When I’m struggling to come up with an idea for a good story I often force myself to get out of the office or car and just start walking. In this case I was strolling along West First Ave. when I came to the old Coach House Restaurant. I spotted a flyer on the door for a Thursday night “Sack Dinner for the Homeless.” Sponsored by the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program, I called their main office and invited myself to dinner.
I love talking to people about their lives. On the night of the dinner, about 200 homeless and low-income people lined up on the hot sidewalk in front of the restaurant. The stories they told me were frightening, sad and heartfelt.
I think many people choose to ignore the issue of homelessness rather than finding solutions to the problem. I guess we are burdened with too much these days. When I talk with someone that is homeless, I always ask the “why” question. Their answers are surprising. Yes, there are the ones saddled with drug and alcohol addictions, but many tell stories of losing everything because of medical, housing or employment difficulties. It seems that homeless people are forever trapped in a downward spiral that no single social program can make a lasting impact. Yet, somehow, SNAP’s sack dinner brings the homeless a sliver of hope.
Several told me they had their identification and remaining belongings stolen or thrown away. From that point on, they become invisible to mainstream society. I know this will sound strange, but many of the homeless I see on the street seem like ghosts walking amongst us, searching for someplace to call home.