A Tough Time of Year for Homeless People

By Raymond Jacobs   

The holiday season and homelessness is not a great thing.  Most people sit at home eating pumpkin pie, drinking schnapps , having a good time, while people on the streets are barely surviving.  They panhandle or sell the paper or whatever it takes to get a dollar to survive.  Behind every person there is a story.  My story is about a guy named “Mike” who went to college and graduated.  He had a good paying job, a nice car and one day he decided he was going to take his mother to work.  That day turned his whole life around.

He had a car accident.  His mother was killed.  It was Christmas eve about 15 years ago.   Mike became homeless, a derelict, a drunk, a bum.  He hangs around the near West Side of Cleveland.  Never got his life back together after that. He blames himself.  Every holiday season, he talks about how he is going to kill himself.  Even among the homeless, the holiday season is a time for a large number of suicides.  Mike has no one to see or spend time with or visit.  He lost his Mom and everyday he blames himself for her death.

All of his friends know that it is not his fault.  I have called the crisis intervention number many times for him.  They have talked to him.  I just don’t know what to do for him.   He has no family left and no one to turn to but himself.  His mother’s death was a tragedy and every day of his life he blames himself.  He is still homeless today.  For 15 years he has been homeless.  He goes into shelter and back in the day he stayed at Project Heat.  He has gone to VOA.  He only eats one meal a day.  Every dollar he gets he uses for alcohol. 

He stays off to himself during the holidays. He is alone and does not talk to anyone especially during Christmas.  If you have no one to turn to, you are really in trouble.  He ain’t a bad guy.  He has his problems.  He blames himself for his mother’s death.  I have seen Mike help out stranded cars and never asked for a dime.  Unlike most homeless people, he picks up trash and tries to keep the area clean.  He runs stuff to the garbage can. 

I have been there and get depressed, especially during the holidays.  You feel so lonely and all alone.  You feel abandoned.  I know what he is going through.   You feel like nothing is there.  It is not like a normal time of year.  Every holiday you feel alone.  Like no one else is around and there is no one but other drunks to talk to.   It brings a wave of depression and suicidal thoughts.

I think that just talking to Mike would help.  I think that taking a little time to interact with homeless people would help.  I don’ think people should give Mike and other panhandlers money, but they should talk people more.   It would help Mike and other homeless people if more people were friendly.  Time out of their life might get these guys to realize that others care.  It might get him into a program or get him to talk to a psychiatrist or some doctor.    

Copyright Street Chronicle/NEOCH FEBRUARY 2014 Cleveland OHIO