I see him in the Albertson's grocery store lobby, on the bench. That's the only place I've ever seen him. He's lanky, dressed in loose, sloppy, but clean clothes. He's white, with a long, leathered face, a gray and white beard with matching long hair still shot with brown, and large, watchful and unblinking brown eyes. He wears a baseball hat advertising farm equipment.
I've been seeing Ed for a few years but I only learned his name about a year ago. I don't shop much, and Albertson's is a secondary store, a destination only when my usual places don't have what I need or want. Ed is usually reading a book. He's quiet, diffident. I've always giving him a few dollars if I had them on me. Giving money to others is a habit. They say you shouldn't give money to the homeless or beggars, that many are con artists, alcoholics, or drug abusers. Maybe Ed is one of these things but he's always been polite and well-mannered in our exchanges.
I worried more about Ed this year as the weather changed and the evening temperatures started dropping. I wondered what he did on those nights. I don't know the store hours but I'm sure they won't let him sleep in the lobby. My wife and I talked about it. She sees Ed more than I do. She worries about him, too. We wanted to do something 'nice' for him.
Another friend, Diana, told my wife that her church was conducting a homeless outreach project as a holiday project. Diana was directed to go to Uncle Foodies and talk to the the people there, coming in to be fed, and learn their situation and how the church might be able to help. Diana didn't like that approach. Instead, she went and spoke with Ed, and others like him, who are not at Uncle Foodies.
Ed is not as old as he looks. He's wary about giving out information. It seemed to Diana that he'd been homeless for decades, that he left home for 'reasons' that are undefined, leaving us guessing. He seemed lucid. Ed doesn't smell. I've never seen him drink, and I've never seen him drunk. Diana shared the same impressions.
She did learn from Ed that when it's cold, he goes to the Knight's Inn Motel, if he has the money. The Knight's Inn is up on the road in the same shopping center. Diana confirmed that with the motel. They know him there.
I just learned this from Diana in the last two days. The temperature dropped into the high teens one night two weeks ago. I wondered about Ed and went to Albertson's to look for him and talk to him, but he wasn't there. I started to go in and talk to the employees about him, but I'm cautious. He might be tolerated and comments from a customer might set someone off. I've been burned that way in other situations before. You never know how someone will react.
It turned out that on that cold night, when he didn't show up at the Knight's Inn, they also worried about him. They went out and looked for him. They found him and let him sleep in a room for free.
It's good to know all these people are creating a de facto network looking out for Ed. As part of my solstice thinking last night, I decided I'm going to talk to Albertson's employees about him. There are a few that are friendlier, who I trust more. I'll watch for them, and approach them.
My wife and I also decided we'll give him a gift card to the store so Ed can buy some food, and arrange for him to stay in the Knight's Inn for a few nights. I also want to give him some books. I don't know how he gets them so that's something I'l ask him. He was reading Michael Crichton the last time I saw him, last week.
These are small steps, but they're a start. We'll see what happens next.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com