I drove by last night, about 7:30pm, venturing out in the barely double digit temperatures to brave the ice-pocked streets for dinner. We had failed to get groceries before the ice storm hit. Luckily, there were very few cars downtown.
On South Akard Street, in my neighborhood, I drove past a not-unfamiliar site – a homeless person asleep in the doorway of an abandoned business. The small, single-story vacant brick building regularly houses the remnants of people seeking shelter in its cozy confines. Well, the doorway at least.
I noticed a big pile of blankets, obviously covering a human figure head to toe. Mind you, again, the temperatures at that point were in the teens. I thought to myself, how terrible, to endure this for hours on end through the night. The days are hardly better this week. But, as I said earlier, in this part of town, it’s all too familiar.
Early this morning, I had to step out for a bit once more to run down the street. This was about 6:30. I wasn’t about to make the commute to the office, with the city suffering under rolling blackouts and just as much ice as before. As I drove past the building, the figure was still there. Noting the time, I assumed the person had slept there throughout the night, and I hoped they were sheltered from the admittedly sparse breeze.
Here’s the kicker. After I finished working at home, I decided to make the trek to Oak Lawn for some dinner items and a couple of staples for tomorrow. This was about 4:30pm. There, just as motionless as before, lay the figure covered in mounds of blankets, next to a large suitcase. I thought, ‘surely not…’ ‘That must be someone’s stuff.’ And I feared the worst – that the person lying under those blankets had possibly frozen to death as the mercury plummeted to 7 degrees Fahrenheit overnight.
This thought bothered me all the way to Kroger and back. I felt, in good conscience, I had to stop and check on this person, to see if the worst was true, or if I was only imagining things.
I pulled into an icy spot next to the curb, just off the main street, where I parked. Sliding out of the driver’s seat and onto a thick patch of ice, I shuffled my way onto the curb and up the sidewalk, muttering to myself that it was surely just someone’s abandoned possessions. As I made my way along the sidewalk, I very quickly came upon debris strewn from the doorway toward the street – old food packages and plastic bottles, some unknown individual’s old Christmas family photo, and so forth.
I came upon the figure, and hovered for just a split second over the pale blue woolen blanket – one of those with the satin ribbon along the top edge. I must have stepped on the ice, becuase when it gave a cracking sound, the lumpy blanketed figure emerged, eager to find the source of this sound so close to him.
I quickly turned and walked the other direction, and gave a glance as if I’d only been passing. He was a white man, maybe in his 30s, with reddish blonde hair and beard. He covered up and went back on about his business, whatever it was.
I felt relieved, as I’d already played out the ensuing 911 call and anonymous “tip,” and so forth. But, as I drove away back to my safe, spacious, warm loft, I felt bad, and thought I should have asked him if he was okay, would like to go to a shelter, or if he’d eaten. My only consolation to myself was that I’d thought to stop at all. Most people would be all too happy to avoid ever having to talk to “one of those people.”
From an article about the current “super freeze.”
A Dallas Police Crisis Intervention worker found two homeless people under ice-covered blankets, leaves and trash in a wooded area in south Dallas Wednesday morning, said Ron Cowart, manager of the unit. One had ice crystals in her hair. He convinced them to go to a shelter.