If you’re going to be homeless, end up being homeless, or are already homeless, there are a number of things you need to know.

First, you’re going to be one of about 3.25 million homeless Americans.  

Second, you’re going to discover that homelessness is disproportionately distributed around our nation. There are more homeless people grouped into geographical locations that have warmer climates. When you stop to think about it though, it makes sense – it’s far easily to be homeless in, say, southern California or Florida than Butte, Montana. Third, make sure your homeless in a city or town that you won’t mind leaving behind if and when you get out of being homeless.

I’m homeless in the city of San Luis Obispo, California, USA, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy. The weather here is for the most part, temperate. Population here is about 45,000 – give or take a couple of thousand for the students who attend Cal Poly University.

If you do end up here, in my neck of the woods, be prepared to have your 1st, 4th and 8th amendment rights challenged, curtailed and often times violated. But then again that’s probably true in most cities around the United States if you’re homeless.

So… let me give you the run down.

San Luis Obispo (SLO) is visually a beautiful town. It has a "quaint" downtown – which is geared to tourism. That makes it expensive to live here – even if you have a job. In fact, the local newspaper ran a story about a year ago, stating the over 90% of this county’s residents can’t afford a median price house, which is about $650,000.

Guess that means I’ll have to keep living in my tent for a while longer. Sigh.

The good news is that SLO does have a homeless shelter AND a day center for the homeless – The Maxine Lewis Memorial Homeless Shelter and the Prado Day Center. The bad news is that the shelter only has 49 beds, with roughly an additional 20 or 30 beds at "overflow facilities" (local churches). The overflow, however, is for women and children only. At the time of this writing, there are roughly some 300+ homeless in this city.

At the shelter, for the first 30 days you’ll be guaranteed a bed and a footlocker that you can store some or all of your things. After that you’ll be on a lottery system for a place to sleep and you’ll be required to carry all of your belongings with you. Can’t leave them at the shelter anymore. Sign in time is 6 o’clock, although you can go on to the shelter property at 5 o’clock – but don’t loiter within a ¼ mile radius prior to that or you could get a "write up" – which means you could lose a bed for the night. The next morning you’ll have to be off the property no later than 7:30 AM.

The Prado Day Center opens at 8:30 AM and usually closes around 4:30 PM. I say usually because over the past couple of months they’ve been closing just shortly after lunch for the purpose of "staff meetings."

At the Day Center, you can shower, do laundry or just hang out if you want. Lunch is at 12:00 noon.

Also, you can do a "chore" for a couple of bus tokens, socks, underwear, and etcetera.

Oh, by the way, get the bus tokens because it’s one long walk from the shelter to the day center and vice versa. The bad part is that you’ll use one token getting back to the shelter, then the other token the next morning to get to the day center and so on and so on and so on…

Are you sure you want to be here?

Next: Homeless 102: The People Of SLO


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