As I passed out boots to our friends on a chilly November Sunday, a man by the name of Philip walked up to me with the aid of a cane and sat down to try on a pair.

“Thank you for being patient with me,” he said as I helped him situate himself, taking his cane as he lowered himself into the chair.

As I looked at his face, I realized he couldn’t have been older than me – a man just entering his fifth decade. I know living on the street can age a person, but oddly enough, he didn’t look that weathered.

“I am from Monroe,” he said as he started to tell me his story. “I took care of my mom. She has had Alzheimer’s for years.”

“A few months ago, she fell and went to the hospital. I ended up moving to Madison and they ended up selling our house to pay for expenses.”

That is the condensed version of Philip’s story. His journey in life has seen him as the care-receiver, then the care-giver and now to circumstances that find him without a place to go to. On top of that, he has his own health issues, as he told me about a recent bout of pancreatitis that recently landed him in the hospital for a week.

“When I drink a lot it flares up,” he told me. “After getting it under control, they released me. I like this place (the Beacon) because I can take a shower here and the people are nice.”

This was the second time Philip had been to the Beacon, having a meal before receiving a new pair of boots from the Friends of the State Street Family – a bonus for happening to be there on that day. I talked with Philip for a good 20 minutes before he made his way, acknowledging others needed to be served after him.

“Thanks for everything. This is wonderful – like Christmas. And thank you for listening,” he said as he slowly stood up, bracing his weight against his cane.

Philip told me that his mother was in assisted living, still in Monroe. He calls her 2-3 times a week. And he acknowledges his struggles with alcohol. He is a man without a support network of family or friends. He wants to do good by others, but he needs help and support.

I was happy to spend some of my Sunday afternoon with Philip, talking about family and life experiences good and bad. And while grateful for the boots that will protect him from the elements of a Wisconsin winter, my sense was he was more grateful to have someone that was listening.

Jeff Turk – FSSF Media & Communications Director