Saturday, February 28, 2009

Not in my garage

I'd like to think that I really wouldn't object to a homeless shelter in my neighborhood. But I'm not quite willing to open one in my own back yard.

My garage has never been a well-secured building. For a variety of reasons, I don't park in it. It's looking its years and is due for lots of maintenance that I just haven't gotten around to. One of its major failings is the pedestrian door. It doesn't latch and the deadbolt lock has never worked since I've lived here. Also, the door has a missing panel that allows easy access to the neighborhood opossum.

I never worried about random strangers going into my garage because you have to be on my patio, right by my kitchen and bathroom windows to see the garage door. Until Tuesday. When I checked my mail on Tuesday, I found a weathered old business card in the box. On the back, in shaky print, was the following:

Will you rent me garage. I'll take care of yard for free. Luther.

The message included an incomplete phone number.

Having no way to contact Luther, I was not able to tell him that no, I would not rent him my garage.

Luther, though, took my silence as affirmation. On Thursday, as I sat on my couch watching 30 Rock, I caught a glimpse of movement out my kitchen window. As I turned to look, the motion detector light came on, revealing the man who was walking out of my garage, across my patio, and out to the alley. I think the sound I made can only be described as a scream. I watched, a little stunned, as the man (presumably Luther) walked out of sight down the alley. Then I ran out the back door, with SO close behind.

Even before I turned on the light in the garage, I knew what I would see. Luther had laid out a bedroll on my garage floor, complete with one of the pillows from my patio set. The homeless stench was noticeable even from a distance. SO gamely moved Luther's worldly possessions, which also included a package of ramen and a set of Tarot cards, out of the garage and onto the driveway while I broke out the WD40 in a futile attempt to make the lock work. Fortunately, it was only 8:45, so we still had time to drive to the hardware store and buy a replacement dead bolt, which SO had installed on the door about 5 minutes after we got home.

When SO went out to the garage to install the new lock, he saw an apparently homeless man on the driveway, looking at the displaced bedding. The man denied being the attempted renter and walked away. Assuming he would eventually return to claim his possessions, we found a couple of canned food items to add to his stash. We also tied a few dollars to one of the cans. As of now, over two days later, Luther's things are still on my driveway.

I don't feel guilty at all about not allowing Luther a sheltered, slightly-warmer place to sleep. This is my house, my property, my private sanctuary. I don't let people in. I don't want friends roaming in and out at their pleasure, so I certainly can't handle a stranger, especially one with possible mental health issues (SO thinks the man he met was not all there), invading my privacy. But I will feel terrible if he feels like he can't come back to get his things. The last few nights have been cold and we had snow last night. I hate to think that Luther has been without his sleeping bag these last few nights because he doesn't want to upset me or he doesn't want me to call the police on him.


mikeb302000 said...

That's a fascinating story. I usually don't like the typical blog post which chronicles the daily happenings of the blogger, but this was an exception.

Thanks for a real-life story that really makes me think.

S said...

And Luther's stuff is still on my driveway. I hate that I have deprived a homeless man of his possessions, no matter how unintentionally I did so.

Patricia said...

Could you contact the homeless shelters in Lawrence to see if they know who he is from the name/description? They might be able to reconnect him and his stuff

Anonymous said...

You should have sent him to Carl's house. And then Carl could have sent him to Korey's house, and Korey could have sent him to Lydia's house. It could have been a game, like P.Jesus.

lu said...

what a story! and i totally agree with you that you should not feel badly that you were not ok with someone sharing your space (i use this same argument when i feel guilty about squishing the bugs that manage to get into my living space). but it is sad that someone, anyone, lives like that.

from the sounds of it, you have done nothing to intentionally deprive luther of shelter or his belongings so i hope this experience hasn't made you feel too badly.

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