In another lifetime I would stop by my local 7-11 every morning on my way to work. Almost every morning there would be a young, tall black fellow there with newspapers and watered down windex asking to clean your windshield. Sometimes I would let him but I have a rule. Never give a homeless man money. It's my rule, yes it's prejudice I suppose, but it's my money. I will buy food, which I did. Regularly we had this exchange, where I'd buy him a pastry for breakfast and my windshield would be cleaned.
Some weeks, I wouldn't see him. After one such absence I struck up a conversation with him and asked where he'd been. He'd been ill and hospitalized. I could see it, he looked terrible. Most mornings after our transaction of sorts I would ponder how he got into this situation and how would he ever get out of it. It was obvious he didn't mind working for his money instead of straight begging at least he was cleaning windshields.
So, I asked him. He explained to me that he had been a cable TV installer and had been out at a party in South Central Los Angeles and had gotten busted for DUI. DUI laws are very strong now and he lost his license for 6 months, that meant he couldn't drive the cable TV van. There went his job. He said his girlfriend dumped him and he lost his apartment quickly after that. It spiraled from there and he ended up contracting HIV. A sad tale but easy to see it happening to anyone really. One bad choice and your life turns to shit.
Several weeks after our bonding experience he disappeared. He had been looking quite gaunt and I suspected the worse. I've never seen him since. Sometimes when I approach the 7-11 I wonder....