A Homeless Anecdote

Last week, I went out for a haircut appointment.  It was a three-block walk in the pouring rain.  On the way I passed a homeless guy sitting in a wheelchair, his wheelie suitcase nearby, under the eave of a commercial building.

When I walked home, the guy still was sitting there and the rain had calmed down a bit, but the weather was still wet and cold.

I don’t give money to homeless people anymore, but I try not to be a complete jerk.

So I went into a liquor store and bought a pre-made turkey sandwich.  Then I went across the street to the library branch and located its entrance ramp.  I went inside the library and told a clerk I was going to bring a wet homeless guy in his wheelchair inside.  I said that I hoped there would be no objection if the poor guy quietly consumed his sandwich in the food-free zone.  She snarled a little, but finally  nodded.

Then I took the sandwich to the homeless guy and offered to push him to the library. No, he said, he wasn’t wet and preferred to sit where he was.   Then he gave me his life story, including his extensive experiences with Buddhist groups and reincarnation, his disappointments with the local Catholic charities homeless program and his participation in film productions at the local universities, UCLA and USC.  Plus a lot more.

Maybe he needed to talk for 45 minutes, but I wanted to go home and put on some dry shoes.  Finally I bade him adieu and offered my best wishes.


Today I walked to the Whole Foods store to buy dinner provisions.

On my way home, I passed the same same homeless man walking the other way.  He was pushing his wheelchair with his wheelie suitcase in it, and he was wearing the same pair of oddly decorated headphones he had been wearing when I gave him the sandwich.

He didn’t recognize me, which probably was just as well.

Sometimes I feel like a sucker.

3 thoughts on “A Homeless Anecdote

  1. Don’t feel that way. He needed someone to talk to and a sandwich. You did the right thing. That being said, lately I have noticed a large number of homeless, pan-handlers, whoever, sitting in wheel chairs. Many of them are propelling themselves with their feet, not using the footrests, and I have seen many of them get up and change places with someone else who is walking. I have become very skeptical of the homeless in wheelchairs unless they appear to have at least 1 amputated leg. i jûst wonder they are finding all the wheelchairs to use. Tonight I saw one man using a rather nice stroller to carry his stuff. With the canopy, it probably kept their stuff drier.


    1. I do the food thing more often in Nashville, where few if any of the homeless use meth. Talking with them feels like a more human exchange.

      Here, too, a wheelchair is a handy prop for beggars. There was one that lived for a very long time at an “encampment” near the grocery store. Most of the time it just sat there, empty. Last fall, the neighbors and the store and the PTA at the ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ACROSS THE STREET convinced the cops to start hassling the guys, which drove them somewhere else.

      I hate thinking about the poor people whose wheelchairs must have been stolen from doctors’ offices or hospitals, or out from under them.


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