Encounter with Homeless Couple: A Sad Reflective Experience

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shadow couple

I came to work today around 6 a.m. and found a very young couple — maybe in their teens — still sleeping outside in a little cove up at the top of the stairway that leads to the back door of my office.

They had a sleeping bag and appeared very comfortable with a few bags of their personal belongings. I had seen them before on the streets. They have always been very polite and always have a complement about my car or my suit.

His voice and his smile reminds me of my little boy and maybe that influenced what happened today. I let them sleep for another 30-40 minutes and then decided to play music to wake them up. I then opened the door and told him that they could not be there. For those of you wondering, yes I do pack! They apologized and said they were leaving right away and that they would not come back.

As I reflected for a moment it saddened me as I wondered about the reasons for their misfortune. What I did notice, is that they did not seem bitter or upset at me and had a smile on the face as if making the best of the situation.

The young man told me “you must be very smart”. I responded “no smarter then you my friend”. I said, “I’m here in part because of choices I made”.

But am I really? Make no mistake about it, I am here in large part because I was lucky to have good parents and a lot of it was being in the right place at the right time, so yes, I was lucky.

They were both very appreciative, and I asked them to try to make the right choices. I reminded them that they were both very young. I don’t think my advice will go very far, but who knows?

Despite living on the streets there was a certain maturity to both of them that I was able to appreciate right away. I gave him $40 and told him that it would not happen again. The young man told me, “Don’t worry I wouldn’t accept it again, and I’ll just take 20”. I insisted on the 40.

I guess the reason for sharing this is that yes, I am a solid conservative and not a bleeding heart. I do help when I can, but I use my judgment.

As far as our government, what do they know when they’re only dealing with applications and many times false claims and false documents?

Anyway, this is not about politics, but about sharing a touching and sad, but reflective experience.

dr. corondao with croppedRobert Coronado is the president and CEO of the Northern Heart and Vascular Institute in Redding. He studied Internal Medicine at The University of Arizona

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14 Responses

  1. Avatar George says:

    That was nice of you Mr. Coronado to do what you did.  You treated them well, offered advise and gave them some money.  In return, they were very respectful, inquisitive and thankful for the help.

  2. Avatar Richard says:

    Dr. Coronado,

    Thank you for sharing this personal and poignant experience. Most of us  are conflicted in similar ways—with the desire to be compassionate to those who down on their luck, appreciative of assistance, and striving to improve their lives,  while also being confronted daily with others who contribute nothing but trash, bad behavior, and have no regard for the property and rights of others.

    The causes of homelessness are varied and complex, and  solutions elusive and expensive. But your story illustrates that one perhaps can sometimes differentiate those who would if they could, from those who could but won’t.  I hope that your kindness, generosity, and good advice may act as a catalyst to trigger more productive and fulfilling lives for both of them.

  3. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    What an interesting, touching, question invoking encounter. Raises many questions most of which have no answers. As the king said, “‘Tis a puzzlement!”

  4. Avatar Kathleen says:

    I was a foster kid who ended up homeless after aging out of the system and sometimes you don’t have choices. When you’re left with no money and  without help or support the choices are very limited. I was lucky and was able to dig myself out with an opportunity for a college education but that’s not possible for some people. That was many years ago when my student loans were manageable. Now they’ve become all consuming When you make a judgment on why someone’s homeless you really have no idea what the circumstances were. Maybe they are vets serving our country and came home with  PTSD.  Maybe they’re mentally ill with no place to get appropriate ongoing care. or are  they foster kids who never had a chance or maybe they did make terrible decisions. One thing I do know for sure is that ” there but  by the grace of God go I”. Just a thought.

  5. Avatar cheyenne says:

    There needs to be better ways to run the foster child program.  When my youngest daughter was a senior at Anderson one of her friends was an aged out foster child, her foster family kicked her out when she turned eighteen without even waiting for her to finish high school.  Obviously they were only in it for the money.  We took the girl in until she finished high school and was able to get a job and her own place to live.  She now lives in Sacramento as a wife and mother.

    These foster families need to be better vetted before they are allowed to take in children.  There also needs to be funding available to keep these foster kids in a home situation at least until they graduate from high school.  All it takes is money or, someone like me and my wife, willing to help by taking in these aged out kids.  But that is difficult to do in an area with so little economic opportunities.

    Perhaps someone could start a sort of human resource center to match these eighteen year olds with retired couples who could use some help around the house in exchange for room and board and an allowance.  It would only be for a few months but it would give these kids a helping hand.

    • Valerie Ing Valerie Ing says:

      How about this idea: give those kids – all kids, not just foster kids, not just those who fall into a particular economic bracket – an opportunity to go to college, receive their books, food and live in the dorms in exchange for a part time work-study job while in college, and then having them pay the rest of the balance back with an income tax for those who have used the college program after they graduate and get into the work force. It’s a way to keep young people housed and educate our entire country, teach them work ethics and pay back the loan at a rate that’s affordable, because its based on their ability to generate income after they’ve been educated.

