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Yes, I live in a shelter. It’s one of the many shelters I have lived in since my homeless situation began back in 2009. I hope it will be my last. All shelters are not the same and offer some type of assistance needed during a homeless person’s time of need. The very first shelter that I stayed in was located in Du page County, IL. The shelter system in Du page County is different from most shelters in that it only provides a place of rest for the homeless during the cold months. That’s usually during October through March. They are called “Pads”. A pad, sheet, blanket & sometimes a pillow is provided for an individual to get a night of much needed rest. This system could use some work. “Pads” consist of designated church’s that provide a place for homeless individuals to sleep within the church itself. This could be in the church basement or a large open area of the church. Different church’s are designated on different nights of the week, so you never stay in a particular church for more than one night per week. It is a difficult task for many homeless people to find a specific host church, because they are not in close proximity to one another. Another challenge is getting to said church because they are not on the bus route. Also, when you find out which church is hosting for that night, you are told to be there at a certain time in order to make sure you get a place to sleep because the church’s only have room for 50 people, sometimes less. The church goes by the lottery system when deciding who can stay for the night. You arrive outside of the church, wait in the parking lot, then you give a volunteer your i.d. that is then placed in a bag and randomly chosen. It does not matter if you have been standing in line for hours, if your name is not chosen, you have to find somewhere else to sleep for that night. However, they will feed you a delicious meal prepared by volunteers or that has been donated by a restaurant. If you are one of the lucky people that has been chosen to stay the night, you are allowed to take a 15 minute shower. Sometimes the facility does not offer showers. You then have a short amount of time to get dressed, make up your pad, and then rush to dinner. During this time you are visited by volunteers who want to hear your story and give you words of encouragement. They often offer to pray with you as well. If clothing has been donated, that too is offered to those in need as well as a few toiletries. Sometimes smoke breaks are offered for those who smoke. If one decides to leave the shelter during the night for whatever reason, they are not allowed back in. Lights are out by no later than 10 p.m., and ALL must go to sleep at that time. Women are on one side of the room while the men sleep on the other side, sharing one extremely cold floor. This is where I got my first taste of typical homeless people. I saw people that where on drugs, mentally disturbed, filthy & unclean, and totally uncontrollable. I never got any sleep when I stayed in these shelters. Wake up time is at 5 a.m. sharp. No exceptions! You are then allowed to get your bedding together and place it where the volunteers (usually high school children) can retrieve them and take them to be washed. You are served breakfast, sometimes continental, sometimes traditional. You must be out of the facility no later than 7 a.m. When Spring approached, I knew I would have to find other alternatives. Being that I had nowhere to go, I began sleeping in the car I owned at the time. This was something I never thought I would end up doing. But rather than being subjected to doing the things that some women do, just to find a place to sleep, I did what I thought was right. It was quite a challenge for me to find safe places to park my car in the city of Chicago and try and get some rest. I wasted alot of gas that I did not have, just looking for a secure area. Needless to say I did not get any rest at all during that time. I decided to sell my car in the hopes of finding a way out of this situation and bought a bus ticket. The next shelter I stayed in was located in Floyd County, GA. This shelter was not like the other shelter. It was located in a house. We sleep 6 women to one room. A comfortable twin bed was provided for each individual. I was able to sleep. Like the other shelter, breakfast was served, as well as delicious dinners, all provided by generous donations. We were encouraged to participate in weekly bible studies & attend church regularly. We were given household chores. We had to be up and out by 7 a.m. and back in by 6 p.m. We were given really nice clothing and toiletries that had been donated. This really came in handy because I had nothing. Like the previous shelter I had stayed in, this shelter was not on the bus route. The next shelter I stayed in was located in Montgomery County, MD (one of the richest counties in MD). The facility consists of two parts. I stayed in the part that house 120 women. We sleep on metal bunk bed with a thin mattress, like the pads I had slept on in Du page County. We had a tiny locker in which to keep our belongings. We were not allowed to have any sharp objects in our possession or anything deemed to be dangerous. If we had prescription medication, it was to be turned into to the office and administered either in the morning or at night by the staff. In this facility we were fed delicious food by a different donator each night as well as continental breakfast each morning. We were given weekly chores. We were allowed to wash 1 load of clothing once a week. We were allowed to shower either in the morning or at night. Living in this facility, I saw alot of FILTH. I had never seen so many NASTY women in my life! We had to be out by 7:45 a.m. and back in by 6 p.m. This shelter had a day program that began at 8 a.m. daily. In the day program (which was ran by another individual who had no affiliation with the shelter) we were allowed to watch t.v. on certain days at certain times. No sleeping was allowed. Sometimes groups would come in and provide the women in the facility with something interesting to do. Whether it was crafting, art, makeup lessons, pumpkin carving, yoga, etc. We were not allowed to bring in and eat outside food. Different church’s visited the facility on Sunday’s and held what they called church services. Attendance