He was a young man. Early to mid-20s. Contrary to what some may think, he wasn’t at all downtrodden with sad demeanour or immersed in self-pity. In fact, he always had a smiling face and would speak animatedly about things.
Life hadn’t been too kind to him, though, and he ended in the predicament he was in – a young man homeless.
Family circumstances led to him having to seek shelter in one of the homes run by a non-governmental organisation.
Prior to being given a place in the home, he had been sleeping under one of those MRT tracks. I shan’t reveal which one or which particular place. He ended up there as he could not afford to rent even a room. He was, by then, in a little of a depressed state.
It was when a friend enquired with him that he was given the number of the person who ran the home. “Call him,” his friend told him. “He is a good man and he will help you.”
And so he did.
His space in the shelter was just a cubicle, partitioned out of the living hall where another 5 cubicles were created. Each was just barely enough to site a bed and nothing much more. But it was adequate. A place to lay down one’s head at the end of the day. The homeless in that shelter worked in the day and return in the night.
As for him, he held two jobs by then, working as a cook and some odd jobs. He was happy and told me that he was also thankful that he now had a roof over his head. “Sleeping under the elements was tough,” he told me. The last I spoke to him, which was more than a year ago, he was telling me that he was going to move on to a better paying job and be able to leave the shelter. He too didn’t want to take up the space which, he said, others needed. There was a long queue for places in homeless shelters then.
He would also spend time with the children of another homeless family and from time to time there would be a BBQ at the home. A simple but meaningful way for the residents to just hang out and leave their worries behind, in the company of friends. The children took to him easily, looking up to him as a big brother. It was heartwarming to see.
I remember him and always will because he showed me how the homeless sometimes are stereotyped by some – that they are either elderly, or lazy, or drug-addicts, or sick, or selfish, and so on. He made me realise that they too could be young, working, healthy, and well, ordinary. And thoughtful.
Sometimes, people just fall into bad circumstances, not all of which are within their control.
I hope he has made it out of there now and has gotten his life back in order – and that he has kept the smile on his face which he always had.