Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stepping in: An update

After reading everyone's comments and emails on Monday's post re: the homeless family living in their car on my block, I decided that I was going to go out to the car that evening and bring the family some dinner and take it from there.

At around 4pm, I looked out the front window and the car was there but the family was gone.  They were still gone when my family ate dinner two hours later, and had not yet returned when we brought our kids up for bed at 7:30pm.  By the time Nelson and I finished with the kids, it was dark out so I could not tell if they were back, but regardless I'd decided not to go out after dark because I though that could seem threatening.  I mean, it is a woman, living in her car with her kids.  Were it me and my kids, I'd be freaked out by someone knocking on my window after dark.

I had though that they spent the night somewhere else, because by the time the sun was up the next day, there was still no one in the car.  However, Nora's dad told me that even that he had seen them in the car when he was coming by early in the morning to drop her off.

Anyways, I saw the woman return to her car after school started (but at this point I still though they'd spent the night elsewhere, hopefully indoors) and sometime after Benji was dropped off.  I decided that when Benji went down for his nap and I took the boys out to play, I would go over to the car and speak with her.

Oscar wanted to start out in the back yard, so we spent about an hour back there, until Valentine cleaned his clock. We were playing fetch, and she was lapping the yard and just completely took him out.  She ran smack into him and he flew about a foot into the air and landed on his face.  So you can imagine how that went.

We came and I cleaned him up.  I looked outside again and the woman was still in her car, but she was sleeping.  Oscar did not want to go back out anyways, so I decided I'd just force the kids out, in the front, when she woke up.

Except that she did not ever wake up.  Well, not until she went to get her kids from the school.  She was sleeping with her coat (or something) over her face.  It seemed rude to wake her, as I imagined that she was not getting much sleep at night.

So, I wasn't paying a ton of attention to what was going on outside because I had three kids inside.  And then Nora came home from school and I was getting her set up with her snack and homework, and putting the two little boys down for their afternoon nap.  When I looked back outside, maybe thirty minutes after school let out, her kids were changing out of their uniforms (which I obviously looked away from and felt terribly embarrassed for them.)

I checked back 15 or 20 minutes later and they were gone, but the car was still there.  I looked outside and I saw the three of them (two boys and their mom) walking down the street with a large jug, possibly looking for water? I don't know. The boys looked to be either twins or very close in age, maybe 10 or 11 years old.

I did not notice them come back.  Nor did I notice them leave, but they did, sometime around 4pm.  I missed my opportunity.

I am hoping they will come back.  They have been here off and on for the past few weeks, so I'm guessing they have a few different spots where they park.  I actually drove around a little bit yesterday morning after I dropped Oscar off at school looking for the car.  I only checked the blocks nearest the school since she had been walking there to pick them up.  I did not see the car.

I am considering going to the school and waiting to see her get the boys, and then approaching their teacher.  My friend Jane, who is a teacher in DCPS said that the teachers probably know something is up, and can probably offer some kind of help.  I might go this route if they do not come back by next week (there is no more school this week.)

Benji's moms know my across the street neighbors, J and M, from church and Monica told me that M used to do direct service work with the homeless.  If the family does return, I'm going to ask her for her assistance with helping the them get the services they need.  Living in their car is just not good long-term housing solution, particularly not with two children.  I'm kind of hoping that they've gone to a shelter, or obtained some transitional housing somewhere.  I don't like thinking of them out there as it gets colder and wetter with each passing night.  I hope they are okay.  I hope they find help.


Sprite's Keeper said...

I hope they do too.

Keely said...

I truly hope they do too. What a heartbreaking story.

Anonymous said...

I hope next time you have the chance to offer them water? that you offer them water. Really. You've had a few days now to ponder this, you might not save the world but you could have helped one lady with 2 children sleeping in a car. And I dont buy the bullshit that you were embarassed for them when the kids were changing, i think you were embarassed because ::gasp:: you could make a difference in their life and you chose not to. Way to go and hidy ho neighbor.

Becky said...

I don't get why Anonymous takes such a righteous (and sarcastic) tone and yet doesn't sign her name to her comment. I mean, either she wants to own what she's saying or she doesn't. Strange.

Nowhere do I see in this post that Jenni has "chose[n] not to make a difference" in their lives. It's a delicate situation and I understand her not wanting to approach them in the dark.

Thanks for updating us, Jenni. I think that in addition to talking to the mom yourself, the school might know some resources/what channels to go through.

Casey said...

Wow, anonymous has a stick up their anonymous ass! From an anonymous tree!

I totally forget what I was going to say now. Hopefully you can find some help for them, you ARE a good person for even considering it instead of turning your head and ignoring the situation.

Mrsbear said...

I think you're doing the best you can with the best intentions, especially for wanting to extend the courtesy of allowing them privacy and dignity.

I do hope they get the help they need.

Frogs in my formula said...

This truly breaks my heart.

And whoah, Anonymous. Approaching someone who might need help while taking into account that person's pride is a delicate matter.

Would it be possible to leave a basket near her car with sandwiches in a small cooler, some water, and what not? I hate to use the word anonymous again, but an anonymous gesture might be easier than something face-to-face.

Frogs in my formula said...

And I don't mean easier in the sense that you're looking for something breezy, I mean easier in the sense that you don't know how your gesture will be received.