Too Many For My Liking

Phillip and I were out running about yesterday. It wasn’t so humid, wasn’t too hot, so we grabbed our bikes and went to get supplies. Yarn, poly fill, boxes, groceries….We hit Joann’s first, and on our way back, rode through Colonial Plaza to run into Staples and Hobby Lobby. I saw about 5 homeless guys lingering about. I see them often and have learned to hold my heart tight. Then we headed to Publix and I saw 3 more sitting outside. And as we moved towards home, I noticed another 3 or 4 more walking down Colonial. But, the clincher was when we decided to hit the library. (Been looking for Thomas Merton books-harder to find than I thought). We passed through Lake Eola on the way and the entire park was filled to near capacity of homeless men. And outside the library, probably a good 10 more. Then, inside the library, practically every chair was filled with another one. By all estimates it seemed throughout our day we had seen more than 50 (50!) homeless men in a one mile square area. 50!

Now, keep in mind I made notice of how other people reacted. They behaved as though they didn’t see them. As though they didn’t even exist. These men were no more impressive than street signs or shrubbery…..or a floating piece of discarded trash, hovering close to the curb and gutter. And then I saw some reacting with disdain, clearly sneering with a word bubble over their head as they turned up their noses as if to say, “There are too many for my liking.” And that same phrase popped into my head. But, for such a different reason. Yes, there are far too many for my liking. Does anyone else not see how MANY homeless there are in this one square mile? Don’t you find that incredibly strange? There is a real problem here!

I see them often, I notice them daily, but it’s usually only 1 to 4. Nothing more. And I lower my head and think, “I can’t help you right now, buddy. But, I will be able to someday soon. I promise you. I’ll be able to help someday soon.” However, I have NEVER seen more than 50 in a day and in such a small area. What happened? Did it happen overnight? Or was it gradual? One more person made homeless per day….And what happens now? What do we do?

The mayor of Orlando is announcing his budget today. Included is a huge chunk of money to help combat homelessness in Orlando. But, what does that mean? Combat how? More shelters? More programs? That doesn’t work as much as prevention. Homelessness is a symptom to a much deeper problem. And it must be taken case by case. Some of those guys are addicts. Some are mentally ill. Some slid into debt and expenses like they hit an oil patch, couldn’t hold on, and just collided with real life. So, we can’t just treat this problem AFTER it’s happened, it must be dealt with well before it has someone on the streets.

We, as individuals with kind hearts are the ones that must do that. We shouldn’t wait for government programs. We shouldn’t wait to see a man sleeping on a bench, or a woman crouched beside her shopping cart. That’s too late. We offer kindness, assistance, hope, prayer, and yes, money.

I was asked recently if I had any advice for someone about to face homelessness and I erupted with, “If I knew someone headed that direction, there is NO WAY I would let it happen. I’d offer a space on my floor, share my meals with them, do something, anything to keep that from happening. I could not IMAGINE knowing someone about to become homeless and simply ALLOW it to happen and THEN offer advice.”

We are a good hearted species. We don’t allow things to happen, then correct them. We prevent them from happening first, with our understanding and our prayers and our selflessness.

Someday I will be able to do something. For myself? It starts with teddy bears. I’ve always wanted to be successful financially so I could a lot more philanthropic. I would pay back to the good world what it has blessed me with. I may not be able to help now, but I can surely write about it. Discuss it when I can, and bring attention to the need for prevention, rather than a cure. And never forget, when it comes to the human soul, human needs, not one size fits all. People are individuals, each with their own hearts and minds in need of a greater compassion that comes from a true understanding of who that individual is, and what pains them distinctly.

We should remember that before we start grouping them into a category as simple as “The Homeless.”


willknitcoversmallThis is the story of how I knit my way out of homelessness. To order an autographed copy of “Will Knit For Food” click here, or for a Limited Edition personalized, signed paperback copy with t-shirt, click here.

