Cold And Wet

Posted: December 19, 2007 in Bureauacracy, Compassion, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing

It rained all day yesterday. At times, the rains came down so heavily that just a few minutes out of doors without an umbrella or some other rain protection and you would find yourself soaked through completely.

I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to be out in the weather. Sure, I did get partially wet from going to my favorite convenience store for a cup of hot chocolate and then a second time when I had to run an errand in downtown San Luis Obispo. Other than that however, I managed to remain inside and so was relatively dry and warm.

I couldn’t help thinking about those homeless in this community that didn’t have that option available to them.  

When I passed the bus stop in the early evening, there were a number of them who were huddled in the bus shelter trying to stay dry. One of them was wearing a plastic trash bag as a type of rain poncho. A couple of them had dollar store umbrellas. But, all of them had shoes that were wet and pants or jeans that wear soaked midway up to their knees.

After nodding and saying hello to a few of them, I had to continue on my way because I wanted to be out of the rain. As I walked away however, I felt this intense feeling of helplessness. There was this underlying wish that I could have done something to provide them with some manner of comfort. After all, I know what it’s like to be at the bus stop in the rain, waiting for the exact minute that I was allowed to step foot onto the property of the homeless shelter and get under the patio canopy.

It’s a strange thing to me that the day center closes at around 4:00 PM – although many of the homeless leave well before that. By the time they transfer from the route 2 bus to the route 3 and go all the way around to the bus stop nearest the homeless shelter, it’s around 4:45 PM and only a 2 or 3 minute walk to the shelter. But – you can’t step foot onto the shelter property until 5:00 PM.

This means that the homeless have to "hang out" at the bus stop for at least 10 minutes, and in weather similar to what we had yesterday those ten minutes can seem like an eternity – especially if your feet are wet and cold.

One thing that always seemed peculiar to me was the one "rule" that the night shelter has which stipulates that none of the shelter "clients" were allowed to loiter in the neighborhood – especially in near proximity to any of the nearby business. Yet, the bus stop where the homeless get off of the bus is right in front of a Staples office supply store.

The greatest irony is that both the day center and the night shelter are overseen by the same agency: the Economic Opportunity Commission of San Luis Obispo County (EOC SLO).

You would think that someone at EOC SLO would come to the realization that since the bus schedule dictates what time the homeless arrive in the "neighborhood" of the night shelter, and since the bus arrives there at roughly some 15 minutes prior to the time when any of the homeless are allowed onto the property, and since the one of the night shelter rules is that the "clients" are not allowed to loiter near any of the "neighborhood" businesses because the shelter wants to maintain a "good neighbor" policy that the "rules" could be amended slightly. Not a whole lot, but just enough – maybe fifteen minutes worth – so that the homeless could go onto the property at 4:45 PM instead of having to wait until 5:00 PM.

If nothing more it would assure that none of the homeless would potentially violate the rule about loitering around nearby businesses, thereby helping the improve the "good neighbor" policy that the shelter is trying to maintain with the local area businesses. And on days like yesterday, it would give the homeless just a bit of a break from the weather.

That may not seem like a big deal to many, but to a homeless person whose feet are wet and cold and who is trying to get out of the rain, but has to wait those extra 10 or 15 minutes, it could be the difference between feeling a bit more grouchy when they finally get onto shelter property or of just feeling grateful to have a place to get off of the streets and out of the rain.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    I am always bothered to see people having to live without shelter but in conditions of rain & cold this is especially worrisome.
    Like many things in life people don’t truly understand the logistic required of rules that are imposed unless they have had to abide by them. It is my bet people who run the shelter don’t know that by just making the shelter open early it would make a hug difference especially during inclimate conditions. Likewise, the reason for not opening earlier might be due to lack of personnel to accomodate and tend to the needs of the shelter. It always serves organizations well to have a “voice” of someone who knows the needs of the this case a homeless liason would be a great asset Perhaps a constructive “heads up” to the agency in the form of a forward of this post would be worthwhile ??

  2. michael says:


    The local homeless shelter does indeed have a lack of personnel and they themselves generally do not arrive to the shelter until 5:00 PM – so it’s understandable that they wouldn’t want any of the homeless on property prior to that, although the shelter itself does not actually open until 6:00 PM. As a result the homeless remain waiting out of doors until then.

    Still, I’ve never been able to figure out why – since the homeless are required to wait outside of the shelter until then – why it would be a problem to at least allow them on to the property those 15 minutes earlier.

    I asked one the shelter workers about this very situation once and the response I recieved was that “this is the way it’s always been done.”

    I know that the shelter does not have the necessary funds to pay someone for the extra half hour of time, so that’s not a feasible solution –

    Then again, it would at least be worth the trial and error of allowing the homeless onto the property those 15 minutes early. If it didn’t work out, then at least it could be said that “we gave it a try.”

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