Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Homeless Man

Lastnight, as my husband and I drove to dinner, we pulled up to the light across the street from DHL and I could hardly believe what I saw in front of me.... sitting there on the step right in front of their building ... was a homeless man w/ what looked to be all of his belongings. We sat at the red light for a few minutes, so I had the chance to watch him. He was rocking back and forth a little and was obviously talking to himself. At one point, it even seemed like he was laughing with himself. I wish I had had a camera so that everyone could see the sadness of the situation. He was probably 70 or so years old... maybe older. His hair was completely white and his face looked old. Living on the streets can age you fast... and if you're a drinker, well, alcohol really ages you... I didn't see any bottles around him - he just looked old and homeless.

He had everything there... his clothes, his prayer mat, blankets beneath him.... everything. It's the first time I've seen a homeless man here in Bahrain. I've seen beggers... I see them daily, matter of fact, and I've seen people who live in these wood shacks - we have a family that live probably 6 blocks from us in what used to be called the shanty town, but all of them moved except for this one family - BUT I've never seen anyone sleeping out on the street.

It's a sad day for Bahrain... maybe I'm out of the loop... maybe it's in other areas and I've never seen it... I don't know, but this was a first for me. I saw an Arabic soap opera two ramadhan's ago that took place in Bahrain. There were three homeless guys in this soap living in one of these shacks, they were beggers, alcoholics and drugs addicts, but I figured it was only on TV. This is probably happening a lot more than I realize... this homeless situation.... is it?

As I watched him, I turned to my husband and the first question out of both of our mouth's was.... "where is his family?" I then wondered if he was mentally ill or maybe a drunk. I then found myself asking all types of questions.... Why isn't there a homeless shelter in Bahrain? Do they have places where ppl like this can go? Is there a food pantry? What about soup kitchens that feed the poor w/ leftover food from these hotels and such? Are there volunteers to help? Why hasn't a mosque reached out to help this man? Does he have any friends? Does anybody care? Is anybody out there?????

As we passed DHL, I kept thinking about him... wondering about him. I'd see people walking on the street, not far from where he was, and I wondered if anyone had reached out to him. Did anybody notice that this man was homeless? How could someone not notice this man?

Or was everyone like us? Did they see him, pass him by and go on w/ their lives and the daily grind of living?

Coming from the United States and having lived in Dallas, Texas, for many years, I saw a lot of homeless ppl. I worked in downtown Dallas for years.... and there are a LOT of homeless people there. Some are very scary... some walk up and down the street having full blown conversations w/ themselves, arguments even.... it's a really sad sight. I did a lot of volunteering in Dallas, worked in soup kitchens, delivered food and clothing on holidays thru my church... and there were a lot of small groups of people who would take the homeless food and drinks during the summer months and deliver blankets and clothing in the winter.

Some of these homeless don't want help - they refuse to go to shelters - is this the way this homeless man was that we saw last night? I found myself wondering that... wondering about his family... if they had tried to help him but he refused the help. Had he been in a mental hospital? Had his money run out? But... money isn't a factor for Bahrainis when it comes to health care in this country - right?? It is in the States... if you don't have insurance, you might as well forget it or when the money runs out - from the insurance company - you might as well bargain for sleeping on the streets. A lot of the homeless in the States are ppl that have been let out of mental hospitals.

It all makes me so sad. I can remember working in the soup kitchens in Dallas. You would not believe the numbers of people that came through to get warm food. I remember working on a Thanksgiving... it breaks my heart to think about it. There were so many children.... so many. And the food wasn't that great. So many items were stale and we'd heat it up to make it edible.... but these ppl never complained... they smiled and said thank you. It really makes you think twice about your life and what you have compared to others. When we'd deliver food and clothing on Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'd sit in my car and cry.... I so often felt guilty for having things when there were so many who had nothing.

It bothers me to see these people. It bothers me to see beggers. Even last night, we were over by the Batelco bldg. in Manama, and there was this guy begging whom I've seen many times. He seems mentally challenged... but I'm not sure. We gave him money... I usually do. So many ppl tell me not to do it, but it's really hard for me not to give. There are a few that I refuse to give money to... that could be out working... but then there are some that need the help - or at least they look as if they do - maybe I'm being fooled. There's one guy that sits in front of Nasser Pharmacy and he begs every day. He's an older man... and I saw him wearing cufflinks the other day! I could hardly believe it. I don't give money to him, but he always asks for it. He sits on a cardboard box and holds out his hand when you walk past him. He probably can't find a job and is too old to be hired (or he would be in the States), but I don't feel good about giving this guy money, especially now after seeing his cufflinks. There's a man that stands outside of AlJazeera supermarket that begs for money. He's a mentally challenged man. We give him money every time we see him. He's always very gracious. He can barely talk, but he always says thank you. There's another guy we see quite often... not for sure of his exact location... (since I'm still not good w/ street names), but he looks like a drug addict. He never wears any underwear under his thobe... he makes all these hand gestures to motorists... and seems high all the time... we don't give him money. Somebody needs to put him in a drug rehab facility - but would it work?!!

