Today, as I do almost every morning, I hurried downstairs to my garage which is located at the back of a connecting building. I used the remote to raise the garage door and went to get in the car. Through the window—aided by the overhead light—I saw what I first thought to be a dead body slumped behind the steering wheel of my car. Trying to overcome my shock, I opened the car door to discover a middle-aged homeless man sleeping in the car. I’m afraid I rudely awoke him, screaming for him to get out of my car. When he finally did and started to leave, he stopped, looked at me and said, “I didn’t take anything.” As if that made it all better. And then he walked out of the garage and down the alley.
My friends tell me I should have called the police, but I decided I was already running late and didn’t want to add another 30 minutes to my schedule.
My garage is large enough for only one car and I have many boxes of assorted books, former school papers, and video tapes. All the box lids had been opened and some of the items were on the ground. In the car I found my intruder had left a flashlight behind. And the door to the interior of the building (which I never use and keep locked) was unlocked—the way I assume my visitor got into the space.
Oak Park, like many American cities in today’s economic climate, is host to many homeless. They often spend the night at the church beside my building which houses PADS. I see them peopling the parks, I see them panhandling near the Starbucks I visit, on one occasion I went up to the back entrance that I tend to use and found a guy urinating believing he was hidden from sight. Friends tell me stories of finding someone sleeping on their porch or in their condo lobby entrance. I, like most people I know, don’t see a solution to this continually growing social problem. All I know is that they are there, like so many walking ghosts.
This morning, I was totally freaked out—I think I still am. Sometimes a sense of security is little more than empty words.