“Character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.”
This week, we’re meeting Jerry, 64 years old, and one of the homeless people who’s getting a hot meal thanks to you.
Jerry suffers from a brain injury he received in his 30s. While he used to have steady work in the restaurant industry, shortly after his injury he started having seizures. One or two seizures on the job, and his employer found a way to terminate his employment. This happened over and over again, even though it’s illegal. “They’d always say business was slowing down and they had to lay me off or something,” he says, wistful. “But I don’t blame them. I mean, it’s a liability, right? What if I injured myself on the job while having a seizure?”
With less-than-steady work, he couldn’t afford rent, so Jerry couch-surfed for a while. When a friend called him and told him he needed help with his boat, which was docked here in Port Townsend, Jerry packed up his few things and drove up from Oregon to stay with his friend and work on the boat. Both of them liked it so much, they decided to stay in town instead of moving back.
But there wasn’t enough room for both of them to live on the boat long term, and Jerry found himself out on the streets in February, with no compensation for the work he’d done, and no place warm or clean to sleep. “You just dress in as many layers as possible,” he says.
Jerry tells me that when he finally was able to get a bed at the shelter, it “felt like heaven.” He adds, “I’m so thankful for this place. You have no idea.” The good news is that Jerry hasn’t had a seizure in a long time, and he’s anxious to get back to work once COVID clears and restaurants start hiring again.
“You know, I used to be like all these other people,” he says. “I’d see a homeless person up ahead of me and I’d cross the street. I didn’t want to deal with them. But once you’re in this situation, you feel subhuman, you feel less than everyone else. Other people look at you …” his voice trails off and tears well in his eyes. “I’m just saying, if you’ve never been homeless, you don’t understand what it’s like. Try living on the street for one night and see how you do. Please just think about that before you judge us.”
Truer words have never been spoken. Being homeless is humiliating and makes you feel ashamed of just being on this planet. Trust me – I know. I lived out of my car for a mere four months.
Please remember that the homeless person you see on the street has a story, and has a heart. They may not have a roof over their heads like you do, but they deserve to be treated like a good and decent person.
If you can, please help us provide a hot meal for folks like Jerry and others this holiday season. Every bit helps, and is greatly appreciated.
And if you are getting something out of these stories, we’d really appreciate it if you forwarded this email to a friend. Maybe we can all start to make this world a better place, one email and one person at a time.