Week 50 – Gary

We largely ignore the homeless. We pass by them and seldom acknowledge their existence.

And by “we”, I really mean “me”.

On Friday I was downtown for a luncheon and heading back to campus and noticed what looked to be a homeless guy on the sidewalk. I pulled my car over and had a chat with him.

Gary, who is 59 years old, was born in Omaha but mostly raised in Council Bluffs. He lived in Florida for many years and worked as a supervisor for 22 years at a furniture manufacturer until they went out of business.

Gary1Gary has never been married and says he has no interest in being married, but did live with the same woman for 15 years for a stretch while in Florida. He came back to Omaha about seven years ago because of the loss of his job and this is where he has lots of family…his mom, sister, and nieces.

Gary is now homeless and calls the Francis House his home.

At first when I approached Gary on the street, he was defensive and unsure of why I was talking to him. My guess is that homeless people aren’t approached often by people in suits who want to say hello and shake their hand. But we got past the initial uncertainty and I told Gary of my Giving50x52 and that I wanted him to be week 50 and his eyes lit up and got very big. He said, “SURE”!

Gary thought what I was doing with the Giving50x52 was a little strange (ok, a lot strange). He couldn’t understand why I was doing it or why anyone would do it. Maybe my reason is the smile it put on his face and the brief moment of excitement it gave him. In just a few minutes, I saw Gary’s mood change dramatically.

We had a good conversation. Gary told me of one of his favorite times of going to Busch Gardens in Florida. As I left, I asked him what he might use the $50 for and he said to get something to eat and to get some cigarettes.

I’m glad I didn’t ignore Gary on Friday and had the chance to meet him.

Week 3 – Mike & Bob

I’ve never spoken with a homeless person, let alone shaken their hand.

Today I had the opportunity to meet Mike and Bob (Mike is on the left in the photo). Over the past few weeks I have noticed them near a busy intersection and wondered what was their story.  When near an intersection, or sometimes in the median, Mike holds up a small, worn cardboard sign that says, “homeless vet”.

Both are homeless and struggling through life.  I asked where they stay, they said, “wherever…with friends, shelters, outside, etc.”.

Mike told me he got out of the service in 1996. Bob wasn’t in the service.  Mike is still married, but separated. His wife stays in the South O area. I asked how often they see each other and he said that they talk on the phone almost every day.  [Interesting commentary on the importance or value of a cell phone].

They both described for me the challenges they face. Difficulty in getting work, even temporary. Mounting bills. Transportation challenges. Healthcare.  [Bob has considerable back issues and had surgery last May. Now going through therapy].

I asked them what they would want me to say in my blog.  They both chimed in, “It’s hard being homeless…..damn tough.”

I asked how much they get during a day when they are at the intersection. They said that on a good day they might get $40 to $50.  So, today was a good day!

I mentioned that I work in the area, but that I hope they get on their feet….hope that I don’t see them again.  They kind of smiled and agreed.