Alyssa sat on the curb at the end of the Macy’s parking exit. Cars would drive by on the main road raising dirt and grime to be deposited on Alyssa’s exposed hands and poncho. It was raining: the dirt became mud which caked her hands and face. She was sitting on her knees under a translucent plastic full-body poncho holding a tattered cardboard sign with one word: “HOMELESS”. Alyssa was detached from the world around her, simply staring at the ground as people walked by her not seeming to notice her. She wasn’t wearing a mask; this pandemic is the least of her concerns.
I saw her sitting there on the curb as I pulled my car out of the Macy’s parking lot. As I turned away, I couldn’t shake that look of resignation on her face. I drove back determined to do what I could to help her. I walked up to her, myself wearing a mask, prepared to buy her dinner and a place to stay for the night at a nearby hotel. I walked up to her and crouched so as to look her in the eyes, she didn’t notice me at first. I asked her in a clear and loud voice, “What can I do to help you? Can I buy you dinner? Can I get you a hotel room to stay for the night?” She seemed so surprised that anyone even noticed her let alone try to give her more than a few dollars.
As we walked to the nearby Chipotle she told me so much about her life, that she had a child in the state’s care, that she couldn’t stay at a women’s house because of the rampant drug use, that she was staying at a Motel 6 now needing at least $60 to merely keep a roof over her head, that she was religious and talked faith with everyone. It was clear that life was just beating her down. Most saddening to me was that her voice and thought processes seemed addled by drug-use, likely illicit methamphetamines. However desperate her situation, she’s still human which is why I felt compelled to try and help.
I gave her a double-bagged bag of food from Chipotle that would last her for a day or two. I told her to take care of herself as I impatiently tried to depart, now late to a commitment with my sister. As I walked away in the rain, now pouring down, she exclaimed to me “Jesus loves you! He really does! Jesus loves you!” Unable to show her the warm smile under my mask, I gave her two-thumbs up. Housing is a human right, access to food is human right, healthcare is a human right, and we must do everything we can to care of folks who aren’t in a position to take care of themselves.
© Pramod Kotipalli 2021
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