How are you all doing this fine day? Sweets and I are well after sharing the following story, a piece of Campfire TV. We hope you enjoy the following story.
The following is a story based on real events one Monday morning in early October of 2010. The names of people and places have been changed to protect all involved.
If you had the opportunity to step outside the box and help a perfect stranger, would you?
We were expecting some mail (a few pieces from family), we were wanting a hot steamy showers to wash off the weekends grime, and we were meeting friends, Humpty and Wheels along with Wheels’ fiancee’, that afternoon at the library downtown, we were planning a wedding in another area of Sanctuary. We had risen early enough to see the sun cresting over the horizon through the cedar trees, and of course a mild roasted black cup of Cowboy Coffee, the coffee was three days of grounds strong (the coffee was bitter to the point of wrinkling my nose as I drank, before stepping out from under the canopy of our sanctuary amongst the trees where the Red Cedar River crosses Kalamazoo Street, we pulled out the sling bag and shouldered it in anticipation of bring groceries home maybe even some fresh made bread. That morning was unseasonably warm, the sun was nearly white hot by the time we emerged from the trees, for October (it didn’t feel like Autumn), the entire previous week had been quite warm actually, the local university kids were wearing Summer clothing that clung to their bodies due to the perspiration so we decided to walk down to The Brightspot, a dayroom in the heart of downtown Lansing just a block from some of the oldest church buildings with their grey granite wall staying cool even in the heat instead of riding the Route 1 bus. We approached a bus stop up on Michigan Avenue, where as we approached the first bus stop on the East side of the air-conditioned hospital that parallelled the street, we noticed a twenty something father with dark hair, tanned skin and even darker features due to his current struggle and his young daughter. We could see she was fussy and had been crying recently, he looked quite stressed and beside him on the cigarette littered sidewalk sat three bags; the first was a small green duffle bag with white handles one of which was nearly torn through, the second bag looked like it was the twin of the first only that its body was, worn and patched and stitched together with shoe-laces and), blue with yellowing straps, and their third bag looked like old naugahyde with a fresh diaper sticking out the top. Our first thought was he was waiting for someone to join him and they would catch the next bus to be on their merry way. The little girl had dropped the toy she had been shaking while pouting, so Sweets retrieved it for her and handed it back, the little one was shy and just looked at Sweets, and then at the toy, then back to Sweets, and as quick as she could snatched the toy from Sweets outstretched palm. I struck up a conversation with him and found his name to be John and his daughter was Tabitha. He asked if there was a place nearby to get a bite to eat and use a restroom other than the hospital for the two of them. This is when I realized they were not from the Lansing area, not a block away was a gas station and a discount drug store, not to mention every hospital I had been in had a cafeteria. Our offer for them to join us at The Brightspot was met with reluctant stare. We noticed that Tabitha looked underage so she could ride for free and we handed him one of our 10-ride bus passes that we had received from a local Community Person being friendly. I told him we would bring the luggage and showed him on a route map that we had handed him where to pull the cord at and get off at the next stop and we would exchange his luggage for our bus pass. He wanted nothing to do with the idea until Tabitha was squirming and he finally consented, not twenty minutes later. We met up with him more than twenty minutes later at the bus stop near The Brightspot and took him inside, his luggage was in worse shape than what we could see. We introduced John and Tabitha to Mr. Kringle the dayrooms host and coordinator. After John changed Tabitha’s diaper and got her sippy cup filled with something to drink he sat down with us and began his story of how they ended up in Lansing lost to the world. Mr. Kringle had made sure John knew where the coffee station, the food tables, the telephone, and the restrooms were before he left us alone for a bit.
He had had a life and a wife and all the pleasures that came with it. He went onto say that when they found out his wife was pregnant with their first child they celebrated, got together with family regularly, well her family anyway. Both of his folks had passed away and he was an only child. Well, life went on as could be expected for a young couple expecting their first child. His job allowed him to work as much as he was able to sock away as much money as he could make. His wife worked for a local grocery store until just a couple of weeks before the due date. They had paint the baby’s room, they received many gifts for their new family, and had the normal kind of life. Then the night before Tabitha was to be born, an ambulance arrived at their home and rushed the two soon to be parents to the hospital, Sara John’s wife had gone into labor. Well fourteen hours after John and Sara arrived at the hospital John had a new baby girl in his arms, his mother-in-law and father-in-law had arrived just minutes after Tabitha was born but not before Sara took her last breath. You see Sara died from complications from childbirth. Because of the way insurance was back then, Sara carried her own insurance. Well as John told the story Sara’s insurance company wouldn’t cover all the hospital bills that had stacked up. So their saving was quickly gone through. His in-laws stopped talking with him or coming over to his home to see Tabitha. As things go, John lost his job, tried keeping up with the bills as best he could, while taking care of his daughter alone, well rent fell behind and as the story of millions of homeless go; no family, no job, and no home – they became homeless. He carried Tabitha and their belongings from Detroit staying where there was room, it abandoned buildings, on couches, sheds, wherever they could sleep and get some food, they left their home sometime the year before.
