Scott is in his fifties. He has had a series of financial and health setbacks. A couple of the companies he worked for went out of business. He injured his back. He had old junkers for cars that he would try to keep running. Unemployment ran out. He lost his apartment. He stayed with a friend for a while, and was working under the table for a small machine shop (for slightly above minimum wage) doing technical machining and design. When his car was beyond repair, he moved into the shop and slept on a couch, because he could no longer commute.
The owner of the company died. Scott helped his widow clean out the shop and provided security for the tools and equipment until it was all gone. He was there to open it up to show it to prospective new tenants. A new tenant was found and he had to go.
Scott had made friends in the neighborhood, since he had to walk anywhere he went. One of these was another businessman, Mack, two doors away. Scott would occasionally run errands for him and in exchange use his truck to bring scavenged metal to the salvage yard for cash.
Mack offered Scott a room to stay in until he could get things sorted out. Mack’s business is going through a real dry spell. He is resourceful, creative and skilled. He keeps on creating beautiful and inventive designs out of wood. Mack’s truck needed more work than he could afford for inspection, so it is idled. The gas company shut off the heat for the house and shop. Mack remains optimistic against all indications and plows ahead.
Jose grew up in Montgomery County. His parents, his children and his ex-wife live in Florida. He has worked odd jobs through the years: dishwasher, cook, painter, etc. He never makes enough money to pay rent and child support. He has been on work release in jail for lack of payment; then he lost his driver’s license for lack of payment. (I don’t know how the state thinks a man is going to be able to get to a job if he can’t drive.) For the last ten years, since his wife kicked him out, he has stayed with different friends and relatives for a few months at a time; sometimes in Florida, now in Souderton.
He’s an evangelical Christian and always wants to be part of a “radical” ministry. He is friends with a strange bunch, that include a socially evangelical, closet agnostic; a Mormon youth leader; a couple of lapsed Mennonites; several mentally and psychologically handicapped people who are either on SSI or inherited wealth; and me.
Then there are Corey, Alexis, Dale, Britney and Bryan; who are still living with or returned to live with their respective parents well into their thirties or forties, without paying meaningful room and board. They are referred to as “failed to launch.”
How about Lois? She worked all her adult life at a low wage job. she was an only child and she never married. Her parents had to sign over the house in exchange for long term care. She rented a room for as long as she had a job. The plant closed. A couple from her church took her in. She works part time at Giant (because that is all they hire). She lives hand to mouth and the couple she lives with has nothing to spare.
Are these people homeless? You may say No, because they still have places to stay. What is the difference between them and people living on the street? Some of them are personable and friendly and this has helped make a way for them; but not all. Some have made bad choices. Some have done everything that was expected of them, yet circumstances conspired.
In every case the only thing that is keeping them from being on the street is that there is at least one person in their life who has the means, however meager, to help; and the willingness to accept and treat them as family.