It was wet and cold this morning when I saw Jacob, he didn’t offer his last name.
Jacob was trespassing at the business I manage; he camped out in one of the moving trucks. In other situations, under other conditions I might have reacted differently to this behavior, but this morning I offered coffee.
Jacob looked frail and he looked 14, he swore he wasn’t and there was a world weary look in his eyes, along with suspicion that told me that was true.
Jacob told me he was sorry that he had been caught, he had tried to be gone from the property every day before I arrived, which meant he had been camping in the trucks for at least two nights.
“Yeah, yeah I have, I mean well it’s been raining or snowing all this week and at least the back of your trucks keep that off,” he said.
Jacob told me that he had been homeless for almost four years and had stopped in Glenwood because, well he liked the mountains and it was a welcoming place.
“People seem less judgmental here,” Jacob said. “I’ve been all over since my folks threw me out and Glenwood has more resources and politer people than places like Oakland or Saint Louis and the other outsiders aren’t as rough here.”
I asked him what an outsider was, he explained the people society had no use for.
“There are so many outsiders, people like me, addicts and drunk, runaways and slaves, vets and criminals who were never given a second chance.”
Jacob said his father threw him out because his step-mother told him to.
“She never liked me, she thought I was taking her share of everything, guess he did too, last I spoke to him he said he wished I never been born.”
Jacob revealed he was only 17 now so he had been on the road since he was 13.
“What are you going to do man, there isn’t anyone who wants to help, in Cali they just wanted to try and put me back with that fat fuck, and he didn’t want me, and foster parents don’t want teens.”
So he fled, first fled the streets of Oakland and went to San Diego, then Dallas. He has been beaten, raped, had everything taken a few times.
“Sometimes I wished I was dead, sometimes I wish I knew what to do, but when you have no skills and no address, no home and there aren’t places for you to go, well what can you do?”
I looked at him, I couldn’t answer. I’ve worked with the homeless a lot, am a social worker and yet for someone his age, he is right there aren’t many options, there aren’t homes or orphanages, or group places and shelters are usually just for one or two night stays.
“Thanks for the coffee man, you won’t see me again, I can’t risk you calling the cops.”
I offered a ten, it was all I had, he declined, grabbed his bag and slipped into the fog, unwanted, undesirable, an outsider.
It’s a scary world out here.