Homelessness Observations

All Four Seasons.

Green leaves are budding from the trees lining the city streets. The branches sway from the weight of small birds, their throats full of song. The chill in the morning air melts away as the Spring sun warms the ground, beckoning the flowers to push through the damp earth. Pedestrians carry their umbrellas and weave around the puddles on the sidewalk.

Some of them do not see the soiled sneakers poking out from under the bundle of blankets heaped in the shop doorway. Some people cast a sideways glance and say nothing. They have places to go.

People turn the calendar pages and begin to wear white again as Summer breezes into the city. The air is thick with moisture and the asphalt radiates the heat of the sun. When shop doors open and the cool conditioned air whooshes outside, people wearing strappy sandals, twill shorts, and thin tank tops sigh with relief. Fireworks light up the sky, people have picnics in the park, and the kids catch fireflies at night.

The bundles of blankets have moved underneath the bridges and along the banks of the river. The shop owners, taking advantage of the longer hours of the season, throw away the flattened cardboard boxes they find near their doorways. These are entryways, not platforms for beds.

The arc of the sun shortens and fog begins to drift into the city. The once verdant trees now don red, orange, and yellow leaves. The Autumn rain begins to fall. Kids pile into school buses and adults board the train, all daydreaming about their summer adventures.

The bundle of blankets appear downtown again. The blankets get wet from the frost in the woods. Rectangles of cardboard, piles of blankets, and rolling suitcases collect under the awnings of buildings.

Old man Winter hobbles into town. Freezing rain and snow fall from the pewter sky. People hurry to the store to stock up on toilet paper, bread, milk, and canned food. Their breath turns to white mist as they mutter about the cold and prepare for several feet of snow. Smoke floats out of chimneys, readers snuggle with books, and the kettles whistle when the water boils.

The bundles of blankets poke out of cardboard forts dressed with tarps or garbage bags. The snow is already collecting on the corrugated roofs, which sag from the wet weight.

“If you see someone in need during the storm,” the newscasters say, “if you see someone who is homeless, call this phone number.”

The homeless are there all the time. They are there all four seasons.