167. Stigmatas

Dear Friends:

The other day while traveling, I entered a rustic diner in a small mining town, very high up in the Rockies. As I was standing at the counter ordering a coffee, I overheard a conversation between a woman who I think was the diner’s owner and a disheveled looking man.

“You are going to have to help out around here some”

I was given my coffee mug and proceeded to fill it with some much needed coffee and went and sat down at a table. The worn down looking man then went and sat in the booth across from my table. He had a plastic shopping bag as one gets from a grocery store and opened it and took out a few pages torn from a book.

I was very familiar with the pages that he was looking at. It was dealing with various snare and deadfall trap types. I mentioned to him I knew a little bit about snaring and we discussed various methods. He admitted he knew nothing about snaring, and someone had given him those pages. He was very interested in living off the local game that he saw in the area. He also admitted he was very hungry, had not eaten in days, and that he was going to do some work for his breakfast. The owner telling him to help out was her way of giving him charity, and at least she was willing to do it. It made me glad to see she brought him the largest breakfast in the diner !

He went on to tell me he was searching old abandoned silver mines for minerals in which he sold. Sometimes he had part time work when one of the local diners or other businesses needed him for labor. He had come to this town from being homeless in a large city, and was glad to be away from it even while still being homeless. He told me the smaller town was not a mecca, but the people were better and helped him occasionally with the sporadic tourist buying his minerals. He explained his camp was outside of town, and no one bothered him there either.

He told me the mineral business was a little slow.  According to the locals, the tourist and RV’s where not as plentiful as in the past . This was effecting him some as well as the others, and the more he talked, the more I liked him. What was disheveled in his appearance was the fact that he had a diminutive frame dressed in clothes that were too large.  When I looked closer I noticed he did maintain his hygiene to the best of his circumstances, even to having very white shiny teeth. The more he talked the more he loosened up and you could tell he was once a very articulate and intelligent guy.

As I was getting ready to go, I had a feeling of sorrow. He told me that he loved living in the area, and wanted to stay there forever. My sadness came from knowing that even if he recovers himself, those people in that town will probably always view him with the eye that he was once homeless, lower on the social spectrum and stigmatized for once being homeless.

I have written  that larger cities are not always a better place for the homeless to dwell in. In a smaller town social relationships are closer, more intimate, and like the saying goes: “Everyone knows everyone’s business”.  Even if the gentleman did change his situation; he would probably have to move away from there to be considered an “equal” in the eyes of others at some point. In the short term, things were better for him.

At that high elevation in the mountains it is very cold and far from any type of services. He is taking care of himself admirably . I wish him luck.




2 Responses to “167. Stigmatas”

  1. 1 Debbie Cerda
    August 7, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    I’m sure you see much of that type of stigma, and it saddens me. I was speaking to some fellow Elks about inviting some of the previously homeless veterans who reside in transitional housing to our annual Thanksgiving Dinner. One insensitive? ignorant? person asked, “are you sure they won’t be panhandling or going mental while they are here”?
    I was too stunned to respond, but luckily a more understanding and knowledgable member politely addressed the question.

    Stay safe!

  2. 2 Gilberto Villarreal
    August 28, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    I am 100% service connected. I know what you mean about insensitive people. I am also an Elk, Lodge 1032, Brownsville, Texas and am about to join fellow Vietnam Vets in the local Vietnam Vets of America homeless feeding program which feeds including community homeless on Thursdays between 4pm and 7pm. Luv u and your knowledgable member.

    Stay safe! grisslypop1

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