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A Night With the Homeless (a poem)

Was one of a group of volunteers last night part of the Out of the Cold, a local initiative among 15+ congregations to provide shelter to local homeless between October and May. I have volunteered with OOTC over the years and it is always an honor to meet the men and women who coordinate the program and the guests whose dignity and strength I come to admire each time.


What to bring with you to the homeless shelter.

Tupperware containers. A pillow if you have one. A partner if you have one.

Cell phone. Charger. Dirty laundry.

Ziploc bags. Trash bags. Duffle bags. Backpack. Suitcase with roller. Containers for leftovers.

What you own is what you can carry.

You work at McDonald’s and the Waffle Shop. A job but no home to return to. You are engaged to be married, but no home. I guess love doesn’t need a roof.

Someone brought UNO cards. Bluetooth speaker plays Reba. Laughter comes easy. We stack them: Draw Two becomes Draw Four becomes Draw Six. The cards can literally be stacked against you. Humor pushes back; hope draws from the withering pile.

Was 16 degrees this morning. Warm up the van. Grab an old scone and some coffee.

On the way back, we listen to Christmas music on the radio. One of the guys wanted to hear it. The old song sings about chestnuts roasting and stockings hanging and spirits lifting…and all this happens in a home--in somebody's home. Made me uncomfortable, but not for their sake, for mine.

I'm going to the office today and I'm thinking of each of them and where they might be. I know some of them are at work. Others might be at the library, a good place to stay warm.

I felt bad winning UNO.

Because haven't I won enough



Get involved with Out of the Cold or the efforts in your area to comfort those without shelter.

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