April is far from the first homeless person I ever tried to befriend. My dad used to invite people to stay in our basement. For several years in college I lived in his big old house downtown as he filled the rest of the rooms with alcoholics, drug addicts, gambling addicts, etc. all in some stage of rehab. Many transferred there out of halfway houses. The first guy he invited to stay was living on the street before he knocked on my dad's door asking for change so he could buy beer at the liquor store 2 doors down. Dad invited him into his kitchen for a burger instead.
I've volunteered at soup kitchens and passed out sandwiches in parks, been part of Christmas celebrations for the friends outside with my church, shared a dinner in a pub with an older man who gave me a teddy bear from the vending machine, and sat on cardboard mats talking and being friends as the cold settled into our bones.
I've known some to be very, very protective of their stuff, the few things they carry around with them in this world. So I was very concerned when April didn't show up at my house soon after we talked. I had one of her bags. If she didn't find me and I didn't get it back to her I was sure she would think I had robbed her, or cheated her. As long as I had that bag I was entangled. That's just the way it goes.
So I went back out looking for her, taking my phone of course. I didn't have to go far, one left turn and I saw the police cars, parked at opposite angles blocking the road, one officer standing over her shining a flashlight as the other dumped out the contents of the bag she had held on to.
So I walked closer, "April, I was worried when you didn't show up. I still have your bag, I didn't want you to think I stole it."
If she was going to jail tonight it was still important to me that she knew that I wanted to take care of her stuff.
"Please stop right there ma'am." The officer barked. I obeyed, spreading my hands in front of me.
"Do you know this woman?"
"I know her name is April and I offered her a tent in my back yard tonight to sleep in."
They might as well know. It's probably safer for us if they do.
"You would do that for someone you don't know."
"Yes, it's just my back yard."
"Even if that person had a record a mile long?"
"Why would you say that?" April demanded, as she sat on the curb, head in her hands, "I've been arrested once."
"Even then," I decided as I said it, "I'm am far less comfortable with the idea of leaving a woman out here alone in this neighborhood than I am with the idea of her sleeping in my yard tonight."
"I have her other bag," I reminded him. I really didn't want them to take her to jail without it. I didn't want to have to keep it safe for her for who knew how long.
"Where do you live?" they asked.
I gave them my address and they told me to go home saying, "We'll probably go over there in a little while."
I honestly thought that would be the end of it. They would arrest her for loitering or some such, Maybe I should have offered to drive her home? Maybe that was where she was supposed to be? At least lock up was warm and had the possibility of being safe.
I put Bam Bam to bed. I worked. We had a big fundraiser for The Charis Project coming up the next night. I walked back over to the corner the officers had stopped her at but all was silent.
"I still have her bag," I told Aaron ruefully. "Shoot. I should have gone back over there with it right away."
I put the bag around the side of the house under the eaves. I debated
whether to pour out the big soda she had in the front pouch. I decided
Just before midnight I heard, barely, a voice quietly calling my name and looked outside to see a bike propped against my fence.
"April? Is that you?"
Part 3 coming soon