At first, this story started off as a cool project whose limits seemed endless. However after several trips, including dumpster diving, cooking dinner on an open fire at night, running errands with them, going to the soup kitchen, going to a friends house, and more, my attitude has seemed to change.
These people are just that. People. Throughout my experiences with them, I have caught tiny little notions of their desire to be recognized as such. Perhaps that is why they took to me so quickly. While I don't know for certain, sometimes I feel that all they want is a little respect from those who have it, have money, a house, a warm bed, and not the constant reminder of a past they can't help but regret.
After the first visit or two, I imagined writing about the "cool" things I got to do with some "homeless people" like dumpster diving or hanging around their campsite. However, it has radically transformed since then. These "homeless people" are now more than my Vico 392 class project. Oddly enough, they actually care about me. And to no surprise, I care about them. It's not a situation where I can just hop in my car and not worry about them until next time I'm in Columbus. Every time I start to complain about how cold my dorm is, I usually stop dead in my tracks. Somewhere about an hour and a half away are people living in tents trying to survive. It is also extremely unnerving when I hear things such as "my feet were so cold last night that I was almost crying."
With all this said, and a lot more unsaid, I try to think of a way this can be solved. Where homelessness isn't a problem, where we can live in a society that doesn't judge each other for a few bad mistakes that had dire consequences, where class division can be eliminated, where people aren't judged for foraging through dumpsters, etc. When can we ALL learn to help a fellow human out without constantly thinking about the "free handouts" we're giving them?
All this leaves me at a loss. I'm sure somewhere along the lines, every PJ has wondered if their projects are going to be a failed attempt at progress and end up just another source of emotional exploitation for their subjects. I remain optimistic. If not, at least I can learn how to deal with such situations for future projects. But, then again, who am I to say that they need help from me? Perhaps the only help I can give them is a bit of compassion and respect.