Column One: The place where homeless people come to die with dignity
The first thing that strikes you when you read this column is: It sounds kind of like a funeral.
In a funeral service, mourners go to a church and they put their dead body on a wooden coffin, and then they put a wreath and flowers on top of it. That’s what it sounds like when I say, “The place where homeless people come to die with dignity.”
In a funeral, the mourners at the service come in, go to the side of the church, and kneel down. They put their face close to the coffin.
After about 30 seconds, they bow their heads and kiss it, and then they go back to their cars.
The only time they get out and stand is when they leave the church, and the only time they get up off the knees is when the funeral ends.
It’s just like with the homeless, and it’s exactly what they do — kneel down and kiss their coffin — but the only time they get up off the kneel is after they leave the church. All the time they spend talking to you, they never get more than half an inch away from the coffin.
A few days after we went to St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in North Miami Beach, they took us up on our suggestion and sent us to the church’s gym, where there was an old basketball hoop in the center.
I figured I’d get a chance to use it.
“Let’s go,” I said.
When we went upstairs, the preacher greeted us.
“How are you doing today?” he asked. “How are things going for you?”
“Yeah, they’re going good,” I said. “Well, I’ve noticed over there that I’m holding all my belongings in one hand and my wallet with the other.”
“Well,” he said, “I think if you hold on to a bunch of stuff, it’ll kind of look like a coffin, don’t you?”
“Well, maybe I’ll just try to stay with that,” I said.