The Homeless Bookworm
I had often seen him, sitting in doorways with his woolly hat laid flat out in front of him begging for change, and often reading.
I noticed that most times I saw this particular homeless man he was reading. Many a time I would walk down the street and he would have his nose in book or be reading the newspaper.
I think it’s important to try and give what we can to the homeless, change, clothing, food or a cup of coffee but I had never really thought about giving someone a book?
On my bookshelf at home I had two copies of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. One day I took one of the copies and placed it in my bag and vowed to give it to the homeless man next time I saw him.
After a few days of wandering around with the book in my bag I eventually saw him again. I walked up to him and told him that I had often seen him reading and wondered if he’d like a book.
I handed him To Kill a Mockingbird and he smiled at me and thanked me.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the man and one day back in late June this year I asked him a few questions.
The homeless man was called Lee Clarke; if anyone out there has seen him or knows him please get in touch.
I asked him about his reading habits and he said: “I really like reading fiction; I like Tom Clancy and Band of Brothers. I think I like the real life feel of novels like that. I drift off when I read; it’s an escape from my life on the street.”
Lee then told me that he had once been addicted to drugs. Drugs had been an escape for him whilst living on the street but now reading did the same thing: “I’m an ex-drug-user. I’ve been clean now for months. I just make sure I stay away from the wrong crowd and keep to myself, it’s a real struggle but I try to get by.”
He continued telling me more about his life on the street and how he read. He said: “I learn a lot of things from books, sometimes I read about survival techniques and this helps me to live on the streets.
“I usually buy books with the money people give me, after buying food and stuff. I buy them from the book shop in the market where they’re quite cheap. I bring in the books I’ve read and they give me a discount on the next ones.
“I’ve been on the streets 11 years now. I’m on a few waiting lists but right now it doesn’t look like I’m going to get off the street.
“I also read newspapers too; The Metro every morning, The South Wales Echo and The Sun.”
Since meeting Lee I have occasionally given him the sort of books he likes whenever I see him.
Before publishing this I went to find Lee again but I haven’t seen him for a while, if anyone knows anything about him please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
This post is the start of a series of posts where I hope to encourage people to begin giving the odd unwanted books to the homeless and examining the help that it may give to homeless people.