When The Sun Goes Down…

Posted: October 20, 2007 in Homeless Shelters, Homelessness

This is Part III in a multipart series on "How" a person finds themselves becoming homeless.

The lights have been out for two or three hours.

You’re laying in one of the bunk beds at the homeless shelter. The mattress is about the width of a sleeping bag and has seen better days – although those better days were who knows how many years ago. The sheet that you were given to cover the mattress with is so thread bare that you can feel the vinyl covering of the mattress itself. The lump under your head that is only an idea masquerading itself as a pillow feels more like your head is on a pair of hiking boots. The blanket has several tears and rips.  

There are nights sounds coming from the beds around you. People are fitfully tossing and turning. Some are mumbling in their sleep. There is more than one person who is constantly coughing. No one here seems to be actually getting a good nights sleeps except that one or two persons who are snoring louder than you thought any human being could snore.

Despite being thoroughly exhausted, you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep. Your eyes are stinging and burning from the need to sleep. But, your mind won’t allow you to rest. It keeps flooding itself with a barrage of thoughts. You’re having a hard time even focusing on any one thought. As soon as you do, it seems to be replaced by another thought that is completely unrelated to the first.

You roll over to lay on your opposite side and find that your neck, arms and legs feel stiff. Then you realize the reason: you’re body is as tense as a rubber band that has been stretched too taut. You deliberately make the effort to relax. Ah, that’s better. But then your mind is filled with wondering how you came to this end. A few minutes later you find that your body has tensed up again. So you force yourself to relax again. But once again, several minutes later you can feel your body’s muscles tightening up.

When you arrived onto the homeless shelter property earlier this evening, you were caught off guard by the numbers of people who were also here. Certainly there were just as many, if not more, than there were at the place where they were serving lunch this afternoon. In fact, you recognize many of the same faces.

When people began lining up to get signed in for dinner you just followed along with everyone else. At that moment it occurred to you that most of what you did today was stand in this line or that line just waiting to be processed for one service or another.

When you finally reach the "sign in" desk, you were asked for your name and for some form of identification. You might have been asked a few other questions, but then you moved along to the area where the meal was being provided.

After the meal some folks simply left the property and went their way. Others sat around waiting to see if they were going to be able to sleep here tonight. You were shocked when you found out that more than half of them were turned away due to the lack of available beds. You may or may not have wondered where they were going to sleep tonight.

Now here you are: laying in this shelter bed hoping that you eventually fall asleep. Suddenly the thought pops into your head that perhaps you should have just tried to find a place to sleep somewhere else. But where? No, you’re better off here – at least you hope so.

As you continue to toss and turn, trying to find enough of a comfortable position to lay in, you mind begins racing along at break neck speed but none of the thoughts give you any comfort. Mostly you’re thinking about all the "woulda, coulda, shoulda’s" and how if you had done "that" instead of the "other thing" maybe things would have turned out differently and you wouldn’t be here right now.

Although tomorrow is another day, the only thing you know for sure is that you have to somehow find a job that will make you enough money to get the hell out of this situation – and fast!

That thought goes round and round in your mind, like a mantra or a prayer…


"The Morning After"

  1. Hello Michael: Just came across your blog this morning. I appreciate your writings and will read more as more time permits. I am a shelter administrator in Boise and also do a good deal of ‘street outreach’ through my own organization – the Viriditas Spiritual Center (www.viriditasspiritualcenter.org). Many many blessings to you.

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