Waiting ln Lines

Posted: July 13, 2007 in Homeless Shelters, Homelessness

I went to the Dollar Tree store yesterday afternoon to pick up a few things to snack on and when it was time to check out, there were three people in line ahead of me. One of them had just a few items but the other two had quite a number of things they were buying.

While I was standing there I thought about different places people stand in line waiting for services of some type: supermarkets, department stores, fast food restaurants and so forth.  

Homeless people spend a large part of their day standing in lines waiting for services also. In fact, homeless people spend a lot of time just waiting.

In San Luis Obispo, the night shelter requires that all clients leave the shelter property by 7:30 AM. Although most of them leave long before that, some who are doing one chore or another at the shelter leave a few seconds before they’re required to do so.

Most of them will catch the 7:30 AM bus to downtown where they will transfer to another bus route and head over to the day center. Others will catch the 8:10 bus to the downtown transit center.

The day center technically opens at 8:30 AM, but lately they have been opening late – or more accurately they’re opening up when one of the center’s employees unlocks the gate. As a result, when the homeless arrive at the day center they have to wait around until one of the "staff" finally makes it to work.

The day center is on a small access road that the homeless are not allowed to be on until the center opens so they all wait at the bus stop, looking down the access road to see if the gates are opened yet.

Once they do arrive at the day center, they are required to "sign in" before they can get any services and that means waiting in line. It’s the same at lunch hour. They have to wait in line for lunch with often times is late. After that many of them leave and take the bus trip back downtown and go about day.

In the evenings, when the homeless start heading back to the night shelter, since they are not allowed on shelter property or within a quarter mile radius of the shelter until 5:00 PM, those who took the 4:25 PM bus from downtown to the shelter end up waiting at the bus stop.

Once on the property, they must remain on the back or side "patio areas" until around 6:00 PM when they once again will stand in line waiting to be "signed in" to receive a meal – and for those who are fortunate enough – a bed.

Since there are more homeless than there are beds, those who are hoping for a bed must wait around until around 7:15 – 7:30 PM when the bed list is announced. Those who were unable to get a bed will leave the property and find some place to bed down for the night.

And tomorrow morning, the same routine will start all over – they’ll wait for a bus, stand in line somewhere, wait for a bus, stand in line somewhere…

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