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A stroll down my very long driveway revealed a homeless Veteran needing help...

Michael aka Mac

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Michael aka Mac

It was Wednesday, June 29, 2022 and I was walking down my very long driveway.  The temperature was in the 80's (F), and I was on my way to the market down the block to pick up some groceries. The sun was blasting, and the heat seemed intense. As I was coming to the end of the driveway, I noticed a figure on the ground lying motionless. It was an older man, possibly late 60s, early 70s, barefoot, laying on the ground with his head on his shoes, using them as a pillow. His breathing was so shallow that I did  not even see his chest raise, and wondered if he could have been possibly deceased.  I remember reading an article from the L.A. Times of the numerous deaths lately due to extreme weather conditions. As the possibility that this poor man has died was running through my head, just then I saw his body move ever so slightly.

I quickly turned around and headed back home as fast as I could. Being a freelance outdoor gear reviewer, I have  a lot of camping gear, so I searched my place for some of those items that I had reviewed earlier this past year to setup a 'care package' for him.   I figured that the recent article that I had written here on Trailgroove.com on Minimalist Camping would be a good starting point for setting him up.  The first and most important thing he needed right away would be water, so I retrieved an extra large plastic water bottle w/cap from my storage shelf and filled it with water.  Next was to get him something to get the sun's intense heat off of him, and found a brand new umbrella, & a new Mylar solar blanket that could be used to reflect the sun and keeping him cooler, or it could be used at night as blanket to keep him warm (or even a makeshift shelter).

I had to make this care package ultralight, as he did not have a shopping cart with him, or any means to carry a heavy load. Since food and water were going to be the heaviest items, my goal was to find the lightest & most durable gear for him. I found an ultra compact & lightweight flashlight, a heavy duty brand new beach towel that could be used as a blanket, a Texport knife/fork/spoon set to eat with,  some cordage so that he could make a shelter with the Mylar solar blanket, a collapsible cup to drink from, several packs of matches and a waterproof container to store them in, and a canvas tote to store everything in.

Now it was time to collect some food and to my pantry I went. My goal was to find the food that had the most calories per ounce. I grabbed all of the cans that I had of 'pork and beans',  and all the cans of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli that I had, and a can of Corned beef and hash. Last I added a garbage bag and a bottle of hand sanitizer.  Usually I would also include some money, but the fear that he may use it to by hard liquor stopped me from doing so, as in this heat , the alcohol would even further dehydrate him to the point of heat stroke.

I was gone for only a matter of minutes, before I was done packing everything up and journeyed back to where he was sleeping. When I got back to where he was, I reached to my keychain and removed my  military P38 can opener and added that to the care package to open any cans that did not have a pull top.  Speaking to him, I said  "Excuse me sir",  & I repeated this phrase louder and louder until I finally was able to wake him. 

"I am sorry to wake you sir, but I noticed that you seemed not to have any possessions or food and I wanted to give you this care package." He immediately sat upright, listening to me of what was inside this care package he was getting.  "Sir, I included a military P38 can opener to assist you with opening any cans that do not have a pop up top... Do you know how to use this type of can opener?"  I cannot say why I felt like he did, that he possibly was a military veteran. Maybe it was him using his shoes as a pillow, or the location he chose to get out of the heat,  but as I asked him that last question about the P38, his hand went under his shirt, below his neck and he pulled out his military Dog Tags ( ID tags), and nodded yes that he knew what it was & how to use it.  

He did not say a word, but he did look appreciative, but regardless, him being speechless was of great concern to me. I didn't smell alcohol on him, which lead me to believe that he may already be enduring heat stroke, and may be too far gone for what I gave him to do any good.  In my area, since not in NYC, but on the border of Queens and Nassau county, the police here are not swamped with homeless people, and actually try to help the homeless by bringing them to a shelter to get out of the heat and for some nourishment. I have spoken to so many officers where I live about what their protocols were to handle homeless people, this was done just  prior to  a previous blog I did here in Trailgroove.com, " Nearly 270 children in Providence House Homeless shelters do not have a present to open this X-Mas ", so I had faith that I could find someone to help.

Calling in to the police station, I told an officer of my hopes that an officer would come and offer to take him to a homeless shelter nearby so that he could survive this weeks heatwave, and the months long summer heat. After speaking to all the departments that he suggested and not getting through to anyone, I finally called him back and asked him, " Officer,  can you possibly transfer me to dispatch, so that I can ask them to send a patrol unit to his location." I could tell that this wasn't going to go anywhere so I added,  " Officer,  did you serve?"   "No." he replied,   "Then you probably wont understand why this is so important to me to help him, but in short,  Leave No Man Behind..."  

It was those words that got the ball rolling and he put me on hold, and when he got back I was connected to dispatch directly.  She informed me that she will send a patrol car to his location and offer him to be driven to a shelter. She warned me what I already knew, that all they can do is give him the opportunity to be housed at a shelter, but not force him. That saying came to mind, 'You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink' -a proverb  meaning that you can give someone an opportunity but not force them to take it. 

Due to privacy laws, I cannot find out what the outcome was, but I can tell you that when I walked out today, he was not there, nor any trace (even his garbage was gone, and that supermarket has never once cleaned that side of the building in my 24+ years of living here). Two months ago was the 20th year anniversary of my beloved, belated grandfather death where he was killed after  leaving my home up the driveway by a kid driving a car, some 5 feet away where I saw this man lying. I be damned if I let another person die there, not on my watch.

I am posting this for the sole reason to give awareness to everyone of their fellow man. Right now, despite how hard this pandemic was on us, and all that we have lost,  these poor souls have lost more. These homeless for some are our fathers, our mothers, our brothers and sisters, uncles and cousins,  our friends. The homeless are not invisible, despite the fact that many of us wont even look at them when passing. They are not street trash, but rather they are lost in this world, and have been failed by a system and by circumstances beyond their or our control.  I am but one person but I have helped hundreds, Just image if more people follow my suit, what this world can become and how many we can all help.

about the author

Michael aka Mac, (his Trail name, short for MacGyver), is a Survivalist and outdoor enthusiast with over 40 years of experience in the great outdoors. His background is in engineering & physics and he brings this knowledge into his gear inventions and outdoor experiences.  Now Michael aka Mac, when he is not in the wilderness, spends his free time as a Freelance gear reviewer of outdoor gear & gadgets, an outdoor Blogger, professional outdoor survival writer,  and teacher of outdoor non combat survival skills.

Edited by Michael aka Mac
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