Friday, August 20, 2010

My Homelessness Immersion Project: Day Two

I take the bus downtown. I am dressed in the clothes I wore yesterday. When I get off the bus I am no longer surprised at the looks people give me. I begin to walk over to the Ave Maria House. As I pass the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen across the street I am aware of how busy it is. There is a constant stream of people going to the door and walking away with what appears to be soup and bread. As I approach Ave Maria House I notice that the front porch is full of people sitting and talking. Outside on the sidewalk are tables with “free stuff.” People come up to the tables and take what they need. It is a busy place.

As I walk up the stairs there are already people who recognize me from yesterday. I am given a new name, I am refereed to as “Bro” or “my brother.” I like it, it is so much better than being invisible. When I enter the house I notice people sitting in the living room watch Tombstone on the television. Some are eating doughnuts, others drinking coffee. In the dinning room folks are signing up to do their laundry or to take a shower.

The place reminds me of Emmaus Ministries. It is warm and friendly and useful. People can get their mail here. They can call their doctors or use the internet to do a job search. Upstairs are rooms for resting. The basement is stocked with food, clothing and essentials for living on the street.

I stay here a number of hours. I am treated with respect. Mainly I am quiet and watchful. I notice that many of the clients are respectful and deferential to older clients. I like this place, it feels like a home.

I then walk over to the library. Again I notice my “colleagues” waling down the street. They are quiet and avoid the sun. Most pedestrians look down or away when my colleagues walk past them.

Allen County Main Library,

At the library I recognize my new friends. They all seem to be doing something. They are on the internet, reading newspapers or working on some written project. I also discover the silent reading rooms. I use the library often but never used these rooms. I enter and sit in the big stuffed chair and read. I recognize others in this room. It is clear you are allowed to remain in this room as long as your stay awake. After a while I get up and begin my walk to the Rescue Mission.

Again the outside is buys and loud. The vast majority of folks who arrive are there for the meals. Again there is a lot of loudness, cursing, posturing but for some reason I do not mind. I find friends and we sit and talk.

The line for dinner is interesting. Two men are talking about their days as solider in Viet Nam, another about Desert Storm. A few are talking about their jobs and two about spending time in prison. One guy arrives from his job. Hew is filthy, from work. He is respected and everyone asks about his job and inquires about how he is doing. There are no small victories here. The meal is again chicken but I am hungry and it is warm and filling.

After dinner I wait for my intake. The place is very busy and this takes a while. Finally I am taken to an office and I answer questions about who I am, what I am doing here, what I am seeking. They inquire about my potential dangerousness and ask about my drug/alcohol use. I am told the rules and told I am now admitted into the emergency shelter. I can keep the bed for 30 days. After that I can enter the next program for six months and the final program for a year. The latter to programs provides education, support and spiritual guidance.

Next I wait in the lobby again until I am administered a breathalyzer, I passed. Then I am given a bunk bed and a locker. I spend abut 40 minutes laying on the bunk. Finally it is time for chapel.

Chapel is lead by a guest speaker, a Gideon. He is a man filed with the Spirit. He is full of love but appears empty of judgmental ness. There are 32 of us in chapel. We sing, we pray, soe asks questions. It is clear some are there because it is required. It is equally clear that others savor these services.

After the service we have free time. I go to the pay phone and make a call. Afterwards I go to the front desk and tell them I found a place to stay. They treat me with respect and let me know that I can come back if it does not work out. These are nice folks.

I then walk home. It is hot and humid but I am happy. I am seeing folks differently, I am learning, it has been a good day.

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