Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Distressing Disguise of the Poor

Father Kelley at St. Monica's has often told us that when people are skeptical that the devil exists, he offers them $20 to go to Broad and Snyder at 2am. "I guarantee you, you'll meet the devil within 20 seconds" he says, and anyone familiar with the area knows he's not kidding. But during the day, it's another story. Go to Broad and Snyder in broad daylight and you will see the face of Christ. You might not recognize Him at first under the layers of filth and dirty clothing, but he's there,in, as Mother Teresa reminded us, the distressing disguise of the poor. So many people today in need. And oddly enough, none of them were asking for help. Perhaps they were too down-trodden and in too much despair. In Center City, I'm familiar with a lot of the faces that haunt street corners and doorways, but I can honestly say I had never seen any of the faces that I encountered today. A man in t-shirt and shorts, with a hospital bracelet still on his wrist, emiting a putrid odor and sporting some kind of rash all over his body. An elderly woman whose gray hair was discolored from dirt, her face streaked with filth, wearing winter clothes that reeked of amonia and other bodily secretions. Where do they come from? And where do they go when you return to help them and can't find them?

It can be very discouraging for those of us who don't like to walk past anyone in need without stopping to help. I wasn't prepared for what I saw today. But it goes to show you never know when and how Christ is going make Himself known to you.

1 comment:

  1. I totally understand your feelings about this. I have worked in one of the archdiocesan residences for homeless women for the past year and a half; and I now know a tiny bit about how people can end up the way you saw on Broad and Snyder. The greatest percentage of the ones I know have some degree of schizophrenia. Of the mental illnesses, this one can keep a person kind of unaware of the fact that they are sick. Unless they recognize that the voices they hear are not real, they don't acknowledge their illness, nor will they accept help. (for the illness). Another factor is that mental illnesses don't ever seem to come in a neat package-people tend to have combinations of different things that contribute to their inability to seek help. Also-someone who has been on the street develops a routine and knows what to expect there, and has a certain amount of control over their own life.(routine is of paramount importance to them). If they have been to a shelter, or ever sought any treatment, they know they have to sacrifice the comforts they know in order to pursue wellness, IF they know they are sick at all.
    We have a lady at our residence that uses us like a hotel. She stays out on the street, panhandling, sometimes for days. She comes back with cash and tons of booty that she is paranoid about being "robbed" of. She also usually lights up the whole place(in the language of the day), causing a general uproar among the staff and ladies, until we can get her to clean up and get situated. Most of our ladies have come to grips with the rules and regs of living at our place, and the freedoms they trade for a roof and three squares. But I always suffer greatly in seeing my own deficiencies when this lady comes home from her latest foray, knowing that as much as we want to help her, she does not want our kind of "help", only a place to rest up till she can get back out there. She refuses meds, and clings to her ways, erupting in all sorts of profanities and threats to call the police in us for "robbing" her (translate: having to temporarily hold on to her bags of stuff to check for bugs, etc...a really FUN job,:P )
    I think a few of the better things that can be done for the ones still on the street are of course to pray for them, and even if they are schizophrenic, they are perfectly capable of conversation, just a hello and God Bless you, with perhaps, a sandwich or a cup of coffee. I carry numbers of shelters and crisis centers in case someone wants them. Shelters are not as daunting, and offer a place to get cleaned up and a meal, without the commitment.
    Having said all of this- the ladies at the residence where I work are mostly, sweet, funny and lovely people. They teach me things-sometimes, as above, things about myself I would rather not see, but I am blessed to know them, nonetheless. :)


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