Homeless in New Orleans.

The children and young adults lived on the streets with friends, brothers and sisters, new acquaintances, each moving through a hand-to-mouth existence selling themselves for the chance to survive.  It was survival they hoped for, but living and loving that they dreamed of.

Life on the street for a child is a catch-22 situation.  When they ask for help, they’re put back with the abusers they ran away from.  If they don’t ask for help, they control some part of their world by choosing if and when to be abused for money.  It’s a terrible choice, even tragic, but one that’s understandable from their prospective.

After being in the area for some weeks watching Gabbie, and others walk up and down Bourbon street, Royal street, or sometimes the River-Walk.  I came to find many of the same habits in myself, that I noticed in the locals.

It’s a habit for most locals walking through the city to keep quarters or other change in their pockets.  It pays the block to block toll when walking through the Gauntlet of homeless people that are always there, and lately, seemed to outnumber even the tourists.

Paying the toll made you feel good, but the practical nature of it allowed you to get to work on time, or just see the sights in leisure.  As much as you felt sorry for them, there was only so much you could do to help.  No one can listen to so many sad stories daily, without starting to drown in the spiritual quagmire that sucks you in without any hope of escaping emotionally intact.

Throughout my wonderings in New Orleans I came across a lot of unusual sights and sounds.  Well? Unusual in most places I’ve been; but not unusual for New Orleans.

The city ran out of money to support many of the normal resources that the poor and lost looked to for help.  The free clinics were the first to go, but then the hospitals cut back, the food bank, unemployment offices shut down.  The only ones happy were the prisoners who somehow found their sentences reduced from ten years, to time served or worse.

It was a given that the rapes, murders, and shootings; every type of crime in between, sky-rocketed.  The year I spent there, hundreds of drive by shootings spread throughout the city, forty of them resulting in deaths, a large portion of them children.

The local mental institution closed, the doors were opened and patients as they became hungry wondered out, and gravitated to places they were familiar with.  Others just wondered around, some to be lost to anyone’s knowledge, those lucky few found garbage to eat, handouts, or were stable enough to find some sort of work. 

We had the want-a-be preachers on many corners in ragged pajamas with the state asylum logo on it.  They would preach a while, drink a while and then explode into an almost rabid stream of gutter language, arms flailing, eyes painfully searching for things they themselves did not even know or understand.

There were the ever present perverts, thieves, murderers and everything in between that walks the streets in dark alleys, abusing the abused, stealing from the lost, disappearing into the night as they took the hope of so many with them.

It haunts me the memories of what happened to the many people I met while I was there.  I look at my daughter who is now twenty-three; but the mind of an eternally happy, but sometimes frustrated four year old.  Her mother is gone now and I wonder sometimes of the old-young women Gabbie, as I wonder for the future of my own little girl. 

What happened to her parents?  Were they also terrified of what would one day be the life struggle of their baby girl.  Were they like many who put them away, forget about them, their lives at the beck-and-call of unseen armies of civil service accountants and other thieves in the night who turn them out to fend for themselves.

I see in my mind now as I approach the coming of my own time, the old-young woman singing, swinging her stick, screaming, yelling, whining for her parent’s love, a love that will never come.

 

 

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