By Akosua Albritton

January 13, 2016, 4:40 pm

 
Print/Download PDF
Diehard Homeless Who Avoid the Shelters KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

Diehard Homeless Who Avoid the Shelters
KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

For some people, it’s better to endure wet and cold winter conditions than to gain entry into a shelter.  Joy remembers the elderly man who slept on the sidewalk the past summer and fall.  He’s nowhere to be found now. The armory has opened the emergency dormitory and there’s a slow yet steady stream of unknown faces filling the cots.

There’s nothing like snow fall to bring the diehard man-on-the-street to come in from the cold. This winter is particularly cold. One snowy morning, the bus drivers get a frequent notice to drive no faster than 25 MPH.  Joy keeps hearing the cautionary automated voice on her way to work.  Everyone is bundled up bracing for the cold as they get off at their desired stops.

A few men arrived to the shelter the day before.  As usual, they are bewildered.  One tall white man comes the Shift Supervisor’s Office to ask questions:

“Hey, last night we were brought here in a van around 3 a.m.  Why am I here?”

Joy asks, “Did you sleep in a chair near the main entrance?”

“No, we got beds.” 

“Well, if you have beds that means you are transferred here.  You are now residents of this shelter.  Do you need soap, tooth paste, or other things? I will give them to you, if you do.”  

“No, I don’t need them right now.  Wow! This is how you get moved?!”

In the winter, not only do the die-hards willingly come in from the cold, but transfers from other shelters occur.  There’s an 18-bed dormitory that is kept empty most of the year for the winter die-hards.  Staff knows once the weather is bearable, they will leave.  They appreciate the food, the showers, the beds, the laundry, the MetroCards, but come a bearable temperature, they leave.  One man is a regular to the shelter system.  He fixes bikes in Central Park from spring to early winter.  Once his clientele is low and his savings are too little to give to a friend or other place, he checks into a shelter.  He looks to be in his 30s, well-kept.  He just chooses to live on a wing and prayer.

The custodians are good about keeping the sidewalks and main entrance staircase clear and dry.  No shelter wants anyone to slip and fall on the streets or within the building.  Jack and Ron have complementary personalities. Jack is a slim, perky man with a ready smile.  He has a pleasant word for people.  Ron is a quiet man.  His pace is slow but not lazy.  He keeps an unlit cigarette in the corner of his mouth.  Just two average men making honest dollars.  Lately, Joy sees them looking through the job notices she puts up.

The transfers are interesting men.  They usually arrive at night after 1 AM.  Most know they are being transferred; others are completely surprised; and a few, visibly vexed.  Joy remembers an afternoon when she’s walking around the rec area to introduce herself, get names, and find out the men’s vocational needs before running the workshop.  She comes upon a young man wearing his hair in short braids.  He is seated in a chair facing the wall.

Angry with the Change in Plans

Angry with the Change in Plans

“Good afternoon, my name is Joy Duggins.  I’m the Vocational Program Coordinator.  What is your name, sir?”

“Patrick…What’s it to you?

“Patrick, my job is to get to know the residents here.  To find out whether people are employed or looking for work.  I help with getting jobs, doing resumes, getting IDs, and connecting you to free occupational training.  If you need clothes, a haircut, or other places to eat, I can even help with that.”

“You know, I got here last night.  I was pulled out of my bed and told to pack my things.  I had been there maybe three weeks!”

I haven’t heard this before.  By any chance were you involved in a fight?”

“No! I can’t be fighting with my condition! Aaah!  Leave me alone!”

“I will leave you alone.  Will you let me talk to you another time?”

Patrick nods his head.

Joy and Patrick talk the next day.  Patrick was at a shelter for young adults.  He and his Case Manager worked out a plan for him to return to school, train for a job, and move to his own studio in a supported living facility.  Patrick has cerebral palsy which affects his mobility.  Patrick liked that Case Manager because she told him about a nearby GED program and had him complete an aptitude test.  Joy likes this Case Manager because she does the same thing.  Patrick feels as if a rug has been pulled from underneath him.  For his first three weeks, when he is in the rec area, he faces a wall. It takes time but, he eventually turns to face the world and talk to people.

The transfers are interesting men.  They usually arrive at night after 1 AM.  Most know they are being transferred; others are completely surprised; and a few, visibly vexed.  Joy remembers an afternoon when she’s walking around the rec area to introduce herself, get names, and find out the men’s vocational needs before running the workshop.  She comes upon a young man wearing his hair in short braids.  He is seated in a chair facing the wall.

“Good afternoon, my name is Joy Duggins.  I’m the Vocational Program Coordinator.  What is your name, sir”

“Patrick…what’s it to you?

“Patrick, my job is to get to know the residents here.  To find out whether people are employed or looking for work.  I help with getting jobs, doing resumes, getting IDs, and connecting you to free occupational training.  If you need clothes, a haircut, or other places to eat, I can even help with that.”

“You know, I got here last night.  I was pulled out of my bed and told to pack my things.  I had been there maybe three weeks!”

Read More: 1 | 2


Want to write for us? We're looking for interns and experienced writers! Go here for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.