You probably thought this was another one of my soapbox speeches about the city of Little Rock’s actual desire for ending homelessness. It’s not. Maybe another day.
This one is about not listening to my wife actually. Most of the time I do. Most of the time I listen to her and take her advice and good things happen.
In the 15 or so years that I’ve known her, this is how it worked. She spoke, and either I listened and good things happened or I didn’t and bad things happened.
This week proved no different.
Tuesday night was the Point-in-Time Homeless Count that takes place every two years. Much like most nights we looked for people in camps, under bridges, and all through the alleys.
One person we found was sleeping, balled up in a blanket, behind Juanita’s. I parked the van and slowly approached the person, careful not to startle them. I announced myself as always with a couple of friendly hellos. They didn’t respond. Even as I got closer and a little louder.
I could see them breathing, and knew that they were either sound asleep or possibly afraid of who might be walking up on them.
It was about 55 degrees that night and the weather was clear and mild. The blanket that wrapped them was actually a really thick comforter, which would provide plenty of warmth in that particular night’s climate.
Since they seemed ok, I placed a bag full of food and hygiene products beside them and we moved along.
The next night was a planned date night for my wife and I, since she would be heading to Tampa for a few days the next morning. We went to dinner and just had a relaxing time to ourselves. She mentioned that she would like to go by and check on that person and give them a sleeping bag before we went home.
She actually mentioned it twice.
I wish I had listened. But instead I went home and crawled in bed.
Sunday morning that man was found in that same spot. Dead.
Police report no foul play. The weather has been abnormally warm the last several days, so freezing couldn’t have been a factor. Cause of death is unknown until the conclusion of the autopsy, hopefully today.
Regardless of the cause of death, I can’t help but beat the shit out of myself for not going back to check on him, like my wife had suggested.
Yesterday I revisited the spot where we found him, and where he would later die. I didn’t know whether to throw up, or scream at the top of my lungs.
How could I have been so negligent? This is what I do. Day in, day out. I find people, and address their needs.
I had found him, yet never addressed his needs whatever they may have been.
The night that we found him, I tweeted this:
Point in Time homeless count went ok. Praying I never lose this passion for finding that one overlooked person sleeping in an alley.
Today I pray that I have more passion for addressing their needs, once I find them.
I kept a piece of the police tape from the spot where he died. It will serve as my reminder that anybody can identify a person in need. But we are called to address those needs. The time in which we have to do that, is always limited.