Newly homeless part 3
It’s been a little over three weeks now, and the weather has turned cold. I mean really cold. Cold enough to see your breath in the morning, and night. This is the kind of cold that normal folks with homes wouldn’t think twice about, but for us poor souls out on the streets, it’s bitterly cold. Highs in the 40’s, lows in the 20’s. No time to be on the street. Unfortunately, this is the time when it becomes imperative to hit the shelter early. Either that or find something to do all night and catch a few winks at the library in the morning.
The routine has gotten old and I need a change. Someone told me of a wellness center in town. So I’m gonna check that out today. The walk will do me good.
I’m down to about $680 in the bank. The bill collectors found me. All that money from my old job, gone. All I have left in the world are $680 and the backpack with my leftover clothes and notebooks. That’s it.
I still think I haven’t hit rock bottom yet. I don’t know if I ever will. But if I do, this might be the time. I’m not discouraged yet, but I’m financially embarrassed. It sucks to be me.
Haven’t lost my mind yet. Still able to process information. I’m not pissing my pants. Haven’t been seeing things that aren’t there. But it’s tough to keep going. It really is. There’s no end in sight.
Now that I think about it, I shouldn’t have quit my job. It would’ve given me money and a place to go five days a week. But I’m too embarrassed to go there anymore. I wouldn’t want people to look down on me and I might’ve lost it when those people with food stamps “buy” $57 worth of garbage and frozen lattes every day just because they can. And they feel entitled. That’s the worst part. I’m not saying that there are people who need assistance. Not at all. But there are three generations of people who have never worked a day in their lives, and just suck up all the benefits that they don’t deserve. They feel no responsibility to get a job and pay their own way. Meanwhile, I’m in the street while they’re in their nice little rent-controlled apartments. They’re not cold. They’re not hungry.
I’m over at the wellness center not knowing what to expect. The lady at the desk welcomes me and introduces me to the staff and some other folks like me. I meet with a counselor about my situation, and we talk about my job history, what I’ve been doing with myself, and what I can do now. She says there are no easy answers and I don’t expect any. She takes my info down and says she’ll put me on a list for housing. It won’t be overnight or even overyear, but I might get lucky.
At least I’m in a warm place for awhile. Wish it was open all day, but it isn’t. At 5:00 I go back into the cold and chug down to the soup kitchen for dinner.
Dinner wasn’t bad. Some beef stew and mixed vegetables plus some pudding for dessert. Bertha’s not there. I guess she found something else to do today. I finish up, thank the crew for the meal, and go back out into the cold.
Don’t really feel like going to the shelter, but I have to get there early tonight. There’s gonna be a fight for beds with temps in the 20’s. Hell, I wish I had somewhere else to be. But I don’t. Better get over there.
The Christmas decorations around town do warm the heart. There are more of them now, in every shop in town. I remember how I used to love Christmas shopping. I had no agenda of what I was gonna get everybody. Just let the mood strike me. It was fun, especially seeing people’s faces light up when they opened my gifts. Don’t have anyone to give gifts to this year, or any money to buy any. Haven’t told what’s left of my family what’s going on with me. Don’t need to worry them.
I still have pride, believe it or not. Pride is the enemy of us all. What’s that saying, “Pride goeth before a fall”? Well, I’ve fallen, and my pride keeps me from getting all the help I need. It’s stopped me from admitting I’m human. What a dumb emotion.
Got to the shelter early, and just as I thought, it’s busy. Cold weather will do that. But there’s still enough room for me, thank God. I’m seeing lots of people I’ve never seen before. That’s not surprising. Guess I’ll settle in.
Donald’s there in his usual place. We shake hands and he coughs out a greeting. He looks kinda sick, but he keeps going. He and I have developed a rapport here lately. He knows a lot of stories, and is always good for some laughs. That’s why I like him.
“Place is getting packed,” he says as he puffs on a Salem. I agree, as I pick a bed and sit on it, unburdening myself. We both talk about our days, and share information. I told him about the wellness center, and he nods. He’s been there. “Nice folks,” he opines, “about time you got there!” And then he coughs, a lot.
Bertha finally plows in, smelling of smoke and some alcoholic beverage. She hugs Donald, which leads him to coughing. She goes after me, and I knida repel at first, but figure, “What the hell?” and accept her hug.
She brings some Christmas cookies for us to share. I mention I didn’t see her at the kitchen, and she says she went Christmas shopping. “For who?”, I asked. “For you”, she said. Now I feel rotten. I didn’t value her enough to shop, but I’ll have to now. “and you, too” she says to Donald. “What’d ya get me, a pack of cigarettes?”, he asks. Bertha frowns and says, “No. Gotcha something nice.” Donald deadpans, “I’d rather have the cigarettes”, which leads to Bertha getting a hissy fit and walking away. Donald has a chuckle and I laugh, too.
After awhile, all is forgiven, and the place is full. I settle into bed and think about things. Donald is still coughing. He sounds really bad, but maybe it’s just a cold. As the lights go down, I say a little prayer for my new friends and nod off,…