Frost Bitten, Very Shy!

In late November 2007, I wander to the Currency Exchange to take care of some business. As I stand on the corner, people flood up to me mourning over their woes; lack of a home, the coldness of Chicago and the deepening depression of fragile lives, tormented by waves of addiction and homeless reality.

Old man Henry grieves over and seeks advice about a friend's homeless state, commenting over his own need to stay off the North Side due to elder abuse. As I listen, Donald stumbles into my path trying to start a conversation with me, telling Henry his time was up! I continued to give Henry my ears! Anxiously agitated, Donald huffs and fumes over not gaining my attention yet. Donald can barely stand and stoops hovering with his drunken cracked out stare. The sight of him is an addictive nightmare, my heart sinks and I mourn this sorry depressive sight.

People, who I have known for years, frequently interrupt my discussion with Donald. This obviously frustrates him immensely. He weeps over his homeless state and tries to formulate sentences. James (Don's closest ally) has spotted us from across the street, so he stumbles through traffic to enter our conversation. Slightly intoxicated, James informs me of Don's miserable existence, that I am a nice guy and I can't let him take advantage of me. He tells me how he needs to get into a strict treatment program - now! I agree with his rationale! James tells me stories of despair and I encourage him to use his SSI payout wisely. Don is unwilling to go to a detox at that particular moment (and I don't have the power to force anyone), so I tell him to "meet me tomorrow in a sober state". Donald slowly stumbles and wanders through the parking lot. I pray that he'll survive the night.

My encounter with Donald left me mourning the power of addiction and my inability to change him. As with anybody, it can only be Jesus! This random encounter weighs heavy on my mind!

A couple of hours pass and Aaron comes to visit. Through CDHS, we had met twice before! We sit in my office, and he tells me stories of woe and his need for shelter. Aaron has lost six toes due to frost bite and is only 41, yet in reality, he looks over 60. He tells me of his sleepless nights freezing on a local loading dock, how he has no money, except cans for recycling and how he continually prays for survival. Mental illness probably accounts for his severe lack of motivation, yet I am proud of his effort to come and see me. Through a mumbling dialogue and increased devastation, we set a few goals in an effort to escape this life of bondage. He is desperate!

Haunted by these encounters, I walk home. I'm praying!

Aaron needs help. He needs it now! He needs caring people around him and a warm bed. The Lord laid this burden on me. I venture out (with Darrell) to seek and find him at the locking dock or wherever our feet may lead. Beth was home, offering up all important prayers. We expected this mission to take hours, yet two minutes later, we find him only one block away. We walk him to the shelter and give him a bed and a plan to better his circumstances.

Fellow homeless shelter residents greet Aaron with open arms.
They are thanking God (and me) for bringing in Aaron. I get hugged repeatedly.
There is joy in the fact a bed-less brother now has a bed.
A helpless brother now has help.
A cold and weary brother now has warmth and rest.
A lonely brother now has a bunch of guys giving him the beautiful reality of community.

I leave the shelter with peace. As I walk past Aaron smoking his cigarette, fellow-shipping, he thanks me and praises the Lord for His Almighty Goodness and Love!

....that was originally written in late 2007.

It is now 2012 and I still frequently encounter Donald and Aaron as they venture in and around Uptown, and the update is encouraging. The update is miraculous. This update gives us hope....

Donald is housed and is doing well. Through networking with other agencies, we managed to get him into his own apartment, where he has been living for over 2 years. He has been responsibly paying his rent monthly. Through working on his addictions, we have reduced the serious harm that was being done to his life. He comes to see us occasionally to get some food and we encourage him to keep up the good work.

Today, I love seeing Aaron wandering around Uptown with his walking stick. When I see him, I see a miracle! I see a man who no longer looks 20 years older than what he is. Without our intervention, there is a strong possibility Aaron would now be dead, or had at least suffered more frostbite and other preventable illnesses. When he came to CCO, he had nothing except a backpack and a shopping cart full of cans, now he has a disability income and a place to call his own. When he entered our doors, we networked with other agencies, and together we helped him conquer his goals. He has been successfully housed since 2008, and he lives right across the street from me. Aaron faithfully pays his rent and it's always a pleasure to see him, give him a hug and continually support him in his quest to stay off the streets that captured six of his toes.
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