My Week on the Streets

With just a few dollars and and his driver's license, a college student sets off to catch a glimpse of the homeless experience.

The surprisingly brisk summer night overcame us faster than the cars overhead were traveling. We had hiked over fifteen miles that day on foot. I looked at Banks and said, “Let’s take a break.” As we sat down on the dew-covered grass, I began unlacing my shoes and taking my socks off. Frustrated, we began examining the silver dollar sized sores on our feet. We hadn’t eaten in two days. In a final effort to find somewhere to sleep that night, I ventured under a highway bridge.

The noise of passing cars was so loud that I could barely hear myself think. If there was one thought that passed through my head, it was, “How in the world are we going to fall asleep under here?”

I continued to walk up the slope yelling, “Hello! Is anyone here? You’re not in trouble! We need a place to sleep…hello?” Soon a shadow figure emerged from the darkness. The figure was gesturing, but I could not hear any words. So I approached. The figure immediately took up an aggressive stance, and I finally heard what he was saying. “What the hell are you doing here?! Who told you about this place? Get out! Get the hell out of here!”

The Irish-Catholic heritage in me made my blood boil. Either way, I would have been too tired to throw even one punch. I turned around and told Banks we had to keep looking.

We continued to walk over the bridge and found a wet patch of grass near the highway under a tree: a place to sleep. From our bags we took out a thin plastic tablecloth that we had been given, our only item resembling a blanket. I hugged my backpack tightly to my chest, encouraging Banks to do the same. And there we slept cold, alone, worn out, battered, and exhausted. Our night was just beginning.

A few hours later we awoke to the sound of thunder and a torrential downpour. My eyes opened slowly as I sat up. My first words were, “I’m at my breaking point.”

Rewind three months.

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