It’s been officially autumn now for six or seven weeks. This means that winter is just around the corner. In this area, winter brings with it temperatures that are less temperate – and rain.
Although there haven’t been any heavy rains as of yet, the past few nights have seen temperatures that have been dropping. Early mornings you can see your breath. For those homeless who are lucky enough to get a bed at the shelter the weather is only a minor inconvenience. For those who must sleep out of doors the weather is a threat.
There are going to be homeless men, woman and children who will find themselves scrambling to find places where they can sleep both dry and semi-warm. They will be looking for out of the way places. Places where they won’t be seen. Places where they are less likely to be harassed by the police. Places where they can avoid being hassled by non-homeless person. Places where they can try to find comfort.
Some of those who are fortunate enough to have vehicles will try finding darkened streets where they can sleep in the back seat. Some of the homeless families who have vehicles, will be sleeping cramped together in sitting positions. As the temperatures drop even lower some of the will find themselves waking up in the middle of the night to start the engines and run the heater for a few minutes at a time.
Some of those who have been homeless for longer periods will have already found a place to set up their tents in makeshift camps. Their struggle will be to make sure that their tents remain as waterproof as possible. They’ll use tarps, plastic garbage bags, and any other item they can think of to keep themselves and their belongings dry.
Blankets and sleeping bags are being stockpiled to provide warmth throughout the colder nights. Some are stockpiling candles that they will use to "heat up" their tents when the weather gets too cold. Warmer clothing is also being gathered.
Some are creating personal stores of canned food. All of it will be the types of food that doesn’t need to be cooked. When the rainy season begins they won’t be able to be out and about as often as they can during the summer hunting through dumpsters and trash cans for aluminum cans and plastic bottles to take to the recyclers.
Those who will have to face the rains, if they’re lucky enough, will wearing rain ponchos and carrying umbrellas. Those who aren’t as fortunate will wear plastic trash bags. Everyone will try to keep what belongings they must carry with them as dry as possible.
In this geographical area, the homeless are luckier than most. They won’t have to brave the snow as many homeless in other parts of the nation will.
I think in particular of a homeless gentleman who I’ve become friends with through e-mails that we’ve sent back and forth. He’s a homeless veteran. He also writes a blog. His home is currently on a mountain side in New Mexico. He’s told me that he’s been experiencing temperatures in the 20’s on his mountain.
I worry about him. I worry that he may not be warm enough at night. I worry that he’s not eating properly. He mentioned that he doesn’t eat as well as he used to and has lost quite a bit of weight. I worry that his health will be severely affected as a result. Out on that mountain alone, there will be no one to help if he’s injured.
Although I’ve never met him, I hope that one day I’ll have the honor of shaking his hand and saying:
"Well met, my friend…"