When Homelessness Hits the Wall

Three days a week I give out free lunches to homeless people in Portland, Oregon. I have four locations I go to, three encampments, and the last one is located in Old Town Portland, which is home to several hundred  people. They set up their tents and makeshift shelters along the sidewalks and side streets.

The conditions are absolutely deplorable. There iare profound mental health  issues wherever I look. A sober woman came up to me  yesterday and told me she was seeing things that were  horrible. I asked the difficult question: What are you  experiencing? She said three words: ” Hate, violence, and rape.” I gave her my full attention, as I made direct eye contact with her. Then she said: ” I am a victim of  domestic violence–I was raped by my father when I  was a child.” I told her I was a retired RN, and that I  had been in a relationship with someone many years ago who suffered the same nightmare.

It is amazing  what people will talk about when they just want   someone to hear their story. The human connection  at this level is powerful, especially when everywhere  you look is desperation. I not only give out lunches,  but I sometimes give out socks and new underwear   in sandwich bags. I also gave her $20.00, and said I  would try to help her in three days.

I continued to drive around and hand out lunches until they were all gone. And then… I saw something from a distance that broke my heart.

As I was headed out of Old Town, I saw a woman wearing  tattered cloths and walking erratically across a parking lot.

For some reason I grabbed my camera and took three pictures of her walking up to a brick wall. I am also a dedicated photo  journalist, and I am committed to telling the truth, as the  public needs to see this.

As for me, there is no  rest for the messenger until the message has been delivered.

You want to know why things like this are happening all across America? May I introduce the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. ” A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on  military defense than on programs of social uplift is facing spiritual death.”


Mike Hastie served as an Army Medic in Vietnam.