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Old 09-16-04, 08:41 PM   #1
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I posted in Foo since it's not exactly cycling related, but...

Every so often, I ride north and take the Skokie Sculpture Park trail north (for those of you living in Chicago and need to know what I'm talking about). Well, there is one point early on in the trail in Lincolnwood where the trail bifurcates for about 100 yards. If you went to the left, it cuts right through a small parking lot. Well, I've been riding this ride for over a year now, and I noticed an older guy who's obviously living in his car. He looks to be in his 60s. He has all his worldly possessions in his car and is usually slumped back in his seat napping. When I first saw him, I thought he was dead, but when I went up to his car, it looked like he was breathing, and when I was taking the return trip home, he had changed positions. I've always been disturbed seeing this guy- it's just sad to see an older person down on their luck, and he's been living in his car for at least a little over a year now. There has to be SOMETHING I can do, but I just don't know what to do.

Today, I actually stopped and rolled up to his car and for a moment, I thought about asking him what his situation was, but then I thought it would be better if I had some advice for him as to what he can do to get out of his current situation. I ended up leaving, and I felt pretty bad riding home. I've been thinking of him as of late, and I really don't want to be the person who sits by and does nothing. I just can't believe this guy is all alone in the world and forced to live out of his car like that. He has to be someone's grandfather, father, or friend. I just can't see how he's all alone like this.

I've been riding much earlier, so I found out this year that he usually arrives around 6am to 6:30am. I know the city workers have seen him because I've been riding on the paths when they've been out and about doing maintenance, and I don't think they've done anything.

Does anyone have any advice or resources they could point me towards? I think it's obvious he doesn't want to go to some old folks home, but as to what his options are, I wouldn't know. If anyone can help or get me pointed in the right direction, I would really appreciate it. It's really eating at my guts.

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Old 09-16-04, 10:13 PM   #2
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How about bringing him a bagged lunch and seeing what happens? If he is the sort who doesn't trust strangers, doing this a few times might put you in a better position to know how to help him.

This is a long shot, but for all you know, he may actually be content, and opening a dialogue could give you better insight to that. There is a man who lives out of his car in a national park out west, and he is happy as a lark. Chose that life for himself, quit his job as a professor and sold all his belongings. Yes, he is certifiable, and I have the hours of video footage to prove it (long story), but he is happy.
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Old 09-16-04, 10:30 PM   #3
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Old 09-17-04, 05:51 AM   #4
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Ditto Virago.
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Old 09-17-04, 07:35 AM   #5
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You might want to talk to him first to make sure he's not there by his own accord. I wouldn't just walk up to him and bring him a lunch. Get to know him first to make sure you know what his situation is.
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Old 09-17-04, 09:01 AM   #6
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Koffee, I first want to commend you on your concern for this person. Not many people in this world would give someone like that a second glance. Everyone and I mean everyone likes to know that someone genuinely cares about him or her. I think that a smile and some nice conversation is a start as slvoid said. Once you find out more about him you can figure out how to meet his needs. Listen to your heart koffee; it sound like it is a good one.

Let us know how it turns out. I too would love to have enough courage to help someone in that situation. I would be very interested in your experience.
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Old 09-17-04, 04:40 PM   #7
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I know a guy that would rather live in his car than pay rent, he has a job and a sizable savings. Well groomed and perfectly sane, he just can't stand paying rent.
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Old 09-17-04, 05:38 PM   #8
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This may sound Cold but I have a friend that works with people like you describe.. They recommend that you contact the Social Services in your/the area and let them make contact with this person. Yes he might be a normal people but statistically homeless generally suffer from some mental illness that is causing a problem. My friend said you are at more risk by stopping and talking then you might realize. The person is not on the street with a hat out that would allow interaction. Coming to his car and knocking on the window is knocking on his home and where he is safe and alone and may not want company. You become the intruder by making contact.

Your heart is in the right spot! My friend told me if you want to help him, you should think about funding, volunteering with your local Social Service office…. I won’t go into how they thought you should vote this November but they are hurting for Government funds currently.

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Old 09-17-04, 10:53 PM   #9
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Thanks to everyone. I would like to contact Social Services, but only if they will be able to do something to help him remain independent, since he obviously doesn't want to be dribbling away forgotten in some old folks home. It is apparent he is self-sufficient... he's been doing this routine now for quite a long time.

The one thing that does stop me from knocking on his window is the thought that he may have a mental problem. But at the same time, if he does have a mental problem, he may really need the help of some professionals who can treat him and help him to get better. I guess the only thing for me to decide is whether I should make the contact and knock on his window or contact Social Services and let them make the contact. I am seriously leaning towards showing up with a couple of sandwiches and some juice drinks and some fruits and wet wipes in a big bag and offering it up, then asking him if there is anything I can do to help. If he's mentally incompetent, I'll find out right away and then I'll contact Social Services.