After his story Sweets and I found out that he and Tabitha had been staying in a shelter in East Lansing, The Lodge had a reputation and he confirmed it with his story. They showed up at the Lodge on Saturday and was told that he could receive help though it came at a price. By Sunday night he was informed, as many were back when the placed opened, if they were to return to The Lodge Monday night Tabitha would be taken by Child Protective Services and placed at The Orphanage, and as the name implies it was exactly that. He was told since he could not provide for his daughter, she would be taken from him and they had the information for another local shelter, The Harbor, that had an opening for another person. He was then told he would have sixty days to secure a job, an additional thirty day to secure an approved place to live for the two of them. If in six month he had not secured either he would have to prove to the courts that he was a fit father. He was shaking at that point, he stated he just could live without Tabitha, losing Sara two years earlier was hard enough but not Tabitha too.
After he had settled down we watched as Tabitha played with her toy on the floor sitting on a baby blue blanket. The blanket was Sara’s when she was an infant. After John settled down further he asked me if there was something that could be done to help him get someplace safe away from The Lodge. We called Mr. Kringle over to join us and he sat and listened to the important information. Mr. Kringle had heard of a few places but we would have to do the legwork of getting everything in order for the program that The Brightspot had that could help. The second step was for John to take Tabitha and himself over to the police station and have a criminal/missing persons check done on him and Tabitha, the first step being calling the places Mr. Kringle knew of. Two hours a later an officer called Mr. Kringle informing him that John and Tabitha were cleared on everything, and everything that John had shared was the truth, the guy didn’t drink or do drugs as far as they could tell. The program was set up so that if street people had to get somewhere by public transportation The Brightspot would cover as much of the fare as they could.
There was a shelter in Traverse City that offered rooms to fathers with children that were homeless. Back in 2008 there were not that many shelters that offered single fathers with children a place to stay. We had four hours to make contact with The Safehouse in Traverse City and make arrangements to get John and Tabitha and their luggage to Traverse City. Mr. Kringle had gone to his office, he quickly returned informing us that he could only cover John to travel by bus to Traverse City, the program had helped someone else get out of town and hadn’t refilled the coffers yet for the program. That’s when we called The Safehouse back. They informed us that if we could get John and Tabitha to Ann Arbor, they knew of a shelter there that could get them to Traverse City. So after multiple phone calls, and three trips to the bus station, and six hours later after meeting John and Tabitha they were on their way with their luggage to Ann Arbor. The director at the shelter there was going to meet their bus and give them a place to stay until Wednesday. On Tuesday morning the director in Ann Arbor called Mr. Kringle and everything was on track for John and Tabitha. We found out that the shelter in Ann Arbor replaced two of John’s luggage bags with a camping backpack and a new duffle bag. They received the bus tickets to get to Traverse City from Ann Arbor, plus weeks worth of fresh clean clothes for both of them, all the needed supplies a two year old in diapers still would need, even a new disposable cell phone.
On Wednesday morning we, Sweets and I arrived at The Brightspot with Gnome, just as the director called to notify us that John and Tabitha was on their way to Traverse City and the director of The Safehouse would be waiting for them when they arrived up there at quarter after eight p.m. Gnome and I each had a personal note arrive a few days later. John had thanked us both for the money we had handed him before they left. They were able to go to a restaurant when the director in Traverse City picked them up and pay for their meal. The Friday before I had donated plasma and Sweets suggested I hand it over to them as we didn’t need it as bad as they did. Evidently Gnome had the same idea, he had been out can-dogging (collecting returnable cans and bottle) on campus and he has the largest soft spot for kids in need. The place they were going in Traverse City has since closed but they offered those in need many benefits. Each family had a bed for the parents and up to three other beds, plus a dresser, a small desk with a chair. It was required that each parent volunteered some time to help out and the shelter had a fully licensed and registered daycare on-site with a registered nurse who visited daily. For each hour of service tokens were handed out for each hour worked and could be used for the small college style cafe/store for whatever they wanted to buy from with in.
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Yours faithfully, Elroy