aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Paul's story

So I went running again this morning, as I did on Thanksgiving. As I ran down the long hill of Vermont, I spotted it ahead of me, next to Gabriel Park - an older white Honda, clothes hung on a line in the back. And as I ran by, inches from his car, the guy was there again, curled up across the bucket seats, wearing a coat and a knit hat, and wrapped in one of those cheap Mexican blankets that people take to the park.

The rest of my run, I thought about him. How would you get clean? Where would you eat? Go to the bathroom? What would you do all day?

I pray when I run. It's not particularly organized. Last week I felt like God was telling me to get my eyes off my toes. It felt like that meant was I was too self-absorbed, staring down at where I was instead of looking out at the world around me. So today as I ran I prayed about this guy, and thought about him.

And when I got home, I put $20 in an envelope and a couple of muffins in a plastic bag and drove back to find him. My husband warned me to be careful. I parked across the street, next to a house that was for sale. I left my wallet in the car, out of his reach, and I also didn't lock the car, unless I needed to get back in in a hurry.

He was sitting up, reading the newspaper. I tapped on the window and he rolled it down. I told him I had seen the last few days and handed him the envelope and muffins, which he put on the dash. Then he asked, "Do you want to hear my story?"

Paul said he is 62, on Social Security Disability, and in July, his wife of 35 years left him. By August 13, he was homeless. He has enough furniture for a one-bedroom, which he keeps in a storage unit that costs him $150 a month. He said SSD is based on your income two month's prior, so while he was married he was getting only $162 a month, and even after his wife left that's all he had to live on.

Next Friday he will start getting a little less than $700 a month. He's met some guy he might be able to rent an apartment with.

He eats lunch at the Multnomah Senior Center, which "lets you have as much as you like and you get to choose." But they aren't open on weekends and holidays. He parks his car where I saw it, or in a lower lot, or by the Thriftway, because "they have nicer bathrooms." His eyes teared up when he talked about trying to keep clean. I asked him if he needed a sleeping bag, and he said no. I'm not sure what he thought was in the envelope, but when I told him it was $20, he was so grateful. He's almost out of gas, but sometimes he has to run the car because he gets so cold. (It's was around 30 this morning.)

I asked him if he would get by until next Friday, and he said, "I'll have to, won't I?" He kept saying that he never thought he would be homeless.

Get your eyes off your toes.

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