Shelter report: so tired

People without housing need a lot of things, but rest seems in shortest supply of all.

I ran into a couple Minnesota guys today out here in Western Colorado. Both of them were tired.

M, 55, arrived recently after Hennepin County bought him a one-way bus ticket to Grand Junction. (That’s how your community may be addressing its “homeless problem,” too.)

M is a vet, a former employee of multiple state and county agencies. He may be Native American or Pacific Islander. He’s also an alcoholic. When we talked, a definite scent of mouthwash filled the space between us. He had just been banned from the library for passing out in the restroom at closing time.

M was patient, cooperative and open. He’s looking for work but was recently rejected from a call center job because of a misdemeanor charge back in Minnesota. He was hungry, stole a sub sandwich from the Midway WalMart and got caught.

A five dollar theft in St. Paul is dogging him out here. He’s hoping to get the charge expunged.

He just got approved for Medicaid, and that will help him pay off some charges pending at the local mental health clinic. A number of our guests were able to describe the ins and outs of the system to the new guy. They’ve been there.

D is one of the guys who advised him. D, early twenties, comes from northern Minnesota where he had a spot of trouble. Here, his problem is also alcohol-related. He’s up on a potential 5th degree felony for assaulting an officer. I’ve seen the cops who deal with the homeless talk to him. They seem sympathetic.

D described waking up in jail with no memory of his run-in with the police. All he remembers is thinking he would die. My sweat smelled like vodka, he said. When they gave me back my socks, they smelled like alcohol, too. I wonder why they took me to jail instead of detox. I could’ve died.

He has an upcoming court date and his public defender has advised a plea bargain that will get him into treatment. For now, his life is on hold, and at night he has panic attacks think about what will happen next.

C tells him not so fast. The system will get its hooks into you one way or other. It may look better than prison now, but they will own you and jerk you around for your entire probation.

C is a fifyish woman who talks as if she has a lot of experience as a victim’s advocate, but she also talks about spending the other night in the park amid drug deals, partying young people, the police and sprinklers going off to discourage sleeping there.

To escape the sprinklers, she crawled into a tube in the children’s playground. All she had was a baby blanket which was too small to cover her and too thin for the cool night. (Sleep outside sometime on a spring night and you’ll understand how cold it can be after the sun goes down.)

Some young men there for drugs started hassling her, not realizing the legs sticking out belonged to a woman until she said, “Leave me alone. I’m old enough to be your mother,” and their girl friends talked the tough guys into leaving.

was in to mop floors for community service. He was up until 3 am working on a college paper last night and he is dragging. Last weekend, he said he walked seven miles from his place to the entrance of Colorado National Monument. 

Seven miles, dude, I was exhausted! Seven miles is a long way to walk up hill.

You walked 14 miles, I said. Unless you flew back. Seven, 14, it didn’t seem to matter to B. He just knew he was beat.

A came in late, his head shaved. He’d recently had some sort of surgery to treat his seizures. He said tonight was his last night camping.

He’s had two hours of sleep for the last two nights, but things are looking up. Tomorrow A goes into a rehab program. When he gets out, he can see his kids again.

You’ll never see me again, he says.

And that’s what we hope. People without housing need a lot of things, but rest seems in shortest supply of all.

This post was written by Charlie Quimby and originally published on Across the Great Divide. Follow Charlie on Twitter: @CharlieQuimby.

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