It is mostly a result of staying at the mighty mission, a place where I have slept for a thousand nights, where I have learned about guys’ troubled upbringing. Many of the regular preachers at the Union Gospel Mission have come from dysfunctional families and some have, themselves, overcome terrible addictions. When these preachers talk about their troubled past, many guys in the seats nod or laugh in recognition to similar horror in their own lives. It is all an oddly poignant thing: what was grim once can emerge as something absurd and funny, even in light of a reality where guys are continuing to endure disastrous ongoing aftereffects of a life made haywire. [The mission, of course, has has an eye to get guys into their program to square up their lives and afterlives.]
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While there are rascals and full-blown psychopaths and narcissists in Homeless World Sacramento, convicted pedophiles, thieves, rapists and cunning, charmy con men, it is mostly a place where everyone is remarkably gentle, and all try to scrape together an existence.
There are scrappy people who collect bottles and cans and will hold up a sign all day at an intersection. They take sub-minimum wage jobs from friends of friends, and they’ve taken work from Loaves & Fishes’ “Daily Bread,” where they risk getting wholly ripped off for their labor.
Some of the guys are walled off. There are sad sacks, always in touch with their gloom. Others are loners who near never speak and keep to themselves. Still others have anger on a hair trigger. You have to be cautious when interacting with them because a trivial misunderstanding can erupt and become a physical confrontation.
It’s a fragile world; one that is often dangerous. But mostly Homeless World Sacramento is a place of neglect and loss and wonders unrealized.