Don't Cuff Him

The cops pulled up, brown dust billowing out from their official vehicle.

I felt anger.

We were walking from the north; they were pulling in from the south.

All of us together under the bridge. Except they came on a mission -- a mission to "do their job," and yet no person who is homeless was causing any sort of issue. So in one sense, it is their "job," but in another no one caused any trouble to give them a reason to pull off the road and go under the bridge.

Under the bridge is where many homeless men and women live. We went today to get to know the people who live under there. Though this bridge is merely a block from where I have worked for a year now, it is only my third week to make my way to the tents and makeshift homes under the bridge.

I was afraid of the bridge before


In my mind, though I vaguely heard of people living there, and indeed had gotten to know some of the men and women who slept there through my work down the block from them, I didn't really think I would head over there myself. It seemed too scary.

Turns out, people are just people there too.

In reality, I had nothing to fear, except myself. Except the pain of seeing that some people's homes are in the brown dirt under a bridge where it's hard to hear a conversation because cars whiz by above. It's hard to know now that every week the cops come on Wednesdays and clear everybody out. When the homeless men and women aren't hurting anyone. When the next day they all just return to set up their camps again.

A photo that faces where people live under the bridge. Notice umbrellas in the middle where people's camps are set up.

I don't know these people well enough yet to know if living under the bridge is a choice of preference or necessity.

Maybe they have worn out their welcome at shelters. Maybe they don't like the loss of freedom. Maybe they use drugs or alcohol and aren't allowed into the shelters. Maybe it's just the way they want to live life. I don't know.

I watched as man after man walked compliantly over to the cop car to show them their ID.

"The cops are checking for warrants," someone whispered to me.


Oh," my heart sank. While the cops worked, I walked over to talk to a man who was sitting alone on a random couch placed in the middle of the dry, brown dirt. Although he's been sleeping on the old couch a few nights, tomorrow he will not be able to, for it will be taken away when the cops come to clear out the place.

As he and I wrapped up our conversation, I headed over to talk to two men who are homeless, one that I know, and one whom I had never met. As I introduced myself, I heard someone in our little group of homeless and non-homeless say aloud,

"Don't cuff him."

I looked over at the cop car, and saw what I didn't want to see, the cop cuffing and putting a homeless man into his car to take him away.

It seemed like same song hundredth verse for these homeless men, as though this is a regular occurrence for them. Most likely, the guy they took away had a warrant because he hadn't paid a fine for sleeping in public or something else inane for which they ticket the homeless.

Watching it, my heart hurt. My heart hurt for the dehumanizing act of putting cuffs on someone who, at least in that moment, provoked no one. My heart hurt because of what seemed so unjust -- invading the place they live and requiring them to show their IDs just because you may get to take someone away to jail.

That is so sad. And so different from why we were there. The contrast -- three non-homeless amigos (me plus two others) coming to get to know people -- and two cops coming to try to find someone out and take them to jail.

We might be one of the only countries in the world that criminalizes homelessness. Think: as a whole,

we are so privileged that it is


people will have a home

; whereas in other countries, it is common not to have a home or to share one home with many people. If only we could change our thinking, so that we had hearts of love and compassion first and always for all people.

I hope that day comes soon for everyone, but if it does not, we will press on loving one person at a time, and having our lives changed by their love for us.


Subscribe by entering your email address below to receive email updates when new posts are available:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by


(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-32603502-1', ''); ga('send', 'pageview');