I think it's a good idea to get together to form organizations to help the needy in this country. I know there are places that you can donate clothing and food - to various mosques - but what about the homeless? Opening up a place that would be similar to the Salvation Army would be a good idea. Opening up homeless shelters would be good... even organizing and setting up a soup kitchen. I know a lot of people help the poor during Ramadhan and Eid... but what about during these other months? If so many ppl can pull together to boycott Batelco... isn't it worth as much to pull together to help people like this?

Just an idea.


Alfanan said...

The last guy you mentioned always stand at the traffic light near Salmanya’s DQ roundabout.

I honestly think that he’s a drug addict. You can catch him during the winter months (or rather month) wearing some pretty nice heavy thoabs.

What’s funny is that the guy sitting near Nasser Pharmacy always sits right next to the ATM machine. Does he think you’ll give him B.D. 10?

It truly boggles my mind. But I don’t think this country will ever do anything to help the homeless…. It’s starting to become like Egypt here.

Angelo Embuldeniya (Strav) said...

I knew homeless people always existed in Bahrain, wasn't new for me.. but a week ago in uni, the some of the people in my american literature class were surprised that there were homeless people here in Bahrain. (i was surprised that they were surprised and had no idea....)

There's a lack of awareness that poverty exists here and no one has any idea as to what's being done about it.

tooners said...

strav, i knew poverty existed on a large scale... i see it all the time, but like your fellow students, i was unaware that there were homeless people here. i've never seen any homeless around on the streets and such... this is so new to me!

Isa_S said...

The guy by al jazeera is a nice man. I like his smile. ^_^ it's always good to give even though we might feel otherwise. And always with a beautiful smile and good words, those will have a greater effect in the hearts of people than our money. After all, our own Creator gives to all his creation even though there are some that are quite disrespectful. Inshallah whatever we give will be returned many times over.

On the note of the poverty, I've noticed over the years things changing also, but I think the biggest poverty is the poverty of the soul. And how that has changed in bahrain. When I sit with my grandmother Allah ya7fadha I stare into her eyes and admire this wonderful woman mashallah. And really you can see in her eyes the daughter, the mother, and the grandmother all in one. When she speaks she speaks wisely, and when she smiles you know it comes from her heart. I pray that the generations to come will be blessed with such mothers and grandmothers. Their hearts are our homes and without them we are all homeless.

Leilouta said...

I used to give money to anyone who begged me. I met a young man once on my home from school. He told me that he just got out of a mental hospital and needed to take a taxi. I felt so bad for him that I gave him all I had. The following day, he stopped me again with the same story. He didn't recognize me. I am more careful now.

jahooni said...

This is one reason why I left Orange County....I can't even express how many homeless people that I helped. Yep, I said, helped. Now that I live close to the mountains.. its rare but still its everywhere. Especially at Walmart. I don't know if they are on drugs or drinking but they are they asking for help. I give them money (not much) but I feel that if anyone can stand or is that helpless then they must need help. Sorry that you have it there too. Its everywhere....

tooners said...

isa, yes, that man by aljazeera is a really nice man. i never feel bad giving him money. my husband always speaks to him in arabic and the man always says things to me in english. i like him. your story about your grandmother touched my heart. how true about the poverty of the soul... very true.

leilouta, i had some strange ppl come up to me on the streets of dallas. one guy followed me for prob 8 blocks to my ofc., it totally freaked me out. in the states, it's hard to tell whose poor and whose not. so many of those beggers have a lot of money, but then you get the vets w/out legs and such, and it's hard not to give to them.

jahooni, there are sooo many homeless in the states... i really hope it doesn't happen here. glad to see you back posting!

The Moody Minstrel said...

Yes, there are a lot of homeless in the U.S.. It boggles the mind.

I remember when the Rajneeshi cult bought a ranch in the town of Antelope, Oregon, turned it into "Rajneeshpuram", a veritable, self-contained village, and began bringing in their members from all over the country.

Then they extended an open invitation for homeless people to come and live with them. They even arranged for transportation. They must have brought in thousands of homeless from all over the U.S.. Once they were settled, the total population of Rajneeshpuram outnumbered that of the rest of Antelope by several times. They promptly took over the town government, changed the name of the town to City of Rajneesh, and changed a whole bunch of laws to favor them (and discriminate against non-Rajneeshis). (They also apparently started trying to assassinate certain individuals and infect people in Antelope and the nearby city of Madras with salmonella.)

Once their election victories had secured them enough power, they promptly kicked almost all the homeless people out again, but this time with no assistance of any kind. For a long time after that, packs of homeless could be seen wandering all over the state as they made their way out. There were so many of them!

A lot of people were scared of them. I just felt sorry for them. That was some pretty nasty exploitation.

tooners said...

moody, never heard about this. very bizarre and the guy sounds crazy, altho smart in his own evil way.

very interesting story tho. everything was to serve his purpose, no matter who he hurt. i wonder what ever happened to all of those homeless ppl. i can't imagine how they must have felt.