"I've been letting my mind wonder at night. My thoughts should have a curfew." Am Kidd

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Without a home

Photo by Bing.com

Once in a while, during dark, snowy, cold Winter nights I think of them. As I snuggle safe in my bed surrounded by warmth and comfort I am visited by visions of those who are roaming the streets, seeking shelter under a bridge, with a newspaper for a blanket, in the company of despair. I am referring of course, to those we call “homeless.”

Perhaps because of my passionate love for my home, this particular issue strikes me quite hard. Fortunately, in the town where we live there are no homeless people. I only see them on the rare occasions when I visit New York City and this is one of the main reasons why I avoid going there. I feel guilty. I feel sad. I feel uncomfortable. I know it’s not my fault but as a person, as a human being, I can’t help but imagine myself or anyone I care for in that situation. The mere thought is horrifying. So, like most of us, I hurry past and avert my eyes. I don’t want to see their pain, whether “chosen” or caused by greater circumstances, but the visions stay with me and will surface at unexpected moments with startling clarity.

Last year during a trip to Northern Spain I was awoken by a sweet, haunting melody. I looked out my balcony and there he was. A young man, his flute, and his dogs. I was in awe of their beauty and their sad reality and I rushed through breakfast hoping to see him so I could give a donation, but by the time I left he had gone. I don’t have to look at the photograph I took to remember the scene. It just keeps coming back to me.

Spain 2009

Just the other day, while searching the web I discovered Kylyssa, a freelance writer/poet and former homeless person.  Kylyssa not only talks about her experiences, including her multiple rapes, but especially about those who helped her. It is because of these individuals that she never lost her faith in humanity. Her writings can be found at http://www.squidoo.com/inspire_by_homelessness

Kylyssa’s post reminded me of something I witnessed a couple of years ago while riding the subway in the City. It was a cold morning, the wagon was full and everyone had the closed guarded look of the typical city dwellers. I noticed a woman holding a backpack, she would open the zipper, peak inside and close it, she’d muttered to herself, then do it again. During one of the stops a young man walked in. His coat was shabby and dirty and he was very thin. He sat quietly, absorbed in deep thoughts. When it was time for the woman to alight and right before the doors opened, she approached the young man and handed him a dollar. I do believe that at that moment, time stopped briefly as he looked up surprised and uttered a muffled thank you. She just smiled and left. I held back tears, I knew in my heart I had witnessed something special. A rare moment when a perfect stranger shows the beauty of love and compassion.


  1. How heartbreaking. Your pictures and story brought tears to my eyes. xoxo

  2. These reminders (not that we need reminding if we're honest with ourselves) of the homeless (humans and animals alike) deeply saddens me. So much so, it makes me feel quite sick with guilt.

    Good post Alina. We all need to stop and think from time to time about others less fortunate.

  3. Wonderfully inspiring post..there are so mnay ways we can help others in need..great post!!

  4. Yes, I agree. It is a good post. Good photo's too, showing the very special bond between man and dog.

    Can I add a thought from the other side of coin, just for the sake of opening up the discussion.

    I used to routinely walk from Waterloo station in London through the subways, across Waterloo bridge and the Strand to the Aldwych.

    There were lots of people begging for money in this area, all apparently homeless. There were also reports in the media that some of these people were making more money in a day than I ever did. The homeless appearance was an act, well in some cases at least.

    If I'm honest, even I found that walk through "cardboard city" an intimidating experience, particularly if it was dark on the evening commute. One just stuck ones head down and went with the flow of the crowd. If you made eye-contact or engaged in any sort of conversation, you were sunk. If it was very late and the subways were quiet, I'd go out of my way to take an alternative route.

    But I wasn't being mean/nasty or whatever you are now thinking of me.

    I don't know if you have the same problem in the USA, but people do fake homelessness on the side of the pond. It seems that nothing is sacrasanct if there's an opportunity to make an easy buck (or quid).

    The UK authorities therefore tend to encourage us to give to charities for the homeless, rather than make ad-hoc donations in the street.

    The idea is to aid those who are genuinely homeless whilst reducing the nuisance and keeping the streets safer (or less threatening) for people who are innocently going about their business...

    You may be interested to hear that Prince William (our future King) has been out and about recently, sleeping out overnight with the genuine homeless in sub-zero temperatures to gain experience of the problem. He's patron of one of the major charities for the homeless...

  5. Wonderful written post and wise, thought-provoking... Thanks.

  6. TGR, I know what you mean. Here in the US we also have individuals ready to lie, cheat, and make one feel unsafe. I agree that donations should be given to specialized charities, the point is to do something about the problem. I am quite impressed to learn that your future king supports this issue. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Can I add that there is a difference between one person sitting on the street with his dogs and playing the flute (as you describe), and the high-density begging I encountered around Waterloo station.

  8. Absolutely love your blog. I'm so glad you dropped by. The photo of the girl in the snow is my favorite. So soft and amazingly warm in the cold.

  9. that photo really gets to me... we live in 21st century and we arent doing to good are we? I dont have much as hubby and I are both unwaged, but I try and do what i can. we need more generosity of spirit. thanks for sharing this post Alina. Ciao

  10. Alina, this post had somehow ducked under my radar - I'm so sorry;)

    Such a heartfelt piece of writing and so beautifully composed. Your photo speaks volumes; so often for a homeless person their dogs are the only true friends they have (and perhaps want) and I'm always so touched when I see this affection and loyalty.

    Homelessness is an awful thing and shouldn't be happening in the 21st century. I was interested to read TG Worzel's comment and having lived in London myself I can understand where he is coming from, and indeed there are fakers. But for every faker there is a genuine homeless person and they should be given the help they need to improve their lives. I agree that it has to be through donations to charities such as Shelter but also a few kind words and a hot cup of tea can go a long way too.

    Thank you for raising this issue Alina.

    Jeanne x


Albert Schweitzer said "In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit" I thank you all!