Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Day On The Streets

    So, what is it like living on the streets?  Maybe you've wondered.  Probably you haven't.  But I'm going to tell you anyways.  Here's a rundown of a typical day:

5:00am - Wake Up - I get up when the sun does, or just a bit before.  Have to.  I sleep in an alley behind a business, and I don't want to disturb anyone working there or a random customer; so I get up and out of the way before they arrive.

5:30am - Father Woody's Haven Of Hope - I go every weekday to Father Woody's, which is an awesome day shelter for the homeless.  I get a shower there, but you have to get in line pretty early since there are a few hundred other people who want a shower.  So even though they open about 7am I am in line at 5:30.  That's the really annoying part about being homeless, always standing in line waiting.  At about 8am they serve breakfast, and you can get some yogurt and pastries as well.  By 9 to 9:30 I get my shower called and get cleaned up.  I don't carry around enough clothes to change every day, but the shower at least helps.  After the shower I leave.  This is the only meal and time I'll stay at someplace that helps the homeless.  I could easily eat 4 or 5 times a day, but I don't like crowds.

9 - 9:30am - Library - I usually get the library by 9:30 and they open at 10 during the week.  I go straight up to the computer center and use my 2 hours to check email, work on this blog, and type up my class or game.  I've got a little thumb drive I save everything on.  By noon when I'm out of computer time I go down and find a spot to sit, grab a few books, and read or write my ever-growing mess of paper notes.  Mon and Tues the library's open until 8pm, which means I go straight to my campsite after, but Wed, Thurs and Fri it closes at 6pm.

5:30pm - Out Reading - most days the library closes early, so I just wander down to the park, or the bridge on Broadway, and read a book.  I usually go through 2 books a day (I've always been a fast reader) and mostly I like science fiction and fantasy, but I'll occasionally read something else that just looks good.

6:45pm - Back To Campsite - I try to get back to my alley about 7pm, that way everybody inside has left work for the night.  I'm up and reading or listening to music until after the sun sets around 8:30, then I set up my sleeping bag and turn in for the night.  My alley is nice, usually pretty quiet, and has very little foot-traffic - which is good since sleeping outside is somewhat risky.  I don't like sleeping in the open where any crazy passer-by or the cops could be a rude awakening.  Then I sleep until morning and start it all over again.

    I know, a wildly exciting life, isn't it?  This is a typical day.  On the weekends Father Woody's is closed, but I have other places I can eat at, and the library is only open from 1pm to 5pm.  On holidays both close, and that really stinks.  Then I just wander around and read.  Trying to get into some day labor means waking up at 3am (hard to do without an alarm clock) to get to the center by 4, then waiting around until 8-10am hoping to catch one of the very few tickets.  Usually not, and so the morning is just a waste.  Sometimes you get lucky and spend until 5pm shoveling rocks or sweeping up a construction site - for about $50.  Means missing breakfast though, and spending money on eating (which is hard when you have so little).  And day labor has been very scarce recently.  While there are a few places that give cots or space inside to sleep, you have to get in line at least an hour, usually 2, early to get a space - then sleep in a big room with up to 100 other guys (noisy, smelly, not easy to sleep in) and still have to get out around 5:30 or 6am.  Not worth it.  I'd much rather sleep on my own in my little spot than be crammed in with a bunch of strangers.  Even though I'm technically breaking the law by trespassing (or, if sleeping in a public space, violating the new anti-homeless anti-camping law, you just can't win) I make sure to clean up after myself and stay out of the way.
    It makes for long, boring, and unpleasant days.  Living on the streets is not something I'd recommend.  But it happens.  I didn't plan on ending up here, but, well, here I am.  I try to make the most of it.  Teaching my student how to use her computer is a very welcome break.  I broke down and spent some money to see the new Spider-Man movie, which was great, and also a welcome change of pace.  You take the little moments when they come.  Someday I'd like to get out of this situation, but getting a job is hard enough - getting a job while homeless is much, much harder.  Particularly in my field: computer geeks tend to be neat, dress nice, and have cars - things I don't.  Hard to carry a week's worth of dress clothes in a backpack, along with anything else.  But we'll see what happens.
    So there you have it, my life on the streets.  Other homeless people might have much different routines, this is just what works for me.

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