Walking Wounded

I get to meet some great people on the streets.  Their lives aren’t easy, but a surprising number of my friends meet the challenges with grace and humor.

Until they get sick.Sidewalk camping next to the railroad

When I get sick, or injured, I have the option of seeing a doctor.  That’s not how it works on the streets.  Insurance is rare, and money is not in hand, so doctors aren’t on the options list.  Until you reach a true health emergency.  You see, our country has a law that Emergency Rooms have to treat people regardless of their ability to pay.  That law literally saves lives every day.  My friends’ lives.

So what happens in the in-between space?  What happens when you’re sick or hurt, maybe even too sick or hurt to function, but it’s not an emergency?  Maybe it’s the flu or a twisted ankle.  What happens when you visit the ER and they say that to your face – “I’m sorry but you’re condition doesn’t qualify for emergency care.  Come back if [this] or [that] happens, but otherwise get lots of sleep and drink plenty of fluids.”

What happens is the walking wounded.  I’ve seen my friends with stints still draining fluids from knife wounds.  I’ve listened to a nurse tell someone with viral pneumonia that the best they could do would be to get him a shelter referral.  And for the third time I have a friend with a hernia who is walking, not quite upright and always in pain, until it qualifies for emergency surgery.  It takes a month or two.

Don’t get nervous.  I’m not about to advocate for universal health care or ask for donations to cover medical expenses.  Mostly I’m just venting some frustration over a problem way too big for us to solve.  There are all kinds of pieces of this we could talk about, but…   mostly I just need to let it out.

Beyond the venting I guess I wanted to give you a peek inside life outdoors.  There are good parts, friendships and success stories and uncountable acts of human kindness.  And there are frustrations and trials.  It’s a roller coaster of ups and downs and sudden turns.  You’re reading this so perhaps you’re along for the ride in some way.  Thank you.

I haven’t gotten used to the ride, but perhaps that’s OK.  That’s not the point.  For us at Home the point is to be on the ride with our friends wherever it takes us.  Sometimes we can steer a little bit, and sometimes we just hold on tight, but we ride together.

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