He was standing in a parking lot along Harding Place in Nashville, Tennessee Wednesday afternoon. His body looked feeble and his cheeks were sunken in. His legs were shaking from the cold as we pulled up. The temperature was 24-degrees, but the windchill was already down to 17 and expected to reach negative 6 by the early morning hours of Thursday.
My friend Jason Bennet talked to him about going to a shelter and asked him multiple times... but he continued to say no. Jason suggested that we would give him a ride, but the answer was still a solid no.
Some may wonder what goes through someones mind when they turn down a warm shelter when the temperature is foretasted to hit negative 6 degrees at night? The answer for many homeless is simple - you just have to take the time to listen and then you too will understand.
For this homeless man, he was more concerned about his roommates staying warm than he was for his own safety. The only real companions he has in life are his three cats that live in his small tent with him. That may sound absolutely absurd to some who read this, but to him... those cats are family.
For others, they refused to leave their tent out of fear that the city would take possession of their belongings or that someone would steal what few things they owned.
When this man comes home at the end of the day after begging for money to survive, digging through trash cans for food, looking for work - those three cats are happy to see him. They curl up in his sleeping bag at night to stay warm, they need him to survive as much as he needs them to keep his sanity. Sigmund Freud, who is known as the father of psychoanalysis, once stated, "Time spent with cats is never wasted." Freud studied the system of psychological theory and researched therapy that aimed to treat mental disorders.
Something as simple as three cats keeps this man from going to a shelter at night in fear of those cats dying or freezing at night.
Could helping people really have simple answers? Answers like - let this man keep his cats to stay alive?
"Progress is man's ability to complicate simplicity." - Thor Heyerdahl