The Morning After

Posted: October 21, 2007 in Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Hopes

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

Unfamiliar sounds catch your attention. You open your eyes slowly and notice that lights are on. It takes you several moments to organize your thoughts. The sounds continue.

Suddenly you remember where you are.

Last night, you had to stay here at this homeless shelter and somewhere in the small hours of the morning you must’ve fallen asleep. You don’t remember when or at what time. You actually feel more tired this morning than you did last night.  

As you look around you realize the sounds that woke you up were people getting out of bed and putting on their socks and shoes; making their "beds" as best at they can; picking up their bags and backpacks.

You make your way to the bathroom to wash your face, comb your hair and brush your teeth. When you look at yourself in the mirror, the eyes that gaze back at you seem hollow and haunted.

You know that you have to find a job – any job – just something that will get you started on your road back to having a place of your own. You’re just not sure where to start looking other than the classified ads in the newspaper.

You’re not happy with the idea of having to carry all of what is left of your worldly belongings with you, but you don’t really have anyplace that you can leave them, and you don’t want to try hiding them somewhere – after all, what if when you go back to get them you find them gone? No, you’d better take them with you.

Last night, one of the other homeless people told you that you should go down to the welfare department and apply for food stamps. They said that because you’re homeless they’ll probably give them to you today. And, the more you think about it the more you think that it’s probably a good idea to apply. This way you won’t have to worry about having to go to that other place to get lunch everyday. You’ll be able to buy something to eat during the day while you’re out looking for work.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

When finally you get to see your case worker at the welfare department, she tells you that, yes because you’re homeless, you do qualify for emergency food stamps. They can have an EBT card for you by this afternoon. In the meanwhile, you begin filling out the paperwork, which seems to be endless.

One form that your case worker is very careful to explain to you about is your job search form. You’ll be required to look for employment while you’re receiving food stamps and you’ll need to make sure that you fill in the form accordingly so that your food stamps don’t get cut off.

You figure, what the hell, you’re going to be looking for work anyway. The way you see it you’re killing two birds with one stone. No worries. You can do this. You can make things happen.

Later in the afternoon, true to her word, your case worker has an EBT card ready for you. You go through the procedure of creating a PIN number and she hands you your card.

As you head out the door, you’re feeling a bit more optimistic than you did this morning. Although you missed lunch, you did get your food stamps. That’s the important thing. Now you’ll be able to buy your own lunch. In fact, why not stop and grab something to munch on right now. Yeah, you think you will.

As you sit snacking on what you just bought with your food stamps, you begin formulating plans for tomorrow. Tonight, when you go to the shelter you’ll try to get to sleep as quickly as possible so that you won’t be so tired tomorrow morning. Then after you leave the shelter, you’ll get a newspaper and start looking through the classifieds. You’re going to put in so many job applications that it won’t be more than a week or two at the most before you’re working again and on your way to getting a place of your own.

Later in the afternoon as you’re heading toward the shelter, you’ve made up your mind. You’re determined. You aren’t going to be like any of the other homeless people staying at the shelter. You’re going to get out. You have a plan. You’ve set your eyes on the brass ring. Now it’s just a matter of making things happen.

In fact, the way you see, you’ve already made some headway just today. You’ve got your food stamp card. And all in one day! If you can make things move this quickly everyday it won’t be long at all. You’ll be back on your feet in time.

All of these thoughts give you some comfort but…


"Yesterday’s Tomorrow"


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