Like many of the broken souls I’ve talked to downtown who went off the rails at some point in their lives, the whole world is on it’s way to following suit as the majority of us by now are at least a shade or two more paranoid and tense than we were prior to sheltering in place.
What was fear about how we were going to wipe our asses has been replaced with fear over whether-or-not there is going to be enough food to go around in the coming weeks. Tack on thirty million-plus to the unemployment roster, and what looks like a lot of people living on the streets right now might seem tame in comparison come Christmas.
Downtown seemed asleep and in pain during week VI of the shutdown. Pockets of the city absent of people evoked childhood fears of monsters, super-powered serial killers, and apocalyptic disasters derived from too much time spent watching horror movies at a tender age back in the 70’s.
Most places I went seemed quieter than the past few weeks. Everyone I used to talk to was gone. I wonder where they went. I worry that an unseen monster may have gotten them. The sight of a grown man rollerblading down Capital Avenue in front of Saint John’s church as if nothing was happening made me pause and think, maybe everything’s going to be alright after all.
Then, I started meeting people.
At the Pan Am plaza, I ran into a man named Ron who blamed himself for ending up on the streets and reminisced about life in the military. From war in the Persian Gulf to fighting against his own thoughts, I wondered how it could have gone so wrong for someone with such a likable nature eager to talk and share his story
After my encounter with Ron, there were more stories. Sad stories from sadder people. Sometimes even I have to cut and run.
As much as I would like to solve homelessness and help people get off the streets, I find myself as incapable of helping others get off the streets as they are often incapable of getting themselves off the streets. Sure I can give them resources and point them to where they can find more, beyond that, all I can do is listen, document, and pray.
While seeking the streets for shots and angles, I search my soul for purpose and meaning. The pandemic hasn’t broken it. In fact, it feels stronger than since I can remember. Though I’m not sure where all rolling around is leading, my instincts tell me to listen, document, keep pushing through, and most importantly, never give up on people.