It is a cold Monday morning. I am sitting in a warm public library reading the current issue of The Atlantic. Two older men sitting at tables 20 feet away are charging phones at stations and staring at the ceiling. I recognize them as regulars at the street ministry I volunteer at.

A young bearded and tattooed homeless man walks in and sits at a table ten feet away. He has a large backpack and another large bag. He is wearing a ball cap and sunglasses. While I read an essay about the irrelevancy of the British monarchy, the man extricates two smart phones, a lap top and two handheld gaming devices. He then plugs all of them into a station. He is charging to survive or maintain or enable (or insert your verb of choice here) his life.

It occurs to me that probably a hundred thousand homeless men and women are doing exactly the same charging at libraries at this very moment all across the nation.

This is all very strange to observe, but I observe it. Someone living on the streets has five high tech devices and at least three of them are expensive. All connect to the internet. I guess it isn’t all that strange to observe because in my experience of interacting with homeless people, I would estimate 80 percent have smart phones. Almost every one I’ve seen in use has been entertaining with games, social media, shows, YouTube videos, etc., but one man was trying to access unclaimed tax returns (unsuccessfully), another was trying to set up a medical appointment (unsuccessfully), and another was trying to gain access to some Pandemic-related payment (unsuccessfully).

By now, I should be accustomed to seeing homeless men and women using high tech gadgets, but I still find it somewhat bracing. It’s hard to fathom that they are generating massive profits for tech companies while living as homeless. You talk about the ultimate in 21st century capitalism! But ultimate what?