to give me a shot since I had just awoken them from a poorly reclined slumber wrapped in mismatched comforters in their 1996 Honda. Which apparently ran on love, since gasoline was nowhere to be found inside of it.
The truth? I told them to hang on and ran to my house, from whence I returned with a three-gallon can of gasoline topped off with precious non-ethanol fuel intended for my lawnmowers. I emptied it into their tank after verifying the distance of their destination, so as to not cause them to be stranded yet again, and went about my merry business.
The woman assured me her child support check should arrive tomorrow and she would gladly repay me, but I waved her off as I would any questionable debt and told them they gave us money for this kind of thing all the time. “They” didn’t, of course, but it really was no big deal. I was asleep 30 minutes after that point, and very likely they were a factor in such. Fair trade.
This happens from time to time and so it was not given much thought—until the next night during a civil dispute. I was required through circumstance to help someone find an alternate means of residency.
The woman in this case had burned every known bridge like her feet were made of kerosene and her mouth was made of fire, but character is not an issue when it comes to sheltering a fellow human being, and so I set about to do so.
Yet...shelter after shelter, church after church—all the rooms were full. It was first-come, first-serve, or it required a referral for a specific problem, such as narcotics. I used every resource the city had to offer, but at the end of the day the only thing I could offer was the relatively safe harbor of an extremely public venue with access to power outlets and a degree of shelter, and a $10 bill from my wallet while she continued to bargain her way into her next residence, as I had just bargained to get her into temporary housing.
It doesn’t exist, that “temporary housing.”
As it turns out, the churches feel the same way about truly homeless people as you do about a buddy on your couch who just won’t leave after the second or third (or 10th) week.
The churches are willing to help, but they are also aware that these temporary guests have no motivation to leave, and therefore will not do so, becoming a ward of the church from that point forward. And so?
The churches quit playing that game as politely as possible. So here I was, giving a woman money out of my pocket and advice on where to stay and how to act in this fairly unforgiving world. I felt defeated, and I was the one that still had a house to head to. Ugh.
You should forecast your lodging by the way you treat people (as well as the money you have). Be prepared to take a long walk to a convenience store when the need arises and the light fails.
But when push comes to shove? Know that there are probably still a few Crown Victorias cruising around with folks willing to walk through the valley with you, if for just a few steps.
It’s not much, but neither is anything else these days, judging by the last two I’ve had.