Un-Homed but Not Unhinged: Food More than Sustenance

Joe Bright

I’ve mentioned the challenges that come up with keeping clean while un-homed. But I haven’t touched on the other big challenging aspect: eating, much less eating well enough. I remember my first few days when I started strategizing. I thought about how not to spend too much on food. I had looked into food stamps, but alas didn’t quite qualify. Close, but I fell through another small crack.

Thus, I definitely developed a fast appreciation for the Kapahulu Safeway hot bar. There’s plenty of variety and once I got the timing down I more or less know what is safest for me to eat at certain times. For example, if you catch some of the Chinese dishes early they’re tasty. But try eating the Beef Broccoli after it’s been sitting… chewy and the sauce becomes all the flavor you taste. Same with any of their deep fried meats, which I usually only have a couple of bites of, if at all. I’m generally not one for deep-fried foods anyway.

The mashed potatoes are generally pretty safe at most times. Cantaloupe and the other melons can be dicey if off season. They’ll smell like they’re turning sour or alcoholic. You can sometimes tell if the slices look mushy, but not always.

The other main strategy for me was having a taco truck, Zaratez Mexicatessan, move next to the clinic and trade for services. Not only is the food really terrific, but I can step over any time during the day much easier than crossing Kapahulu for snacks and some meals. Plus I have someone to talk to during slow periods.

A few weeks back I was driving past the community of tents by the McCully Library and some volunteers were unloading meals from the trunk of their car. Passing by meant I couldn’t tell if they were with a volunteer group or just private citizens giving some help. But seeing the people patiently lined up you knew they were grateful.

That’s a bit different than the guy I always see near Kapahulu. He never has any shirt or shoes and his usual morning meal is a box of Raisin Bran with the side cut out. He’ll use the bag itself as the bowl for the milk. Although I’m not actually certain it’s milk and not water as the liquid does seem pretty thin. But I leave him to eat in peace and don’t ask.

Basically it’s another rhythm cycle that each un-homed person deals with differently. The symbiosis that gets created with our food source means more than just sustenance; it means connectivity, something often lacking for homeless.

Eating is actually the most stressful thing we do at a physiological level. The body goes through massive chemical changes each time we feed. So I try to keep the mental stress down as best as possible. And I find it well to remember to appreciate the food that is available and keeps me energized enough to keep working. It’s all part of the flow of my life.

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