We have a continental climate. That means that it is really cold in the winter, really hot in the summer and when it rains...well, by golly, it rains hard. Being on a river we have mosquitoes.
Being a small town (Population 5211) there are not a lot of places that are open all night for street people to blend in. Even the police station closes.
That being said, we do sometimes generate a homeless person internally. Also, sometimes we get one that drifts over from a nearby community.
Well, we have one now....
She was in the restaurant where I drink coffee with "the guys".
She was there yesterday as well.
She had four of the flimsy grocery bags with her life's possessions at her feet. It was telling that one of the bags was filled with carefully folded, fleece "baby blankets". She was "resting" with her head laid upon her folded arms on the table. She was wearing a winter coat.
Yesterday, I asked her if she was OK. I wanted to get a look at her face so I could judge her age. Her face was sunburned. She looked to be about 22 years old. One gives adults more latitude than minor children.
She said she was fine.
She was there again today.
Her face was even more deeply sunburned. A couple of scabs had formed on her face that I do not remember seeing yesterday.
I called Cheryl, a family member who is smart about these things. She gave me the phone number for Lansing's Gateway Community Services. GCS is a non-profit that does intake, initial assessment and referrals for runaway children, adolescents and homeless people.
I wrote the number on a scrap of paper (877-833-3689) and gave it to the young woman. I offered her the use of my phone after she told me that she did not have one. My phone is a simple slider cell phone. She seemed baffled by its operation which makes me wonder if she is Amish or North Korean.
My normal mode of operation is "insensitive clod". I stepped up my game to "sensitive clod". I excused my intrusion by pointing out the observable, physical evidence and saying that it looked like she needed help.
I have no way to verify her story. I have no reason to. I present it here as no more than a story...one that might be true.
She had been in a domestic abuse situation.
Her two children had been placed into foster care based on the behaviors of their father. That is how she identified him, "...the father of my children..."
The abuse escalated with breath-taking speed after the children were removed. She left when he threatened suicide. Her family would not take her in.
He did commit suicide. The apartment was in his name.
Then she told me everything was fine, that her sister was coming to pick her up. This is the part of the story I am most skeptical of...where was her sister the last two days and why couldn't she sleep at her sister's home...why was she spending her nights on the streets of Eaton Rapids?
She did not call the number. She was baffled by my phone and she begged off saying that she was disoriented due to lack of sleep and that she wanted to be coherent when she called. I told her that they were used to receiving calls from people whose lives had blown up. They are patient people. She did not need to present well.
I did not push. I left her there with her bags and the paper napkin with the number written on it.
For her sake, I hope things flip right-side up in the very near future.