Today was blistering hot in the Bay Area, so I waited until early evening to go for my usual Saturday long run. While jogging around an unfamiliar neighborhood, crossing a pedestrian bridge I was at first a bit fearful of the stooped figure sitting in the middle of the walkway. Looking closer, I could see she was a young woman in her twenties--about my oldest daughter Sheridan's age. She was wiping tears from her face, and I said with a look "hello." There was an openness in her eyes and she glanced "hello" back. I continued the run, hoping she wasn't planning to hurt herself on that bridge. As I made my way back home from the run I saw her again, a little farther from the freeway but still stooped and crying. She was completely disheveled, clearly without a home, and I fought back instinctive fearful, judgmental feelings to ask this time, "Are you okay?"
"I'm Lindsey," she said, "from Gilroy".
"Do you know where you are?" I asked.
"No, I got dropped of by some people who said they would help me, but then they stole my wallet and left me here. I have never been treated so bad!" Even though she had a clean natural beauty, Lindsey was putting on makeup to look "presentable" when she got to a place where someone could help her. She was headed to a shelter on First Street and Gish Road in San Jose, which was about 15 miles from where she sat and she had no idea how she would get there. She had recently run away from a rehab facility, and was very familiar with the shelter.
"Can I call you a cab?" I offered.
She declined, saying "I need this experience right now."
We talked more about life, and how each of us had ended up in less than ideal circumstances at times. I told Lindsey that she needed to ask for help, and that she would find a place to stay and eventually she would find herself. She got up from the curb and hugged me, which was startling but welcome. She hugged me again, thanked me, and we wished each other well. I sprinted back to the house to get my phone and figure out who to call, someone who could go pick her up. But then I realized I'm really in no position right now. I said a prayer for young Lindsey, and checked in with my own children by text. I thank the Lord they are well, and hope someday I will be able to give more than a hug or two to help a lost young woman to find her way home.
How can you help homeless young adults? Each person has a story, just like Lindsey.
Consider donating to or volunteering with these South Bay organizations.
- Bill Wilson Center: http://www.billwilsoncenter.org/
- Loaves and Fishes: http://www.loavesfishes.org/
- Sacred Heart Community Services: http://www.sacredheartcs.org/
- West Valley Community Services: http://www.wvcommunityservices.org/