Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Homeless Woman

 I want to assure people that we are 'hanging in there'. In fact, if I was going to be perfectly honest, Tim's phone call did not warrant much of a response, not emotionally. 

"It is what it is." 

The problem is not money. The first time that Tim got laid off all those years ago, he was angry. Plain and simply angry. He made up his mind that he would NEVER be dependent on a company again. We would rely on ourselves. 

We did. We have. We've been successful at that.

The issue will be, as it always is, insurance. We are at an age where being without insurance is a very scary thing. We also are at an age where getting insurance on our own is prohibitively expensive, especially for someone with cancer in her medical history. 

So...I'll probably go back to work. Since the focus is not so much financial as it is finding a job with insurance, I can be a little picky. I want to work with children. I'd like to be part of Head Start. I think it would be very rewarding. 

Tim? Well, he's in the middle of a rehab right this minute. He'll just go back to that full time when he's done where he's at. 

Of course, we don't have a time frame for this closure. My company announced their decision to close up shop at the beginning of September. They are still closing down. Siemens is a global company and they are in the middle of projects right now. I imagine that they will finish up what they are doing before they close their doors. They'll also have to move a lot of machinery from one plant to another. So whatever happens will not happen over night.

If it takes a year to shut down, Tim and I will be just shy of turning 65 which makes us eligible for Medicare, the old folks insurance which is affordable. 

In short, we'll be fine. We'll be good. 

Today, I went to work at our food pantry. 

It was a slow day. 

Much to my surprise, I saw a woman walking past the doors. She had a huge back pack with a sleeping bag and her tent.  A skinny dog. She's wearing a long skirt, carrying two very old books, leading her dog. 

Me, being always curious, (nosy?) shot out the door right after her, 

Her name was Bonnie. She's from Georgia. She's been on the road for four years. She is a pilgrim. 

Well. That's interesting. 

Right away, you could see that there was a very disordered thought process. A rational person would not be heading north in the winter. I know we're expecting another cold snap and another storm front to move through, so I invited her in the church, to help herself to whatever she wanted from the food pantry. She and her dog came in, but she was uneasy. She didn't want food. All she eats is porridge. I offered her some packets of dried milk. 

No. She has repented of processed foods. 

"Well," I said, "What CAN we do for you? What do you need?"

And she replied, "I need someone to minister to me." 

I sat down and said, "Pull up a seat. Let's talk." 

She said that it had to be a man. "No offense," she said. 

I said, "None taken." 

She then said, "I need to leave. I am not comfortable." She went on to say that she had also repented of idols, and the crucifix (a large concrete celtic cross in the narthex)  had frightened her. She also said that her dog shouldn't be in church. 

"We don't mind. We have a couple of people who bring their dogs with them to service."

"They shouldn't, They should be worshipping."

Interesting. I didn't bother to explain about service dogs. 

I saw her out the door and wished her well. I made a call to EOC, talked to our priest who had been upstairs recording his noonday service. Turns out that the town is aware of her. She's been here for four days. People have been attempting to help her. The only thing she will accept is shelter for her and the dog. 

I finished up my morning feeling very, very fortunate indeed. I've got a roof over my head, a sound mind (no comments from the peanut gallery!) and no wondering about where my next meal is coming from. 

Not everyone has that and I saw that close up today.

Driving home, I looked for her but did not see her. I found myself wondering what had happened to her in her life to break her so completely. 

She's a poor soul, and I am not just talking about  her finances.


  1. Insurance is definitely a worry. My older daughter is finished with her post-doc this year and no jobs available in higher ed. They have a baby too which complicates matters. It sounds like you are in decent shape and will weather this storm. Many homeless people seem to struggle with mental illness and drugs. It's hard to know how to help.

  2. Sometimes we need an encounter like that to remind us how fortunate we are.

  3. We have a bag lady. She's been walking around here for the last 20-30 years, her area is maybe 100 miles radius. She has her belongings in dozens of bags, rucksacks and plastic bags she carries one by one or few at time. She carries bags just as far she still can see other bags, then goes back to pick more bags: she might get only few miles a day. If someone offers her a lift, she accepts it only if her dozens of bags fit in, too. People have tried to help her, someone gave her an apartment to live but she refused, she rather lives by the road. Sometimes she accepts an invitation to sleep inside, to habe a shower and maybe a dinner, but not always.
    Because she's not in immediate danger and she isn't herself dangerous to anyone, there's no way to force help she doesn't want to have.

  4. My mom died 13 months shy of 65 and I remember many long discussions we had over the years at how life would be less complicated once she obtained guaranteed health insurance. My parents being farmers, paid unimaginable premiums most of their lives and got shunted from one provider to the next as the whole industry collapsed upon itself. In the final two years of my mom's life, the only way she could get insurance was using the farm as a business and she being the sole employee, allowed her to access a couple companies that otherwise didn't deal with private individuals. From my own experience of paying for my MIL's insurance for five years until she became a citizen, I don't know how anyone can afford to pay full fare. Her insurance started off expensive and then rose 500% in five years.

    So it is good to know that you are almost to that point where you can put those worries behind you. I miss the old days when it wasn't such a concern.

  5. It is terrible to want to age quickly to reach the point where health care becomes affordable.
    There are so many people in the world wandering and just surviving while carrying untreated mental issues. It is sad.
    At least you have a plan for the future.

  6. I think that Bonnie might have a difficult time in this weather coming. That's my concern.

  7. I totally get where you're coming from about the health insurance. I've always had the jobs that carried our health insurance. When the retail store I was managing in 2012 went out of business, I accepted the first job that presented itself that had decent insurance benefits even though I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of the job. Turns out that was the best decision of my life--10 months after I started my husband was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. I still get chills when I consider what would have happened if we hadn't had insurance! Our healthcare system is a NIGHTMARE but of course that's a different story.

    I feel so bad for the lady you described here, but I applaud your approach to her. It sounds as if she may have some mental health issues. Poor woman. I'm grateful that she has kind people like you who try to look out for her. There but for the grace of God, you know?

  8. You and Tim have been wise in your planning and that’s why an event such as this doesn’t throw you into a tailspin. Hopefully Tim will ride this thing out until the lights are turned off and y’all will be that much closer to Medicare. At a certain point/age, we have to strategize. Yes we do well at our jobs and earn the money they pay us, but we also have to think of ourselves.

  9. Health insurance was such a problem when I was self employed. I carried a policy with a 2,000 deductible. As I approached 65, the deductible increased yearly. I think it was 5,000 at the end. But at least I wouldn't lose the house in the case of a big problem. Or at least I hoped.

  10. That is so sad. I hope she finds whatever she is seeking.

  11. Time and again when reading blogs from the US I'm glad I live in a country with a National Health Service. It's far from perfect but it does mean we don't have to worry about health expenses or insurance. It's so difficult to know what to do about homelessness, especially in the case of those who resist being helped. At least you showed her that somebody cares, which I imagine would be very important to someone in that position.

  12. Some people are not well equipped to live in modern society. It's not their fault; it just is what it is. I don't blame the indigent for being what they are.


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