Monday, December 8, 2008

just another day on the street

They say you can tell a lot about a society by the way they treat their most vulnerable, the way they treat their very young, and their very old, the way they treat those who are unable to care for themselves. In Canada, for the most part, I think we like to think of the homeless as being young to middle aged, I think we tend to forget what happens when the homeless get "old".

For someone who's lived a good proportion of their life on their streets, the aging processes is accelerated. It's very hard to judge age by appearance. For example, a man may look like he's pushing 80, but upon reading his chart one can discover that he hasn't even hit 65, he's not a even a "real" senior citizen yet.

Adam is a man just like that. A man the you look at and think "wow, he's old". The thing is though, Adam is not really that old, despite displaying physical and mental signs of much increased age. Adam can barely walk anymore. He's had surgery on his legs, he's got arthritis, and general aches and pains. Arthur doesn't have a walker though, or even a cane, these things cost money. Of course, he may have had one, he may have had several, unfortunately though, they're gone now, leaving him to slowly inch his way along.

It snowed here, and Adam now has to slog his way along across streets slick with ice and through snow drifted, and piled high where the plow pushed it up against the curb. Slipping hurts when any of us do it, for Adam, slipping poses an extra danger because he can't get himself back up again. Once Adam is down, he's down, until someone picks him up again. Of course this poses a problem, because people don't generally want to go around picking up random homeless people off the ground.

Adam doesn't just sit inside and mope all day however, Adam goes out and parties with his friends, just like always. The beverage of choice? Mouthwash. Plain, old fashioned, unflavoured antiseptic mouthwash, known (and sold) on the streets as "anti". So they drink their anti, living the good life, and as the friends drift off home or to the shelter, Adam sometimes gets forgotten. This may mean an ambulance ride to the hospital, it may mean the police picking him up and sending him on his way, or sometimes, it means the drunk tank.

This week, Adam wound up in the drunk tank. It was probably the best place for him in the situation, but it sure isn't a good solution for Adam's situation. Lying on an inch thin mat, soaked in urine, reaking of antiseptic (because let me tell you, the urine of someone who has been drinking anti, after it's sat awhile smells totally horrific), and unable to get up off your mat to do anything about the situation. And so we helped him up, and found him new clothes and were ready to send him on his way, when I realized that Adam was never going to make it across the street to the place he stays. Fortunately, it was quiet, and I walkd him from our door to their door.

But see the thing is Adam shouldn't have to live that way... but, would he chose to live any differently?

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I think you should write a book about your experiences.

Have you ever read Torey Hayden?

She is educational psychologist, a former special education teacher, a university professor and a writer of nonfiction books based on her work with special-needs children.

Torey's books are powerful and mesmerizing, and readers come away with a deeper understanding of special needs children.

I think that you could be the Torey Hayden for homeless adults.