I had an interesting confrontation yesterday with a man in a wheelchair as I was waiting to meet friends for breakfast. I was standing on the sidewalk looking for my friends, as I had arrived early to request a table as they didn’t take reservations. It was as I was waiting that I was approached by a man in a wheelchair, who said hello. At first he seemed chipper and friendly, and I had no assumptions of him being homeless. He seemed surprised that I said hello back and continued on by asking how my day was.
Well, yesterday I woke up with minimal pain and was in a great mood after having had a solid 8 hour of sleep, something I hadn’t had in months. I told the man I was in a great mood and he stopped pushing his wheelchair along and clearly wanted to talk. He appeared harmless so I didn’t see any reason to avoid him. He stated that his name was Kim and that he was in fact homeless.
Kim’s appearance was cleaner than most homeless people I have encountered here in Hawaii. Our state has had a very serious problem with the increasing number of homeless population and we are recorded to be the worst in the country. When encountering many of them they are often unwashed and have a very bad odor from their unhygienic ways, but this man in front of my had his hair and beard brushed, his clothes appeared fairly clean, and he didn’t give off a bad smell. In fact I would have never guessed him to be homeless if he didn’t tell me.
In our conversation he told me how he has been living. He goes to a local church everyday for what he called “guidance”, he eats all his meals at a place called the River Street Mission, and he said he takes a shower everyday at the beach. At night he slept in his wheelchair in parks.
After telling me about his life he went on to say he wished he had a magical genie lamp and that he would ask for three things. He repeated this litany several times to me. Kim wanted more income, a wife to take care of him, and to work again. Upon hearing this I asked what income he had now and he stated that he received partial social security from the state in the amount of $700 a month. But that “crazy people” often stole the money from his pockets while he was sleeping. I asked him why he kept the money in his front pockets if it kept getting stolen there but he didn’t want to answer. He told me because of the thefts he was often hungry and I asked if he thought of applying for food stamps. In his situation he would surely be given them. But his answer was that he didn’t want to “wait in that office”.
Well that was a surprising answer. If you were starving and homeless wouldn’t you do whatever it takes to help yourself? And you have all the time in the world to wait in that office. Where did he need to be??
I offered him a second suggestion of keeping his money in his back pocket at nights when he slept. It was unlikely someone would push him out of his chair just to see if he had anything in his back pockets. His money could be safer this way. Kim’s response to this was “that’s too uncomfortable”. I’m sorry, but are you kidding me?? Would you rather someone steal your $700 than sleep comfortably??
He then restarted his litany of wanting a wife and more money and this is when our conversation took a turn as he started to get more aggressive in his statements. I could see he clearly had some form of mental illness as he stated he used to be a hostage negotiator for the Hussein family in the 70s and often dined with the Bush’s at the White House. Eventually I said my goodbyes and went inside as I could do nothing for this man. But the entire conversation made me think. In fact it stayed with me all day and well into the night.
I understand that for many homeless they do not have too many options. They either don’t have friends or family, have been down and out on luck and lost jobs and housing, and many suffer mental illness as Kim did. But I have to wonder how many of them really try to better their situations. Last year I too faced homelessness. I didn’t have any friends or family I could stay with any longer. Upon realizing this, however, I worked hard to not let that happen. I started a donation page that eventually paid for six months of rent on a small apartment. I also have been receiving food stamps and financial aid from the state for almost two years now. Anyone can apply, and they give more money to the homeless and those with critical situations.
I wonder how many of these homeless people who complain about their destitute situations actually try to better themselves. It takes just a day to go down to that state office and apply. Sure it’s tedious, but you leave with financial help, albeit small, but help all the same. Even $100 a month could still be helpful. And I know a family with three kids that receive close to $600. If you’re in that bad a situation with no food, why wouldn’t you help yourself and your family by trying to get aid that the state so willingly gives? And if you have a medical condition or children the state also gives financial aid.
I may have a better situation than most, it’s true. But I worked hard to get it. I asked everyone I could possibly ask for help. I swallowed my pride and I did things that were hard. But I had to to survive. I receive food stamps and financial aid from the state in very small amounts. The financial aid doesn’t even cover my bills, and I have to rely on the charity of others for necessities like toilet paper and toothpaste. I’m still trying to collect donations for rent even though I rarely receive any these days. My days are numbered in my apartment but you better believe I will do WHATEVER IT TAKES to keep that roof over my head and the food on my table. Comfort be damned.
Now, I’m not saying that all homeless people are like Kim in that wheelchair. I have no doubt that many suffer from illness that probably keeps them from mentally being able to look after themselves. But I also see those homeless encampments like at the Kaka’ako Waterfront where there are 300 people set up in tents and pan handling and begging for money and food. I wonder if they have done all they can to better their situations before just resorting to begging. I’ve heard many homeless complain that they deserve better and that they are entitled to more. Well, that may be true for some. But how many of them are actively looking for work, or getting down to that state office and asking for help from the state? Are they trying to help themselves or are they just expecting handouts and a life for free?
Ive been really lucky for sure. But you better believe Ive worked hard to make that happen. I have no genie in a bottle, no all powerful deity helping make my dreams come true. If I want something or need something I work to get it. I exhaust all my options before giving up. And I have to honestly say that I haven’t gotten to a point where I’ve given up yet. My hard work has paid off. I’ve asked for support and been given it. I’ve applied for everything I need and have reaped the benefits. If I can do it, why can’t they?
If you would like to help support me financially or otherwise please visit my donation page: Christine Lilley’s Life Fund. Or message me at email@example.com