Friday Morning Open Thread

March 21, 2014

What’s up?

I hate to start on a depressing note, but this letter in Berkeley Parents Network left an impression on me as we have a huge homeless population in Berkeley:

Helping homeless man with cancer
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I recently ran into a man who grew up around the corner from me in Berkeley and attended the same alternative highschool. He was raised by his grandma who passed away when we were young and then I pretty much lost track of him. Over the years (we are now in our late forties) he would pass through the neighborhood (where I still live) to say hello. He never asked for anything but a bit of normal conversation with folks who knew him when he was young but I did get the sense that he was struggling and sort of off kilter. I saw him last night and he revealed that he has lung cancer and is sleeping in the bushes of local parks. Again he did not ask for anything, but when I asked about family he said “gone.” When I asked if he was receiving support from social services etc.. he shook his head as if I were a being naive. I asked how to locate him if I thought of a way to help, and he just sort of shrugged. It was a brief conversation as I was taken by surprise and in the middle of a minor family crisis. I really can’t say that I know him now or what other problems he may have and I currently have negative financial (or emotional) resources of my own to offer so I expressed as much sympathy as I could before he just wandered away. Now I am haunted by thoughts of that friendly neighborhood kid who had no one but his grandma and how he might be dying outside in the bushes of what used to be his own now affluent “village”. I think about trying to find him and offering….what? Money I don’t have, info. on resources I know nothing about, a warmer sleeping bag? I know there must be other terminally ill people living on our streets, and that better people than me are trying to meet their needs but after just letting him walk away like that I’m finding it harder to look in the mirror. Any thoughts on what to do or who to suggest he reach out to if I encounter him again?
–Useless Wannabe Samaritan

I am definitely going to read the responses. I pass about five homeless people — usually the same men — every day. I have opted to donate to organizations in my neighborhood instead, and will give to the occasional woman that I see because it is so shocking, and in my mind, more dangerous to live in the streets as a woman. We really need more resources for mental health services and affordable housing. Do any of you have a similar experience where you live?

In health news: the deadline to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is March 31st. I am enjoying the videos promoting the deadline, including this one with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards and sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer:

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?