      • Avatar EasternCounty says:

        Decades ago, all state colleges and universities were affordable.  Not the case now.  My husband is a Cal graduate and is always being asked to donate to both the university itself and the school of pharmacy.  A few years back, a story broke about how the regents were using the university finances practically as their own piggy banks — for home loans was one example.  With this sort of mismanagement — thievery? — it’s no wonder student costs are exorbitant.  Along the lines of what Mistress said, education shouldn’t be an entitlement.  Like health care, it should be available to all citizens not just to those who can afford it.

      • Avatar cheyenne says:

        My oldest daughter joined the Army right out of high school, Anderson.   The Army paid for her college and she served six years active and two more in the national guard.  It was not all a bed of roses as she did tours in Bosnia and Rwanda where she encountered sniper fire and land mines.

        She had to get good grades and graduate from high school to even be considered by the military.  Now she is definitly upper middle class as she works for the U.S. Marshals in Alaska.  Her husband is retired Army, twenty plus years much time spent in Russia, now he is studying to be a teacher paid for by the Army.

        For many young people, whether in an economic distressed area like Shasta County or an urban ghetto like Chicago’s south side, the military can be a way to get a job, healthcare, room and board and a college education.

  6. Avatar Curtis Chipley says:

    A very sweet story about a wonderful man who is kind and considerate.  And in return he got respect and kindness returned.  However, these 2 young people need to get connected to a program, and don’t tell me that there are no programs for them because there are.  I know for a fact that the Rescue Mission could help them with their living situation if even for a little while, they could help them in getting a job, not a $30,000.00 dollar a year job but a job, a start.  It is their choices that have gotten them to where they are.  Now they need to make better choices,  start small and build on it.   I know that not all people who are homeless are nasty, criminals, and I know that they will not get out of their situation overnight, but they can do it if they want to…..  Thank you Mr. Coronado for sharing your story with us, but in the end it is THEIR turn to make better choices and I hope and pray that they do.

    • Avatar K. Beck says:

      “It is their choices that have gotten them to where they are.” Unless you know every single person living on the street, you do not KNOW this. You are assuming.

  7. Avatar name says:

    you took the right approach, helping them by giving advice and showing them that by making good choices, you are in a position to help them and show them what you have accomplished.

    Sometimes all people need is a reminder that we live in one of the best countries on earth, and by making a few good decisions, many possible doors open that lead to positive results.

  8. Avatar KarenC says:

    I am in favor of helping out people like the young couple you met.  That was very kind.  However, I am not in favor of assisting the criminal element who are breaking into empty homes, garages, out buildings, or starting fires on private property, stealing every chance they get from businesses, and home owners.  The ones that are on drugs, practically out of their minds, yelling on street corners, and using private property for their toilet.

    Yes, I have spoken to many of them, they come up to me and want money……they are rude, abusive, and show no respect.  I suggest jobs they could be doing, helping the Mission, offering to clean up the city property they dirty, they want no part of responsibility. Why, should we as a community feel responsibility towards this element .

    Mental Health is the bottom line here with the criminal  homeless and the troubled   souls shooting up the schools.


  9. Avatar Bob says:

    The truth is that none of us at the top of the income ladder got here all by ourselves.  We all had help along the way.  I had a college professor who took an interest in me and tutored me in a class I was finding difficult.  I was also born to affluent parents, had ministers I could look up to, and lucked into a wonderful marriage.  I was also fortunate enough to be born Caucasian, a decided advantage in our society.  In addition I was blessed with genes that guaranteed my health.  And the icing on the cake was that the federal tax code greatly favored me over many others. I take no credit for any of this; none of my life’s accomplishments was solely because I made the “good choice”.  I was lucky; I was supported by others; I grew up in a society that gives advantage to white, middle class young people.  Those who look at our homeless and insist “they can improve their lives, because I did!” simply have simply no insight into their own success stories.




    • Avatar K. Beck says:

      Thank you for this. I take nothing for granted. I had a friend who ended up on the street because she got sick and lost her job. Soon her savings were gone and she could  no longer pay her rent. You can do everything totally “right” and still end up in a bad situation. There are no guarantees.

      People who had parents with College degrees have no idea what it is like being raised by parents who “only” finished high school, or didn’t even do that. Those children start out at total disadvantage.

      Bad marriages, any number of things can go wrong; a good marriage being a stay at home mom, and your husband dies, bad things are never ending.

      Instead of looking down your nose at those in a bad situation, it might be better to consider yourself lucky and have a bit of compassion.

      You are the only one with your life. You are not everyone and no one else is you.