(Originally published 08/11/12 at Trojan Horse Productions; reblogged 10/30/13 here.)
If you go into a men’s room and see that someone’s taken his backpack and perhaps suitcase with him into the stall, you can conclude two things: (1) He’s homeless. (2) In his world, squalor is so intense he can’t leave his bags anywhere, or things will be stolen.
All kinds of people steal from the homeless.
They’ll steal your socks. It may only be a pair of socks, but if it’s your only pair of socks, it really hurts.
I stood smoking outside Dunkin’ Donuts and this man came up to talk. He was looking pretty rough. Walked on crutches, and one bare foot. He told me he’d spent the night outside, and while he slept, someone stole one shoe.
One of the few shreds of dignity left to me is that I don’t have to take my bags with me into the bathroom stall. At Dunkin’ Donuts or Lenny’s or the library, I leave my bags in a certain place and they’re all still there when I return. At the shelter, I stash my bags under the bunk, and no one disturbs them. I do lock the bag that has my phone, my cash and my prescriptions (link).
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I knew I was likely to become homeless months before it actually happened. I had contacts with the City’s Office of Homeless Services and obtained a list of shelters in the area. People I met who were or had been homeless told me thus-and-so was the best place to go, and had an employment agency on-site.
I went straight to that shelter when I became homeless on March 7, 2011. I signed up with that agency March 8. It provided me with almost all the work, temp jobs, I’ve had since then.
For various reasons, the shelter closed the temp agency on Friday 07/13/12. All the accounts were transferred to a different, commercial temp agency nearby. Now I am between a rock and a hard place: go to the new agency, or give up on the work I used to do and face the grind of online job search instead.
I don’t know if I decided rightly, but I did decide. I’m not going to the new agency.
It’s truly a Rent-a-Bum outfit.
I’ve been there before. I submitted an application there in August ’11. That day, there were about 30 men outside and in the waiting room. I alone wore clean clothes. More importantly, I alone carried bags. IOW, these guys aren’t homeless. But they still live more squalid than the homeless at the shelter where I stay.
I felt I had to keep my eyes on my bags at all times, and I feel I’d have to again were I to go back there. I would have to take them with me into the bathroom stall.
I’m not willing to put myself in such a context. On the one hand, I just don’t want to be around these people. Their lives point in the opposite direction from my own. On the other hand, I have to feel it would be different if I had a place of my own, that I could return to every night and have solitude and know my possessions are secure.
Between the rock and the hard place, I chose the rock. The online job search entails difficulties of its own, as I will tell (My name!) in later posts. It may not be easier, but it may be better.
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