The Homeless Circle Of Experience

Over the holiday season, a friend who had been lost to the organised world for a couple of years was found and stayed with us for a time. Behind the cheery smile and sense of fun, his life had imploded in some way and he had vanished and become homeless. Quite why that happened we do not know yet, and it’s not really the time or our place to ask. People recovering from that situation want love and acceptance without questions. To be valued without examination or investigation. It is very easy to be insensitive to the very vulnerable. Our everyday jostlings bruise them in a way which many find incomprehensible but there is another side to it.

After a time with us, being celebrated, clothed, fed and showered, he began to talk more about his life on the streets. The stories were breathtaking, and chilling at the same time, but there was something else. He explained how he walked around slowly starving, and getting periodically soaked by rainfalls. Out of the blue some other homeless guy noticed him and took him under his wing. Hot meals became available. Medical examinations, clothing supplies, the occasional bed. The concrete wilderness suddenly seemed a warren full of opportunities.

He told us, with growing enthusiasm, of the places you needed to go on a Tuesday, or Friday to get a free meal and a wash. Which buses moved all night so you could settle in and have a nice nap and the rest of it. If you had the chance to read his experiences before you became homeless food and shelter, to some degree, would be yours for the taking. He had become an expert in his field:  the man to know.A person who would help you achieve your new goal: survival.

In some bizarre way, in this area of life, he had become like an experienced merchant banker or consultant who made sense of topics obscure to the mass of us, and showed us opportunities where we saw only threats. The main difference was that no one wants his expertise or will pay for his clearly evident ability , while a merchant banker has the greedy and astute banging on his door. He made me realise that most of us have power and ability in some measure, but that you need one to demonstrate the other. In that unlit, unsortafter world he had begun to discover himself.

Somehow questions kept moving through my head. How could a man of such opportunistic energy end up apparently potless and friendless. How flawed are our apparently deepest friendships when it comes to admitting real needs and problems. Who do I really know. I have no answers but I have some gratitude for a man who came, literally out of nowhere and made me think so much. Who made that twilight world between housekeeping and destitution more visible to me. Who gave me a brief view of a life which is eked out in the wilderness. Who showed tenderness and warmth to a world which had done him few favours. Who was more like me than it is comfortable to admit.

About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
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43 Responses to The Homeless Circle Of Experience

  1. cyberian says:

    “In that unlit, unsortafter world he had begun to discover himself” – you write with such tenderness of the darkness only truth can illumine


  2. This is such a compasionate piece.

    I am a recovering alcoholic and have met and become friends with people who ended up on the city streets homeless. They all seem to have a certain strength that only expeience can give. It never happened to me but if my family hadnt stood by me (and they very nearly gave up on me) then I have no doubt I would have joined this alternative existence.

    I have dep compasion for homeless people however they arrived there.

    I am 11 years sober this month and a strong member of AA. I like to think my helping other alcoholics to begin their journey of recovery has helped them, too, to keep a roof over their heads



    • It says so much for you that you have maintained you sense of compassion and interest in others through your past alchoholism and other difficulties. One of the more special things about Blogging is that it enables you to connect with others of a like mind, or with people who inspire you without agenda or geographical constraint. Meeting you on here reminds me of this. Thankyou for your thoughtful and lovely comment


  3. WordsFallFromMyEyes says:

    This is so interesting. It is just interesting all seemed well & something changed, & down he went. And then to be shown the ropes. It’s a great telling. Thank God for those people who do the free food thing, and stuff. Bless them.

    This is very thoughtful. This is a worthwhile reflection. I enjoyed it.


  4. Julie says:

    I have always admired a writer who can give a voice to those who haven’t. Maybe that’s what we do — live, learn and share. I pray that your friend gets back on his feet soon, it sounds as if he’s going through recovery from past wounds and they shall heal too.



  5. Thankyou for your lovely comment. I agree about the “living ,learning and sharing”. I think we do that more than we realise. Sometimes a man without apparent voice can inspire a richness of response in those others might have considered beyond his ability to influence. It’s part of the beauty of life for sure


  6. rumpydog says:

    When we can stop measuring a person by the things they have or by their looks, we can see the spark of the Universe within. Each person is worthy in the eyes of God. It’s only our eyes that choose to see otherwise.


  7. backonmyown says:

    This post touches me deeply. I have sometimes pondered on the notion that most of us are one mortgage default from the streets. I have often been amazed at the knowledge the homeless have about their surroundings. I used to seek them out in Asheville when I wanted to know where to park or what establishment was open, and when. They were generous, helpful
    conversationalists. Could be me under slightly different circumstances. Thanks for reminding us of their humanity.

    To Christine above: Congratulations on eleven years of sobriety. Your willingness to help others in the program is invaluable. It works if you work it!


  8. Barbara says:

    This truly touched me Peter. We are often so quick to judge and, truth be told, have no clue what anyone else is going through. I’m so glad you were there when he needed you. And look what you got in return. That’s invaluable.
    Thank you for sharing this experience so poignantly.


  9. Ina says:

    This is a thought provoking posting. I saw a homeless young guy in the streets of Leeds when I was there in June last year and he has been on my mind ever since. He was very dirty, and he had a dog, and it was obvious he was really in psychological need. I gave him money and I hoped it was enough to get him to the place he said he was going, but the next day he was still there begging. No one seemed to care. It’s an awfull world, where people just walk by less fortunate people, apparently not caring. But I suppose, if you see them every day, you get cynic. Every homeless person is a child though. Of ours. And every child of ours can end up like that. I hope he found a place.


  10. nelle says:

    My first inclination is to give you a great big hug, and I will. *hugs*

    This post I will link to on Facebook, because it is from the heart and oozes empathy. This is the sort of thing I really admire, and of which this world needs more.


