It’s -41, my daughter gave her lunch to a homeless child and the world hurts my heart today.
Shortly after lunch, my phone rang. I glanced over, expecting it to be a client. My daughter’s number — I pick up.
She’s upset. Just the way she said Mom, I know.
I’m a Mom. We know in one word.
“What happened?” I ask.
She was out picking up supplies for a class that starts this week. Grabbed a portable lunch, one of those meat and cheese bundles that delis make.
When she walked out of the deli, there he was.
A child, though she didn’t know that at first.
A lump wrapped in a blanket is what she saw.
It was -36* not accounting for the wind chill.
She stopped. Said hello. Asked if he had somewhere to get out of the cold.
Two eyes peered up at her. He said he’ll go to the children’s center, but they don’t open until 3:30. You know, after school.
“How old are you???” she asked.
I didn’t have to be there to know what her face looked like when she heard the words children’s center. Fighting tears, I know. Still was, when she called me.
He pulled off his hat and a little round face peered at her. 15, he said. Her brain was screaming liar, liar, that little face isn’t 15 yet.
“He didn’t look 15, Mom,” she said. “He was a child. Just a child.”
So she gave him her lunch. He ate it ravenously. Told her it was delicious. Turns out the children’s center is only open from 3:30–9 pm, but they serve food at 5, so he goes there to eat and warm up for a while.
She asked him where he’s going to sleep. He said a man lets him sleep in his unheated garage, and if he can pay $20, the man will let him run a portable heater all night.
Somehow, I suspect that man needs the $20. A man that doesn’t desperately need the $20 wouldn’t be renting out an unheated garage to a homeless kid.
So he panhandles a little. Just to earn enough to get the portable heater. But the man has to move soon, so he’s not sure what he’s going to do after that.
She stayed a while. Talked to him. He said some of the store owners have called the police or social services. They tell him to shove off, so he does.
That’s what they do with homeless people and panhandlers. Tell them to move along, stop bothering people. People who are going shopping don’t want to have to see homeless lumps on the street, you know.
My heart was breaking. You don’t really have to wonder too hard to imagine what he ran away from that makes living on the streets at -36* a better option. You know?
She told him she’s so sorry. Said she wished she could be more help. He thanked her for stopping to ask and for the food.
At -36* with a mild wind, exposed flesh freezes in 30 minutes. So he pulled the blanket up to cover everything except the little eyes peering out.
It’s not just him. There are 2.5 million homeless children in America. One in 30 children. Think about that. For every classroom of kids, there’s one child missing because he or she lives on the street.
No idea how many there are in Canada. We don’t bother to count them, here.
She walked away, looking over her shoulder with tears in her eyes. Her vehicle was a block away. On that block were 3 churches, doors locked up tight.
In this city alone, there are 171 churches. Of them, the number who open their doors to give shelter to homeless people is exactly and precisely — zero.
We looked up the list of shelters, most of whom are filled beyond capacity with no room for more. Not a single church on the list. Why is that?
Would it be so horrible to let homeless people take shelter in churches, given that churches don’t have to pay taxes? Give a little back so to speak?
But no. That’s not the world we’ve built. We’ve built a world where people don’t want to see homeless people, police are more concerned with getting them to shove off than trying to help those who are most down trodden among us. And age doesn’t even matter if you’re not white.
My daughter is sound asleep, and here I sit, watching the temperature plummet. It’s -41 right now. Exposed flesh will freeze in 10 minutes and the world we’ve built hurts my heart today.
❤ Thanks for reading.