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  1. The issue of homelessness is akin to the issue gun abuse – treat the problem *before* it becomes a painful reality. In both cases, mental illness is not the only factor that is responsible, but it certainly takes the center stage.

    One day your philanthropic words will become words with momentum and then action. Until then, it’s good of you to keep these people in your heart.

  2. Dearest Gregory,

    Please remember that sharing a moment, a few kind words and especially your story can be just as powerful as money.


  3. Gregory,

    Don’t think that you aren’t already “doing something.” I know from reading your blog you are very much a doer and problem solver, but remember we, each, who read your blog also have a level of control and responsibility to help regardinging homelessness. I have a dislike for the phrase “combatting homeless” because it makes it sound like yet another battle front to which we are attending. But I get it.

    You are so right, that if you know of someone who is on the verge of homelessness you do anything within your power to prevent the situation if at all possible. I, too, have lent a hand to aid friends when I was able. I recognize that it involves more than just writing a check to alleviate it.

    Thanks again for the reminder.

  4. Hi Gregory!
    My name is Tanja and I live in Finland. I’ve been following your blog for a while now. It absolutely breaks my heart to read about homeless people, and it reminds me how fortunate I’ve been simply by being born here in Finland. Many Finnish people criticize Finland for being a “nanny state”: for taking care of less fortunate people through public social services, child care services, health care, mental health care, etc. (examples: we pay only very basic payments, like if we use public health care, special doctors appointment is 20 €, but only for the first three times in one calendar year, child health care including vaccinations, dental care, doctors and child health centre services is free, etc.). We even have free education all the way. To me, it is only a good thing, that there’s someone or something that catches you if you fall. There has been recent development also here in Finland that all public tax payed services and even education are deteriorating or being transformed to private or very expensive service. I wonder if those people who shout out “nanny state!” will miss our used-to-work public services when they find out being in big trouble because of ever worsening economic depression..?

    Oh, and sorry for my English, there’s probably a ton of mistakes in this text.

    Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this homeless people and poor public services problem (I don’t know how to say it in a better way, any suggestions?) is growing and expanding to touch even these traditionally stable and ok Nordic countries, and it frightens the s**t out of me. What ever happens, I truly, truly hope that the fortunate and powerful ones change the world so that the little ones can have a decent life.

    Since the last war, when tiny Finland had to fought the huge Soviet Union/Russia, we have had this saying in Finland: “kaveria ei jätetä”. Loosely it translates: “you never leave a friend”. But used as a phrase it doesn’t mean just your friend, it means anyone in need of help, even if it means that you might have to sacrifice something you hold dear. I’m trying to make people here in Finland try to remember that phrase again.

    Sorry for the long text, but you hit my heart with your texts.

    I wish you everything good that world has to offer,

  5. Thanks for the reminder of what is around all of us. In a previous post you mentioned talking a homeless person to lunch or breakfast and listen. I thought that was a great idea and a start for everyone.

    I am in Northern California where fires have left an incredible number of people homeless. Some were renters, some owned without insurance, and most have lost their jobs as well. Whole communities of working class people who were barely surviving My sister and I are already knitting hats, gloves, scarves, cowls for many of these soon to be homeless people. Thanks for inspiring us to do many things.

  6. Since he hasn’t done it….Hey Everyone, Gregory is running a sale on his book and T-shirt combo right now for $65.00. That’s less than the price of a bear! If you don’t have his book yet, it’s a must read! Might as well get the cool T-shirt, too. The T-shirt would always make an awesome gift to any knitter you know. The holidays will be creeping up sooner than you think….NOW is the chance to save money AND get a bargain on the book and T-shirt combo! What’s not to love about that?

  7. If we lived the way that we are supposed it, people would never become homeless. We are called to help those that need help, not to let them become down trodden before we offer help. Well said. My heart breaks for those that find themselves without help or anyone to care. HUGS

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