April 3, 2012

Shelter life

My first experience with a homeless shelter was in Florida. It's on some property that was donated to Dade County after a hurricane destroyed a lot to the Air Force Base.

Anyway, I arrived the first day at the shelter and like everyone else who arrived there, we had to sit in chairs and wait. We waited for things like assessments to see what are needs are, medical, dental, optical, etc...

I felt like a was cattle being pushed through to the slaughter house. The people running things didn't care to get to know the person they were supposed to be helping, it felt like all they cared about was how many people could they get into the shelter that day. Like they got a prize for getting the most people signed up.

As I went through the process, I noticed that most of the employees didn't care what brought you to the streets, they didn't care what you were about, and I am guessing they really didn't care if you succeeded in life again or not. The way they would snap at people to hurry up, don't do this, don't do that, etc.. It was very frusterating.

When they finally did show that they cared about something it was when they went over the rules of the shelter. They were very passionate about this. And they made it abundantly clear, you fuck up once, you get a warning, fuck up twice, you are gone.

So I got through the process, go my bed in a room with about 75 other men. We all got a bunk. Each of us got one locker by our bunk, but we weren't given a lock. You had to buy your own, so if you put anything in there during the day without a lock, it was your own fault if it got stolen. They made it clear they weren't responsible for our belongings.

We had a huge community bathroom, which I absolutely hated but dealt with. 75 men with 15 sinks, toilets and urinals. There was probably 40 shower heads in one huge shower room. The shower situation was really hard for me to deal with, I am very scared to show my body to anyone, and I sure was terrified to show my naked self to a bunch of men I didn't know.

Breakfast was at 6am, we were all woke up at 5am to start our day, we had to be completely outta the bunkroom by 8am. By 9am if you weren't able to go out and look for work each day, you had to stay inside the facility and take classes. The classes ranged from balancing a checkbook to wiping your ass. Well, maybe not wiping your ass, but it sure seemed like they thought we didn't know how to do anything and that we needed a class to teach us every detail of life.

Also, you had to volunteer so many hours a day if you weren't out looking for work, I chose to work in the kitchen each morning. It got me extra food, and better tasting food, so that was the only real highlight of the day for me. Getting extra bacon.

I met a lot of other homeless people while I was there, a lot of them just told me to fuck off and not to talk to them. Some were very racist and told me that white boy needed to mind his own fucking business or that I would get hurt.

A few that I met were nice, I met one guy from Minnesota, that became homeless because he lost his leg in a traffic accident and had to take too much time off of work. He received disability while he was in the shelter, and he was primarily using the shelter as a way to save money so he could get back out on his own. Him and I became decent friends in the shelter, and then after a few weeks, he was gone, he moved on to his own place.

After he left I basically shut myself off to the world and this was the beginning of me hating the world. Up until that first week of meeting my Ziploc Girl.

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