On Saturday my husband Jim and I headed out in the car. As we passed the corner of Randall Street and Rutherford Road, Jim said, “There’s a guy lying in the grass over there.”

Since I was driving the car, I hadn’t seen the man. I was not overly concerned about seeing someone lying in bushes since I’d seen a lot of that throughout the years.  As we drove a bit further, I realized that my husband was visibly upset so we turned around to check on the guy. After all, he could be dead! I had to park around the corner about 100 yards away from where the guy was lying. Jim said, “Stay here. I’ll check on him.” I gave him my cell phone in case he felt he needed to call someone.  After several minutes, I decided that I needed to know what was going on and so walked around the corner. I could see Jim talking with the man who was still lying beside the sidewalk. The conversation was that no, he was not drunk, no, he didn’t wanted my husband to call anyone, and no he did not want money. So Jim and I went back to our car and drove away.

We were just a couple of blocks away when we both knew that we were not comfortable with letting the man lie beside the road. We did not want to call the police because they may have locked him up. I knew that we were close to Salvation Army so I suggested that we go there and get some help for the guy. We turned around and drove around the block to find the Salvation Army’s weekend entrance.  I talked with the man who staffed the men’s shelter. While we talked, I heard sirens close by. We walked to the front of the Salvation Army property so I could show him where the guy was. There we saw two emergency vehicles with the man.

Jim and I were relieved knowing that the man would be cared for. And yet, I was surprised that after all these years, I still was not sure of the best thing to do for the guy by the side of the road. If I’d found him on United Ministries property, I’d have talked with him or gotten a staff member to check on the him to determine the best course of action. Had I seen him at places where I know that people usually sleep, I would not have thought too much about seeing him. But by the side of a busy street? And he told my husband not to call someone?

We’ve decided that next time we see someone lying beside the road, we’ll call 9-1-1 without question and ask for medical help. I’ll also check with the front line staff at United Ministries Place of Hope to ask for their suggestions.

No matter how long I work with poverty issues and no matter what I teach other people about poverty, there are those instances that I still am not sure what to do. There is no “formula” for how to help.

Dealing with poverty is just not easy, no matter how long one has been working with the issues!


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