Life in a Cold Weather Shelter

For three months last winter I stayed at a cold weather shelter (the shelter is opened from end of October to the1st of April.). The people at the shelter had some severe health issue. There were a lot of people there with “severe mental health issues” (if you get SSI or Social Security people with mental health issues are dumped in low-income housing if you don't get a check you are among the homeless.). One pretty young woman who legal name is Ashley, but she went by another name Martha. One cold morning Ashley decided to go outside barefoot and with no coat on. Another woman named Linda used to live under a bridge when the shelter was closed. Another homeless person named Mike (we called him chemical mike), all he would talk about is all the investigations into chemical leaks in the area. Another homeless person was Dan. Dan was a veteran who drank a lot. Dan was a savant when it came to music. Dan could tell you the name of a song, its artist, the year the song came out, and where it when to on the charts, just from listening to a couple of notes of a song. Because Dan drank a lot he ended up in hospital a lot (suicide attempts). You had to leave the shelter by 7 am. Dan would go to grocery store and ask people if he could take the carts back to cart area (there was a 25 cent deposit on the carts, when you put the chain back in the cart that was already there the quarter came out. That was Dan's panhandling day). I tried to help Dan out by giving him a couple of dollars (Dan was one of the homeless who weren't motivated to help their situation, the “chronic homeless”. Another young woman cut herself and had to be taken to the hospital. Another person was arguing with staff and not making much sense, he was escorted out of the shelter. There was one homeless person who stated “I can't wait for the shelter to be opened next year”. Shelters are temporary housing, they are not meant to replace regular housing. There was one woman named Lisa who I spent some time hanging around with at the shelter. Lisa had been homeless for six years, she kept all her belongings in a grocery cart and the shelter let her keep the cart there. She told me a story how she got be homeless, her boss where she was working found out the she was sole provider for her and got her fired just because he thought it would be funny. Lisa stated that she wasn't in contact with her family. I liked Lisa a lot. One night she had breathing problems, and was taken to the hospital. Lisa had no other person to call a friend, she stayed to herself. I like Lisa a lot (and due to my proclivity for the downtrodden) I went up to see Lisa in the hospital. One day I brought her clothes, and her bags on another day. She was to have a follow up visit with a doctor once she left the hospital, however Lisa had no money, no insurance, and no way to get to the doctor's. After the shelter closed on April 1st Lisa went to live under a bridge. Several other homeless people followed her. The bridge was next to police station. Several fights broke out among the other homeless people and the police eventually ran off everyone who was living under the bridge. At this time I was working two jobs and living in my car. One job was working in another state (Winchester, VA) after work I would drive to the bridge where Lisa was staying and would give her money for food. I had it, she didn't and because of the way I feel about her I could just let her starve. One time when I went to the bridge where Lisa was staying I asked her if she wanted to go on a date to a fast food restaurant just up the street from where she was staying. Lisa stated that the last time she left her belongings unattended she ended up getting in trouble. I also ended up getting Lisa a bracelet. I always told Lisa that I would get both of us out of homelessness (I really wanted to, I wouldn't have minded spending the rest of my life with her.). It didn't quite work out that way. A former policeman who is now a social worker helped get Lisa into low income housing and I eventually ended up in a second floor apartment that I had to give up a couple of weeks later because of breathing problems. I qualified for food stamps when I was unemployed and I went to a food pantry. I ended up donating the food to the shelter. This was my way of give back to the people who have helped me. Any little thing I could do to help out. In the time since, I have developed some health problems (I had to give up a couple of jobs because of them.). There was one time I donated food to the shelter, that I also gave them a knitted scarf to give to Lisa, I hoped she enjoyed it (It was around Valentine's day and I considered it a Valentine's gift to Lisa.). Lisa if you are reading this just know that I love you.

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