Come here, Watson. I need you.

Today the card collector stopped by my apartment, repeating the words over the intercom that he’d used the last time he came by, “Jeff? This is Robert. I need your help.”

He produced a letter from his Salvation Army case worker. It was brief, addressed to “To whom it may concern”. It just said that Robert is homeless and is trying to find a place to stay. There are a few prospects, but they won’t be available immediately. “He would greatly appreciate any assistance you can give him.” I was a little confused about what it was for. Was this documentation that he’s homeless? But he seemed to think that it would explain something about his visit.

He told me that the apartment he’d expected on Thursday still hadn’t materialized.

He described the grand opening of the new mission. They’d only just opened the doors and assigned the first few beds when a drunk man started yelling. He smashed a bottle against the floor and started lurching around. Robert and another man restrained him, and wrestled him outside. The woman from the church ran away and watched from the top of some stairs. They called the police and closed down immediately.

But he talked optimistically about the job he would have soon, working security at the mission, and about the apartment that he said was now delayed two weeks.

He wanted my help in the meantime. He sat there expectantly, and when I didn’t have an answer for him, he went on talking about things.

Helping him, I guess, would require letting him sleep on my couch (for two weeks? indefinitely?) or giving him money for that hotel. Neither is an attractive option for me. My home is a studio apartment; so it would be pretty close quarters if he stayed here. Throwing cash at the situation would cramp my admittedly vague budget; and again who knows how long it would be necessary.

Would my help perpetuate the situation by making him comfortable enough that he won’t seek a more permanent solution to his problems? That’s a pretty selfish and cynical thought. Am I just trying to find an excuse to avoid the effort?

I decided to put the situation on hold while I decided what to do. I dropped him off at Kentucky Fried Chicken and got enough cash to cover a night at his hotel. As we were leaving my apartment he told me, “You have a nice place.”

Considering he’s an eternal optimist and perhaps a little confused, I called his case worker at the Salvation Army to get another point of view. I left a voice mail.

I was out for awhile. I listened to her voice mail response when I got back. She confirmed some of my concerns. He had signed up for some emergency housing, but he’d only recently gotten on the mailing list.

I expect he’ll come by tomorrow. And I guess I’ll invite him to stay here. My reluctance will no doubt show and he’ll take it in stride.

Categorized as Before