Thanks to everyone. I've been feeling very sad every time I see that guy in the parking lot- always sleeping and slumped back on his seat.

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Old 09-18-04, 08:44 PM   #10
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There's a schizophrenic guy who lives and wanders around our neighborhood. He wears the same clothes and headphones all the time. He won't accept money, clothes, or food; but, he'll take cigarettes. Sometimes, when I have cash and I see him coming, I buy him a pack.
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Old 09-18-04, 08:53 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sm266
There's a schizophrenic guy who lives and wanders around our neighborhood. He wears the same clothes and headphones all the time. He won't accept money, clothes, or food; but, he'll take cigarettes. Sometimes, when I have cash and I see him coming, I buy him a pack.
May I ask why you're buying this man cigarettes?
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Old 09-18-04, 10:12 PM   #12
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I agree with dusk. I work for our local Regional Mental Health Center. You may be putting yourself in great danger.

I think a call to the Social Services or Shelter outreach program is the best bet. Trained professionals who deal with these situations would be preferred.

Now, if your gonna do something, forget the sandwitch idea. He may be insulted by your assumption! I think a cup of hot coffee would be more in order as an ice breaker. (no pun intended)

Just be careful, Koffee! We don't want to see any harm come to you.
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Old 09-19-04, 05:07 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
May I ask why you're buying this man cigarettes?

Simple actually.

<wit><wry humour>

The more the man smokes, the quicker he'll develop respiratory problems. The quicker he develops respratory problems, the quicker he dies. When he dies property values go up!

I think the neighbourhood should band together to make sure the guy never wants for a cigarette.

</wry humour></wit>
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Old 09-19-04, 06:18 AM   #14
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Koffee, it's apparent you really have a heart for people, i admire
that.....i was in McDonalds the other day and saw a homeless guy,
i asked had he eaten breakfast and he said that he had, although
he didn't ask for anything, while he was away from his table i left
him some money, ya never know what kind of situation a person
like that is in. For example, i bowl on my church team on Friday nights,
One of the bowlers on our team was smoking and i mentioned to a
friend like...He's smoking...like my goodness...he should be ashamed!
Sunday morning he and his wife got up and shared their testimony
in front of the church, they told of their 19 yr old daughter dying in
a car accident in Febuary, now i know had i lost my child i would probably
be doing more than just smoking, there are alot of hurting people out there
and we dont know the underlying circumstances. Theirs a song that says
seek out the hopeless, confused and torn....help him Coffee, you may be
just what he needs to get his life back on track! GBY!
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Old 09-19-04, 07:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
May I ask why you're buying this man cigarettes?
That's all the help he accepts. I know he gets a lot of crap from the yuppies who do complain about their property values, and I feel sorry for him. He's mentally ill, dirty, and hungry, but he won't take help for that stuff. Cigarettes show him I care. It seems crazy, I know.
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Old 09-19-04, 10:19 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sm266
That's all the help he accepts. I know he gets a lot of crap from the yuppies who do complain about their property values, and I feel sorry for him. He's mentally ill, dirty, and hungry, but he won't take help for that stuff. Cigarettes show him I care. It seems crazy, I know.
Get him some nicotine gum.
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Old 10-02-04, 05:34 PM   #17
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Update-

So last night, I finally decided what to do. Since I didn't know his situation, I wasn't going to call social services and send them out for nothing. I decided to make him up a "care bag" full of necessities and bring it out to him and see if he would be willing to take the bag and talk if he wanted to. I got him a bunch of stuff- it turned out to be about 35 pounds of stuff, and I put a bunch of it on my clip on rear rack and the rest, I hoisted on my back in a big messenger bag. I ended up getting him tolietries, some winter socks that were on sale, a therapeutic U-shaped travel pillow, some food, books and playing cards, and a few other food storage containters and utilities. I also enclosed a letter explaining what everything was and I told him if he needed help or just wanted to talk, he could call my cellphone. Then I dragged everything all the way out to Skokie on my bike. Ow, it really was a lot of weight, but it was worth it. When I got there, he was in his car, just as I knew he would be. I got all my stuff that I'd put together for him and walked up to his car and knocked on his window. He didn't seem surprised at all. I introduced myself and told him I'd seen him here at the parking lot every day for at least a year. He told me he's been coming to this parking lot for at least 3 years. I acknowledged that I'd seen him for at least two of them. Then I told him I was just concerned because I didn't know his situation, and I thought about him and got him some stuff, and he was welcome to take it, or just give it away if he didn't want it. He was like "sure... no big deal". But then he told me he lived in an old folks home (his words) out on Peterson, and that he liked to take his car and leave and go driving all over the place. I sat down on the curb and talked to him for almost an hour and a half, while he told me about his life. He was born in 1919, he had a niece that he called (he has a cell phone), he goes to the same restaurant for breakfast for the last 35 years, and they watch out for him, espcially the waitress who's waited on him every morning. His wife died 15 years ago, so he went to the home. He worked at a bakery as the manager for 27 years out in Wrigleyville next to Cubs park. He stayed until he couldn't handle doing all that extra lifting required. He knows all the great places where you can go for a great bakery. He knew quite a bit about Chicago history, and it was cool to listen to him talk about life in Chicago in the early 1900's. He's lived in Chicago most of his life, except when his uncle owned a farm out in the very far south suburbs. The land is long since gone. He's seen the city built up, and he knew quite a bit about the history of Chicago, and he knew all the historical buildings, and he was able to tell me about some of the historical buildings that were torn down for the condos. He told me all about the different gentrification projects he's seen going on in the Chicago area. He even saw John Dillinger killed at the Biograph. He wasn't in the Biograph, of course, but he was around the area, and he was there when the police were raiding and he saw the aftermath and everything. He was in Chicago when the celebrities used to hang out here, and he told me about their hangouts and stuff.