  11. Writerlious says:

    Hugs from me too! We need more posts like this in the blogosphere. 🙂


  12. john blair says:

    Great post. It reminded me of my friend Bob that I met several years ago. Although Bob was ” homeless” he taught me to never label anyone, and to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Bob was one of the most interesting and intelligent souls that I have ever met.Through our many hours of conversation, he taught me far more about life than my many years of college.Although Bob is no longer of this world, he will always be with me ….


  13. Miss Emm says:

    Isn’t it amazing? I mean amazing both in a good and a horrifying way. I have found that we are capable of being everything and anything we want to be. All the way from being homeless to become the richest man alive. Great story, thank you for sharing.


  14. renxkyoko says:

    This is a topic close and dear to my heart. My family ( Sis, myself and mom ) are “feed the homeless” volunteers here in our city. I cannot imagine how they are doing this winter. It doesn’t snow in our city but the temperature can go down to several degrees minus centigrade outside. All the homeless shelters are already filled to capacity… some live in tents, or horror, under bridges, etc. We just saw an old homeless woman pushing her cart at 4 AM at 24 F ( 32 freezing pt.) on New Year’s day.


  15. Aurora HSP says:

    So beautifully written. What a wonderful gift you have for linking humans who live so close together and yet worlds apart. Write on 🙂


  16. Thank you for this very thought provoking and sensitive post. I am sure your friend’s world was better for spending time with you. I do a lot of work with homeless people and collectively they are very judged by society. My experience however has brought some incredibly resourceful people into my life and I have such respect for what they manage to achieve in the desperate circumstances they find themselves in. We live in a cruel world and sadly society is more comfortable with people being invisible rather than acknowledging what is really going on and actively doing something about it.


  17. Caroline says:

    Wonderful post. Who are we to judge others. In fact if we are not in a position to judge others unless we start by judging ourselves.


  18. Powerful stuff. Thank you for this post. I volunteered at a homeless shelter for about a year, and many of the people absolutely blew me away with their positive attitudes. The more I got to know some of the people, the more, as you said, I realized they were more like me than I was comfortable to admit. We must always keep our hearts open.


  19. –Peter,
    you speak for so many without a voice.
    You are like the “Charles Dickens” of our day.
    I Looooooooooooove!


    • Your comment did end up in my Spam folder. Thankyou for letting me know this might be the case. As always, your comments are very cheering. I hope it was not mistreated while it was in the spam folder, and at least enjoyed a nice glass of red wine and a sausage sandwich during its exile. Thankyou again. You are a treasure. Does Mr Liverpool follow British football. If he does, tell him I watched the Man U- Liverpool game on Sunday


      • you. are. a. treasure.

        Mr. L. is Crazy Nuts Obsessed w/ Soccer. I mean, he’d take it over ME! Seriously. He is WILD.

        He did watch that game, of course…while I served him breakfast. He subscribes to EVERY soccer channel, too.

        Do you watch A LOt, Peter? Are you as nuts as Mr. L?

        Love flowing from MN. I hope this does not go into spam for another glas of red wine! Xxxx


  20. aawwa says:

    A very thoughtful post! I am reminded of that saying “But for the grace of God go I…” We are not that far removed from your friend’s experience – I think it can happen to any of us, given certain circumstances.


  21. I agree, the space between us and this experience is much thinner than many appreciate. Thankyou for commenting. I always love that line, and it informs a lot of my life.


  22. sillymexox0 says:

    This is sad and yet it’s beautiful. I hope your friend gets back on his feet soon and everything turns out to be ok. Life can be pretty hard sometimes.

    Your writing is brilliant!


  23. We are all teetering on the edge of change that can take away much of what we have but can give us back much more of what we need to know and feel. So often generosity comes from those who seem to have the least to give … but with heart in the giving, even in the smallest measure, the gift is a treasure that rich ‘men’ might never possess.

    I just stepped out of (or shall I say, the universe pushed me out of) an environment where material needs sat in judgment of those who didn’t have ‘this and that’ and weren’t motivated to obtain it either. I could never agree a man or woman’s worth is based on how much his clothes or house costs, or what restaurants he/she dines in, or whether he/she has this or that degree or caused his own misfortunes, or is just one of the unlucky ones.

    Thank you, Universe! (Who are any of us to ever look down on another?)

    And thank you so much for your caring for the practical and emotional needs of your friend, or for sharing his story that even help among the ‘helpless’ proves that ‘angels walk among us’. I will sharer on FB.


    • I have never doubted either your sensibility, or the means to express it, and you demonstrate both admirably here. I thank you for everything you say, and for having the heart to say it


  24. gotham girl says:

    An incredible post and one that I enjoyed so very much. My parents taught me at a very early age to respect ALL people. Often I learn more from the homeless than I do from those with many means. Thank you!


  25. I agree with you about the learning more. Often those with the most to say speak less, while other less experienced individuals demand the stage. I have learnt more from those who thought they had nothing to teach than from a thousand opinion filled individuals


  26. Cafe says:

    I think it’s so important for people to see those who are homeless as people themselves. They have their own stories, own struggles, and in the end they are still part of our human family. There isn’t enough compassion and understanding in this world sometimes towards the homeless. It could happen to anyone. Thanks so much for sharing this story.

    Thanks also for subscribing to my blog! I really appreciate that 🙂 I hope you will leave a 10-word-or-less description of your blog on my page dedicated to my readers ( so ppl can know what your blog is about! Thank you!!! 🙂


  27. eof737 says:

    What a beautiful, touching share Peter… He should write about his experiences or at least have you co-write it with him… It would help others understand the predicament of those whose lives have been swallowed by the street… Beautiful…


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