We received the call at 2:00 AM from the local police. A woman in her late 20s had been released from the hospital and needed a place to stay for the evening. We'll call her Angie.
The officer took Angie to a nearby motel where we have an arrangement for people who are homeless. I called her in the mid-morning, knowing that check-out time was 11:00, wanting to learn more about her situation and what we might need to do to help move her along. When she answered the phone, it took only a few seconds to recognize the emptiness. Angie wasn't sure what she was going to do; maybe get in touch with a friend from ten years ago who could put her up. While we were talking, the police showed up and she said they would take care of things, and Angie hung up. I thought we had heard the last of her.
Not an hour later, the phone rang. It was Angie. She wasn't able to get her things together in time for the police to take her to the train station. It was raining miserably hard, so I told her we would come pick her and bring her back to Manna so she could eat, then help move her along.
When picking up a stranger, especially a woman, I take someone with me, so Liz Coyne, our director of volunteers drove our van to the motel. When Angie came down to the office, that same vagueness of purpose was with her. She had found an umbrella and wasn't sure if she should leave it at the motel or take it along. While it was obviously pouring, Angie commented that it wasn't raining where we stood under the the roofed entryway.
As we drove back to Manna, the comments from Angie were scattered: where could she get a cigarette; she used to play softball, naming the different positions; had last lived in New Jersey; she could really drink a Yuengling right now (Liz smilingly commented that we weren't serving that at Manna today - it would be vegetable soup and chicken pot-pie).
Back at Manna, Angie made friendly conversation with the volunteers and looked in the refrigerators. I called her into the office to ask her again what her plans were. Angie thanked us for the night in the motel, said she loved us. I thought she looked like a child, sipping on her hot chocolate; if she continues on the path she is traveling, in five years she will age fifteen. She never really answered the question.
We told her to come back for the 4:00 meal. She asked if we could call her cell phone and remind her, in case she forgot or got lost. Somehow we never got the number. After eating, Angie got up to leave for the train station, needing help figuring out how to open the umbrella. She didn't come back that afternoon.