Injustice at the shelter

Saturday 2014-11-01

I was very nearly turned away tonight.

I arrived at 15:45, and the gate was closed. I’ll explain why that did not disturb me. As I’m a “regular,” they’re supposed to hold my bunk for me until 16:00. Leo, another “regular,” arrived minutes later.

A closed gate at this hour as often as not means they’re doing a “count,” a comparison of the checkin logs (plural) to pin down exactly how many beds are left. Depending on who’s at the desk, this can take ten minutes — or 45.

This other guy, whom I’d never seen before, was already waiting at the gate when I arrived. About 16:00, peacekeeper Danny came up and told him there was no bunk for him, and he had to leave. As I anticipated, he made a big fuss about unfairness in that as he’s not a “regular” there was no bunk for him, but might be for Leo and me. But Danny specifically did not say there were bunks for Leo and me. I’ve been turned away before.

At 16:09, peacekeeper Mike came out and told us there were no more bunks at all, and we would have to go. Leo walked away at once; I finished my smoke first. (I can’t smoke and carry my bags at the same time.) I was just leaving the parking lot when Mike called us back. He said there were no bunks, but we could stay if we were willing to sleep in chairs. We both accepted.

At checkin, I asked Mike about the 16:00 policy. He said it no longer applies. He said intern Dave said he’s been telling people that for weeks; but this was the first I’d heard of it. He said Dave would make an announcement about it later.

Later came, and David having made no such announcement, I brought it up to Mike again. Now he made the announcement himself. I raised my hand and said, “I have two concerns about this.” He said, “Take it upstairs.”

In the end, I obtained permission to sleep on the floor. I slept fine.

On the one hand, I’ve told before about the Program’s practice of taking beds away from Overnight when cold weather comes. That was a factor here; there are five Programmers here tonight.

Leo and I may have lost our bunks by sheer mistake.

That’s one injustice.

On the other hand, the 16:00 policy did not come about to make life easier for “regulars.”

Previously, assignment of beds was on a purely first-come, first-served basis day by day. Being a “regular” was no guarantee. As a result, guys began loitering in the neighborhood, hoping to beat the bum rush across the parking lot to the gate at 14:30 daily. The neighbors complained.

So, in July, the policy began that the bunks of “regulars” — guys who’ve been here every day for six months or more — would be guaranteed until 16:00 each day. Thus “regulars” had no reason to participate in the 14:30 bum rush. There are about 25 of us, about half of those those who stay here.

The two points I may yet “take upstairs” are these.

(1) Rescinding the 16:00 policy will merely re-create the loitering problem it was meant to solve.

(2) Rescinding the 16:00 policy unjustly rewards those guys who do absolutely nothing to help themselves — who merely kill time all day waiting for 14:30 — and penalizes those like me who are striving to get somewhere in life, working or looking for work.

Mike’s announcement may not be the final word.

My mantra, as of sometime last week, has become “Embrace What Is,” meaning, I must begin by accepting circumstances as they are. Consistent with that, I may take these things in stride. Having to arrive at 14:30 (instead of 15:30 as I have done) merely means I lose an hour of Net access and gain an hour in which I can write longhand. To keep my job search time intact, I may have to quit reading the online news. That means fewer posts here about the headlines, and more about spirituality.

(Originally posted 2014-11-05.)

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