Officially, I’ve been here in Massachusetts for three full years, after 29 years in Northern Virginia. For the last 10 months, I’ve officially been homeless, although I did spend four of those months as a guest of the former Wifey at her home in northwestern New Jersey. And since Wednesday, August 10, I’ve been without my unlicensed PT Cruiser, and have been living on the street and sleeping on the concrete floor of the men’s restroom at the town harbormaster’s building on the edge of the harbor.
Yesterday, right before my meeting with a local pastor to seek the church’s help, I prayed to God for the first time since I divorced God on May 6, 2009. I asked God to help me; nothing fancy, no apologies for the divorce, etc. And I let it go at that.
This morning, a little before 9, as I was preparing to go catch the bus to the grocery store, a Mattapoisett police officer whom I have known for over 20 years, Mitch Suzann, pulled up next to me on the town wharf.
“How ya doin’?” Mitch said from behind the wheel of the police department’s SUV.
“I’m doin’ okay, thanks,” I said, wondering if there was more.
“I’ve got somethin’ for ya,” Mitch said, and extended a sheaf of papers from inside the SUV. I thought, oh great, who’s suing me now? I walked over to the vehicle, eyeing Mitch with suspicion.
“This,” Mitch said, “is the paperwork necessary to apply for an apartment with the Mattapoisett Housing Authority over there on Acushnet Road.”
“Mitch,” I said, “I’ve already talked with Ms. Souza over there. You have to be 60 or disabled, and I’m neither.”
“Listen,” Mitch said, “just fill all this out and get it back to me early next week. And go to New Bedford and apply for general assistance. That will show that you have a steady monthly income.”
“But Mitch, what about their rules,” I said. “Ms. Souza said that they don’t waive the eligibility requirements.”
Mitch smiled. “You just do like I told you, Ricky, and we’ll see what happens.”
“I don’t like the idea of applying for welfare, Mitch,” I said. “It was one thing to apply for the food stamps, but welfare? I’ve got a job. It doesn’t pay much, and it’s only part-time, but it’s something. I don’t like the idea of sucking on the public teat.”
“Look,” Mitch said, “some people abuse the system and loaf around. They shouldn’t be allowed to do that. But other people, like you, they deserve a helping hand, a little help as they work themselves into a better situation. So you take this help, and know that a lot of people think that you deserve it.”
I was dumbstruck.
I said okay, I would follow his instructions. I took the papers, he shook my hand, and drove off.
Maybe this morning I witnessed the turning of the tide. Maybe God is answering my prayer.
August 19, 2011.