We talked about a lot of stuff. He was totally cool.

Well, after an hour and a half of talking, the woman who was a friend of his niece stopped by. She walks her dogs there, then she checks in on him. I told him I'd get going, then he said that I shouldn't give the bags to him while she was around, because she would tell his niece, and they were already nagging him about all the stuff he already has in his car. So he told me to leave it all next to his door, and he'd have the woman enter from the passenger side so that she wouldn't see all the stuff I left him. Sneaky! I shook his hand, told him my name, and he told me his, then I told him to wave at me when he sees me, and I'd do the same.

I felt really relieved- he's not crazy or anything. He just likes the freedom of leaving the home and going around in his car. Nothing wrong with that. I told him where I lived and told him my phone number was in the letter, so feel free to call me, and if he's in the neighborhood, stop in and see me for a cup of coffee or some tea or whatever. I really hope he takes me up on it sometime. I'd love to videotape him and his stories. It was fascinating. Seriously, I've never talked to anyone that old before! And he'll be 85 soon, because he told me he was 84 and born in 1919. So I'll see if I can figure out when his birthday is, then I'll stop by the bakery we both like to go to (Dinkel's on Lincoln) and have a small birthday celebration. I'll wait another week, and if I didn't freak him out by coming up to him, then I'll make him some brownies and sit down and have another talk with him.

Anyway, I thought I'd tell you guys how it all ended. I rode home with a big smile and didn't stop smiling for a long time. Thanks to everyone for offering up advice.

Koffee
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Old 10-02-04, 05:56 PM   #18
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GJ koffee. A good deed is already a good reward itself. I think you just made my day, along with my newly purchased kona scrap.
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Old 10-02-04, 06:28 PM   #19
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You did a great thing!
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Old 10-02-04, 06:29 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by koffee brown
I rode home with a big smile and didn't stop smiling for a long time.

Koffee
You have me smiling Koffee!
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Old 10-02-04, 06:30 PM   #21
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People like him are the reason im so addicted to history
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Old 10-02-04, 06:44 PM   #22
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Yeah, I just wish I'd gone up to him earlier when it was warmer! It was really cold today- 41 degrees F this morning, but I was glad to sit on the curb anyway and chat with him. My toes were freezing, though! When summer hits, I'll definitely do stuff like bring up some food from the bakery and sit down and have chats and stuff. Even in the winter, I'll at least stop in and say hello and make sure he's ok and stuff. At 85 years old, I really think he's lived a lot, but he has a whole lotta living left in him still! I really enjoyed our time together. I'm still smiling when I think about him.

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Old 10-02-04, 07:09 PM   #23
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very cool story, sometmies it trips you out what folks have to say.

Sadly here I keep finding the odd ones...the one that stood out in my mind was most likely an ex addict...he stopped me when me and my friend were walking down teh street I told my friend that he (the friend) was "on crack" when this guy stops me and starts getting extremely deep philosophically. I was trying not to hurt his feelings or anyhting, he seemed to be in decent shape, jsut out of his luck...but man, that guy kept going...and man it got odd...but the guy did have many valid points, and actually I leanred quitea bit from his ramblings...although it did take a few weeks to figure out what he was talking about, going from rivers and evolution, to trying to hook me up with a "300lb fat lady that will kick my a-- if she doesnt get kids"....very bizaare to say the least, but hey sometimes life is.

Definate kudos though, you made someone's day all teh better!
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Old 10-02-04, 08:02 PM   #24
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You did good. Not to be all religious and stuff, but in people like that is where you'll find divinity.
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Old 10-03-04, 12:11 AM   #25
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Great story, Koffee. Glad it went well.
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