Nate and Kate
I’d decided to volunteer this holiday time as my son would be with his father, rather than waste away my days with lonesome boredom and self pity. I was well aware I needed these people I would be helping, possibly more than they needed me. I needed them to let God keep my heart soft and useable. I collected donations from Judy of Masellis Treasure Chest http://masellistreasurechest.net/ for the Northland Homeless Christmas Day outreach. Amongst the donated treasure were women’s clothes, a bible, toiletries, and baby clothes. Yes, baby clothes.
I was out the night before with my new friend Jarek, a tall, fun loving Czech, visiting the local bars. I didn’t really want to go, but agreed to go out for an hour or so. Jarek was excited to see some friends of his. No I wasn’t drinking. I made myself the designated driver. Isn’t this where Jesus would be? Out, observing, feeling and overwhelmed with compassion for the beautiful need of humanity? That’s what I was looking for and that’s what I got. Out among the lonesome… those with out the warmth of a hearth filled with love or family and a tree, the thoughts of which overwhelm with awareness of their lack, or the story of a God who loves them with every breath they breathe, though unaware they may be of that unconditional eternal outflow.
So…This morning getting up was hard…but I’d made an internal commitment. Northland needed people for their outreach, not to hand out food, but to socialize with the homeless of Orlando. I didn’t have to sign a sheet committing my name. They sent me the sheet with directions for the event and said, “show up and fall in.”
Strange how the lack of commitment to a formal list, compelled me to a higher level of commitment.
So I drove to Eola, dropped off the donations and proceeded to park. The walk towards Eola gave me time to contemplate what I was stepping into. I felt naked. Out with Jarek, I was well protected. I was free to smile and “Merry Christmas” as many desolate, hungry souls as I wished. Next to 6 feet 5 inches of smiling Czech I had no worries. But now, in broad daylight, in a public venue, with no wing man the tables felt topsy turvy, and I had to step up my spiritual game to find courage. In other words internally I was on my knees and scared shitless.
As a nurse, I’m educated, from a textbook, on the needs of the homeless. I’m also aware of the aspects of poverty and desperation that can put do-gooders off from being about their Fathers work, with fear the main obstacle. Though I’m also educated on the often false stereotypes surrounding the homeless ( as in violence) because it is the focus of our media exposure, it is the neural pathway that has conditioned the reflex of most, including myself, to fear the homeless. But, because I know how close I live to being on the street, I couldn’t turn away from this…I could see myself too readily in them and how does one turn their back on themselves…so not totally altruistically motivated, but I like to think I’m getting there.
Tables were set up around the Lake Eola food court for donations received and divided by need. Long line of tables had been assembled for food line. Many of the people in need had gathered in the center among picnic tables waiting patiently for the volunteers to finish set up. With my courage literally in my throat I stepped into the gate and felt like a cowardly gladiator, looking tentatively for someone receptive to talking to me. Where as the homeless are generally the ignored as the minority, here I was the minority, where they had the power to ignore me. Thankfully they had more compassion for me that we often have for them. After exchanging greetings with several gathered, I landed on Nate and Kate. I was surprised how quickly they opened up their story to me.
They willingly told their story and agreed to allow me to publish that story here. Their hope for the story getting out to others, to not only help them get back home to Ohio, but to help bring awareness to the real needs of the homeless to address its causes and the abatement, rather than top down treatment of the visual symptoms of homelessness.
Here is their story as they tell it:
Due to the dying infrastructure of the automotive based economy of their hometown in Ohio, Nate and Kate took a risk, moved to Miami Florida with all their money, personal identification, and the car they had just paid off. Their car was stolen before they placed their money in a local bank, and with it went their paperwork to verify their identities which would allow them to work. They reported their car stolen and it was recovered in Mineoloa, but stripped, including of course of their worldly goods and, all that the world requires for them to prove they exist in a approved citizenship state.
Nate stated he has two college degrees, one in marketing and the other as an automotive mechanic, and was working as a plumbers assistant. Kate has a background in clerical work for insurance company. Both have a willingness to work, but state that their lack if identification has prevented them from being able to work, and has placed them in this transient homeless state. Nate and Kate state they choose the street over a shelter because they are split up by gender when they go to shelters for assistance. “Nate is everything to my emotional and mental stability at this point. After enduring this as long as we have it has worn my spirit to the point I can’t be apart from him.”
Nate’s countenance is heavy with this responsibility, and the hang of his head echoes the pain of the hand he guards with splint and bandage in place from a trip to the ER two nights ago. Kate’s gaze lingered over Nate’s hand, “Some other homeless tried to knock me down and take my bag. Nate got hurt protecting me. His knee is messed up too, but the Ortho at the ER said nothing is broken.”
Kate is adamant,”we don’t want a hand out, just a hand up to get home to ohio. We have family there where we can try to put our life back together.” Kate says she believes she and Nate are having this experience for a designed purpose and. They desire, Kate with particular passion, to help change the dynamic of the homeless and as she says, ” I want to even start my own outreach, because it doesn’t have to be this way. Not everyone is here because they made intentional bad choices. They needed resources to change their life. Most of us do not want to be here. I know for Nate and I it is temporary,” she glances around tentatively,”… I just don’t know for how long.”
Nate is reflective as I asked him what is the biggest takeaway from this is for him,”I used to be one of those people who would hand a homeless person a couple bucks and keep going. But now, walking in these shoes and seeing how fast we got here without making obvious poor choices, it’s given me a new perspective. And we’ve met so many good people on the street. Most of these homeless would give you the shirt off their own back if you needed it. But the dangers are real. ”
According to Nate and Kate, The central Florida Coalition for the Homeless is going to interview Nate and Kate tomorrow at the Publix on E. Central across from Eola to raise awareness and caring about the homeless needs and hopefully also raise funds to help Nate and Kate get a bus tickets back to Ohio, where they can stay with family who are also struggling.
If you would like to make a contribution to the Coalition for the Homeless or to Help Nate and Kate return home, please direct your donation to the Central Florida Coalition for Homeless. You may contact the Coalition at (407) 426-1250, http://www.centralfloridahomeless.org