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AGENDA wants to know what you think! Send letters to: Editor, AGENDA, 220 South Main St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104. Please include your address and phone number (not for publication). AGENDA reserves the right to edit (for length) or reject any letter.


Sleeping Outside in January

l'm amazed at the extreme range of attitudes toward homeless. Much of the time I search through trash for anything that can provide a little spending money, walking over 10 miles per day. Most people don't mind, and occasionally offer returnables (one person gave me $50 worth). A few are very generous and offer cash. But then a few (I have had 3 encounters in 3 years) threaten to immediately call 911 if I don't leave immediately. I should note that I do not go onto porches or backyards, since I personally feel this would be an invasion of privacy. One homeless person told me he "found" a beer keg. Yeah, on someone's porch!

Is it a happy existence living on the street? First, it isn't "on the street" but rather with a blanket in the woods. Property is stolen regularly, food, clothes etc. by people who have housing. There is always the threat of being attacked by some who think beating a homeless person is great fun (yes in A2).

Meals are available, though often I do not go mainly because I don't want to deal with the stress of hostile mental cases creating havoc. How long would you enjoy your meal in a restaurant with the person at the next table swearing and acting like they will attack the first person who looks at them? Fun and happiness.

Sure, the people who make the meals and support them do a good job, and for little thanks. They are doing what they can and I appreciate their efforts.

Some things on the street are difficult to deal with which most who are sheltered in their homes don't have to deal with. Recently a friend of mine came by looking for his brother. I felt terrible about it since a couple hours earlier I found his brother's body in the river. I couldn't tell him, and later called a police officer to break the news. It was the second time I found a body in the same area.

Many homeless have never done anything but pan-handling, but this is not always the case. I have spent enough time working to qualify for Social Security. Maybe I will never collect from SS but am I wrong to accept meals? After all l've paid plenty in taxes.

Is it great to stay at the shelter? The last time I spent the winter months there I ended up spending two and a half weeks in the hospital for two kinds of pneumonia and tuberculosis. Last winter I spent two nights there when I absolutely had to. One of the nights I couldn't sleep at all with the 'round-the-clock party. Some think that is what the place is for--don't sleep because they can do that during the day--and the staff has no control. So, I sleep outside in January.

Clyde Hendrickson, ANN ARBOR


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