Trinity Out-Reach Center of Hope

My Night as a Homeless Person, by Mark Christiansen

My Night as a Homeless Person

The night began as it may for many homeless people, if they are lucky, with a bowl of hot soup served in a church. A warm refuge from the cold outside with warm companionship as well. We talked and heard about how things could be better at some time in the future. Then the meal and the talks were over and the church was locking up. I couldn’t stay there in its warm embrace for the night.
My old van is still running although it squeaks and coughs and many parts quit functioning long ago. In it, I had an old recliner someone gave me with the back taken off to make it fit. I turned it around and put the footrest all the way up to have a place for my head. With a gifted quilt and a couple of old pillows, I fashioned a bed for the night. The outer shirt I had on was too much under the covers, so I peeled it off. I kept my knit cap on and replaced my hard shoes with some slippers that were more like booties, covering my head and feet to try to keep them warm. I’m grateful to have the van for sleeping instead of being out in the wind and snow.
For a while, I entertained myself with some card games. As I got tired, I turned on a portable radio for relaxing music to help me block out the thoughts on my current condition and be able to fall asleep. My sleep was interrupted after an hour or so by the urge to urinate. After confirming the church was locked, I drove over to an all-night gas station which was luckily just across the street. The melted snow had left puddles of water in front of the place so when I stepped out of the van, my socks got wet and I didn’t have another pair to put on. Although I put my slippers back on to go to bed, the cold had been invited in as wasn’t going to leave.
I was warm enough in my makeshift bed for a while. When the temperature dipped below freezing, there was a cold tingling on the end of my nose. My feet were shivering due to my wet socks. All of a sudden, my quilt was not enough. I had kept an emergency throw blanket in the van and tonight was such an emergency. I wrapped it around me tucking my shoulders under it to snuggle in for some more sleep.
In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up again to go to the bathroom. By this time, the condensation on the windows from my warm breath had frozen. I had to run the van for a while using precious fuel in order to defrost the windshield. I drove to the all-night gas station by looking through the bottom part that was clear and running over a curb I did not see in time. Luckily, there were hardly any cars on the road. It was harder to get back to sleep this time, but finally, exhausted, my eyes closed and I drifted off.
Somehow, right at the appointed time of 6 AM that this experiment was to be completed, I woke up. I didn’t see any one else stirring, so once again, I ran the van to defrost the windshield. I had enough money to go buy a sausage biscuit. I came back and saw two of the others ready to leave. I found out that some had left earlier in the night. For us, living outside was over. For those without a home, this does not end until they get some help.
I can now go back to my soft bed in my temperature controlled house with the garage that keeps frost off my windshield. I can turn the TV to any channel I want and get on the Internet with my own computer. I can walk ten steps to a flushable toilet in a bathroom with hot water. From this experience, I have a little more appreciation for the comforts in my life and although I may be jobless now, I will not be homeless.

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