was mandatory for any event held while you were on the premises. The next shelter that really opened my eyes was located in Washington, DC. I thought I had seen everything until I arrived at this place. It was the FILTHIEST place I had ever witnessed! The building was filthy as well as the people who lived there. In this shelter you had to be out by 7 a.m. and in by 7:30 p.m. We were allowed to wash one load of clothing per week, if the washing machine was working. We were given a tablespoon of laundry detergent to wash our clothes. Showers were available in the morning as well as at night. Torn, filthy showers curtains were hanging in the shower area on a few of the showers. The rest had none. Females would leave that area so nasty. They would even use that area as a toilet. Whatever they used and dropped in the shower area is where it remained until the person who half cleaned the facility would remove it. This facility had room for 150 women. Their were different sections that housed the women in different ways. If you were lucky enough to get a cube area (sleeping area to yourself), you could enter that area at 7:30 p.m., draw your curtain and not have to look at anyone. Others slept in a room that contained 8 cots and mini lockers. The staff at this facility was not at all welcoming or caring. They were basically there to collect a paycheck. The person who ran the facility calls herself a Reverend, but she does not walk in that path. Dinner was the only meal that was provided at 6:30 p.m. The meal never contained meat. The food was provided by a company within the building, that trains low income people how to cook and get certified. There were many complaints. This shelter has a policy that it could not refuse entry if beds were available. Because of that policy, it is constantly infested with bed bugs. Viruses are constantly being passed around as well. I am so glad to be away from that place! The place where I live now is heaven compared to where I’ve been and what I’ve been through, but it is not home. It is so clean. I’m comfortable. I have peace of mind. I’m not surrounded by drug addicts or the mentally ill. I’ve finally found a place where I can see people like myself who are clean and care about hygiene. People who want to work and are looking to do just that.
WANTS I want a job. I want a place of my own in which to live. NEEDS I NEED money. I NEED help. USEFUL THINGS (for me) Cell Phone - It is true that the government offers free cell phones to qualifying people. I am one of those qualifying people. It was a great idea, but NOT well thought out. I have in my possession one of those government cell phones that comes with 250 minutes (4 hrs. & 10 mins.) per month. That breaks down to a person being able to use that phone for a little over 8 minutes per day throughout the month. Here’s where the problem comes in. If I need to call a place of business for information or make an appointment, that eats into my 8 minutes a day of talk time. If I am placed on hold, that too is a problem. If I have to hang up and call back, problem. If I get spam text messages, problem. One minute is removed from my allotted minutes for receiving as well as sending text messages. If I have to check my voicemail, problem. Being homeless has made me prioritize my wants & needs. I really think that a cell phone is something that I NEED. But when I think about it, there are times when I had no phone at all, and I survived. We as a people were surviving and going through life without cell phones before they even existed. I sure could use a regular cell phone at this moment in time, but I don’t really need it. Laptop - Every where you go there is the possibility of latching on to wi-fi to access the Internet. Having a laptop would be idea for me. Being homeless, I tend to have a great deal of thoughts running through my mind at all times and I would like to be able to post them as they pop into my head. Notebooks or scratch paper is not always available for me to jot my notes down. I would also be able to check my email periodically to check and see if any employer has responded to my job applications or resumes as well as blog more frequently. Here’s where a laptop would be very useful, but do I really need it?
There are many concerns one deals with when being a homeless person. Money, Job, & a place to live are the main concerns. You also have to be on a daily mission in order to find the BARE NECESSITIES, FREE of charge. Such as, clothing (top, bottoms, panties, bras, thermals, socks) & shoes. Finding a place to bathe and get the toiletries (soap, tooth paste, deodorant, lotion, etc.) you need to maintain your hygiene. Staying well groomed as you may have done when you worked & had money will no longer become your top priority. The homeless are always encouraged to apply for & get food stamps. This really doesn’t help your situation if you have no place to live, no stove on which to cook your food, or no refrigerator to store your food. It also doesn’t help your situation if you are one of the lucky homeless people who reside in a shelter. Sure you can sleep in the shelter, and even bathe in the shelter, but you cannot cook or store food in the shelter. Many homeless people end up running out of their food stamps before the month is out by having to buy unhealthy, quick meals. Transportation is also a big issue. If you have no money, you can’t take public transportation, therefore you must walk. This leads to groups of homeless people who become idle & lazy in certain areas of the city.
Today is yet another day of searching for me. I have been looking for steady employment for years. It seems to be a never ending battle. I apply, submit resumes. I’m starting to believe that saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. I happen to be someone who has worked and held steady jobs since the age of 14. I have tons of experience under my belt. It doesn’t matter if I apply for fast food or jobs I know I’m qualified to do, I still end up getting rejected due to the fact I have not had a steady job in many years. I’m often asked if I know anyone working for the company where I’m applying for the job. It seems like if I lie and say yes, maybe I’ll get hired. But that would not be honest and I do not want to work at a company where I have to lie to get the job.
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