Letter: Who Can Help In This America?

So, I have an acquaintance. I have spoken about him before. He is quite elderly, and he has been homeless for quite a few months. He was tossed out of the illegal trailer he lived in, in Loxahatchee Groves, after he could no longer provide “services,” as his age progressed and his abilities declined.

He lives these days in his pickup truck. This is his nearly last possession, along with other items he keeps tarped up in the back of his pickup truck. He celebrated his birthday a few weeks ago while he was hospitalized. He parks his truck every night outside of a “supercenter” we all might be familiar with, along with many other homeless individuals who also live in their vehicles.

He spent two weeks in the hospital with various illnesses, but the most serious, at least at that time, was cellulitis. I only know how serious this is because of my emergency surgery a few years ago, while I suffered that condition post-surgery, and trust me, it is serious.

He didn’t have any surgery, he just lives in his truck, suffers various medical illnesses (after all he is quite elderly, and if you want to know what I mean, think great-grandparent age), and his circulation is so poor and his illnesses so great, this is what happened to him. After two weeks, they just released him. Not to a nursing home, not to a rehabilitation facility, they just released him.

They assigned him a “home healthcare worker” to change his bandages, but the only problem is, he has no home. He was too proud to contact the home healthcare worker agency, as he had no “home” for them to do something so simple as to take care of applying fresh bandages every day; much less take care of any other medical need he suffers.

Today, I arrived at a location where I see him nearly every day. He is a kind, soft-spoken man, very private in nature, who never asks for anything. I found others fretting about him because he hadn’t left his truck all day, from early morning until late afternoon.

After an hour of seeing no motion in the pickup, I approached, woke him up and had a private conversation with him. He was weak and couldn’t really get up. He refused my request to transport him to the emergency room, told me he was feeling better, and just to give him time. Such pride.

While normally I would have left at a specific time, I decided to stay, out of concern, with others who were also concerned. I approached him again. He was embarrassed, told me the best thing I could do for him was to leave him alone, while again telling me not to be worried.

So, I did leave him alone, but I still stayed; watching, along with others. We watched him get out of his truck, change his clothes, shake the rain out of the tarp covering the bed of his truck (with all of his remaining possessions), pausing for rest over and over. Finally, at about 7 p.m., after conferring with others, we decided his pride and desire to be left alone, his desire not to seek medical care out of pride, didn’t warrant another minute.

We called the paramedics. They took him to the hospital. I don’t know how he fairs, but will post when I do. In the meantime, I just want everyone to understand that we have individuals such as him who need help, and there aren’t enough of us helping.

I keep seeing it; I keep trying to respond to it even while it breaks my heart, and wonder how anyone could shut it off and decide someone like this individual, who doesn’t have money, family or resources, should be left to fend for him or herself.

I am not a religious sort of person, even though my religious upbringing definitely influenced me in some form or fashion. When the paramedics arrived, I couldn’t stop myself from crying. How could you?

What role do you think we all should play in the life of others who need us, who might not have anyone else?

Patricia D. Curry, The Acreage


  1. isn’t it the responsibility of the hospital to arrange for any services upon discharge. perhaps someone should inform the hospital social work dept of his situation and also the state dept of elder affairs http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/doea/cares.php
    also what about Palm Beach county. this country does not do enough to help its seniors. there is a dire need for affordable senior housing and privacy laws make it difficult for persons such as the letter writer to get information and assist. Then after a tragedy happens everyone wonders what happened. the Sun Sentinel did a report on hunger in our country for the eldelry and has anything changed? http://interactive.sun-sentinel.com/senior-food-deserts/
    Lots of programs but lots of run around and red tape and does anyone really get any help? I hope the letter writer does not give up trying to assist. Perhaps the gentleman is aware that maybe there is no real help out there?
    Is the gentleman a veteran by any chance? There may be programs that provide assistance. This county needs a program that assigns a community social worker to the elderly in need and sticks with them. not referring to programs and having the senior try to navigate themselves.

    211 should also review the information it gives out to determine if actually helpful or up to date. But the letter writer might also check on their site to see if any actual helpful program contacts http://www.211palmbeach.org/food-homeless-guides

  2. What a heartbreaking story.

    There are numerous County, State and Federal programs available to the homeless and too many times the homeless choose Not to accept the help; as was your experience with this gentleman.

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