Around Portales I’ve seen numerous people holding up “need help” signs.
In the past, mostly because of traffic, I seldom stopped.
Lately, I’ve been donating a few bucks.
Most recently, I parked and motioned a young man over.
His handmade sign, written with red marker on white paper taped to brown cardboard with red tape, read: “Homeless & Hungry and In Need Of Some Help. I’m Willing To Work For What I Get.”
In blue ink he added: “God Bless.” (His photo is on my Facebook page.)
After assuring me he didn’t have a weapon, I invited him to sit in my car for a chat.
Brendon Gerald, 19, dropped out of Hobbs High School in ninth grade. With a 32-year-old cousin, he had hitchhiked from Ephraim, Wyo.
They had been hanging out in Clovis for a week, and he’d hitched to Portales by himself.
He does odd jobs for money — recently trimming trees.
Occasionally, he borrows a phone to call his parents in Hobbs.
Hoping to gain insight into homelessness, I asked how he felt about his lifestyle.
“Asking for handouts causes a lot of shame. You have to get rid of a lot of pride,” he answered quietly, struggling to articulate his thoughts.
“Being homeless is sometimes the most fun thing in the world. Sometimes it’s the most miserable — especially in the winter.
“We’ve been lucky to get enough food from people. People in smaller towns give more sympathy. In bigger cities you don’t get much response at all,” he said languidly.
Those were the most enlightening quotes I elicited. My attempts to probe deeper were stymied by his age, lack of education, and possibly other “issues.”
“I don’t have any idea,” the teenager answered simply and honestly when I asked him what he wanted to do in the future.
I paid him for his time — vaguely remembering not being much different at 19.
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