Offense: Sleeping in public
With all the beautiful weather, the BBQ’s and the beach, please don’t forget about those in need living on the street. This is Marie, we know her well, sleeping on a highway divider, just 3 feet from a very busy road on the edge of a bridge by the train station in Trenton. She is a sweet woman, no teeth, kind, caring, disabled and struggling in homelessness.
Most would look at Marie and assume she is high, or drunk and passed out there. Most drive by and pity her or shame her for being high or drunk and sleeping on the street in full view of the public, hundreds of cars passing by, in full view of everyone entering and exiting the river-line in Trenton, in full view of everyone walking to the Amtrak and NJ Transit trains from South Clinton Ave. As people pass by, many are likely thinking thoughts like, “What a strange place to sleep.” or “What a shame.” or “She should probably go get a job and stop living off the system.” or something else without really understanding what is happening here…
Can you imagine this? How tired would you have to be to sleep here? What would drive a person to sleep in this spot?
Please, before you read on, put yourself in HER place and think about it for a minute…
Exhaustion is something the homeless battle daily. Often it’s easier to sleep during the day, even in public view because frankly it’s safer for the homeless. Marie likely didn’t choose this spot because this was the only place she could find to sleep, she likely chose this spot because it was the safest place she could find to sleep. A place where she’d be “safe”, and it would be at least a bit more unlikely that anyone would hurt her or steal from her in the full view of the public eye. The same eye that judges her daily.
Marie is sleeping here, because sleeping on the street at night in Trenton as a woman is a very dangerous thing to do. As a man, I’ve seen other men reduced to shells because of exhaustion. They walk around like ghosts, wearing their skin like a body suit that is too big, drooping and almost unable to walk. They fall asleep in bible study and in church almost the moment they hit the chair, because that is truly a safe place to sleep.
This is just from sheer exhaustion. Now, men are able to defend themselves for the most part or at least seem like a threat (even if they wouldn’t hurt a fly) (because frankly most homeless people wouldn’t hurt a fly, in fact they are generally extremely kind to animals and just about everyone else) but I’ve seen men force to move bed down spots over and over again, because the public or the police or the gangs or other homeless people are harassing them or threatening them. And this is men, but for a woman it’s much harder. The threat of harassment and violence is there of course, but so is the threat of rape or being caught up in human trafficking.
Even if they live in the shelter sleep is difficult, because the moment you drop your guard, you loose your stuff or worse.
Can you imagine?
So here is Marie, sleeping, in the safest place she can find. Trying so hard to just grab a few restorative moments of sleep. Pray for her.
and please, amongst the beautiful weather, the BBQs and beach trips, the family vacations, consider the homeless. Please don’t forget about them. Pray for them. They need your help and so do we.
Restoring Hearts Ministries of Trenton