Yesterday probably was the worst day so far being homeless. It was just an all around shitty day. I woke up feeling horrible from having an upper respiratory infection, that’s heading towards bronchitis. In the morning I try to get up and out of the room as quickly as I can but not yesterday. I don’t sleep very well in the shelter and even more so now that I’m sick. The Nyquil pills just don’t cut it like the liquid. So a combination of the lack of sleep, being sick and physically drained from all the walking just did me in. I got up late and had to rush around to get ready, which I hate doing. I forgot to take my medicine and I quickly put on dirty clothes because I haven’t been able to get to the laundry mat, nor do I have any cash for quarters. Each morning we have to take everything off the floor and put our stuff on the bed. Usually my stuff is very neat but this morning it wasn’t how I like it. I had took some laundry out of a bag that I needed and it was on top of the bed. It still was pretty neat but not how I like it. I brushed my teeth in my room, without any water and went on my way.
I had a meeting at 10 am with one of the workers who works on finding you housing. The staff have been acting like they had something lined up. That wasn’t the case which is fine because I had already found alternative housing. So the meeting was pretty uneventful he gave me a couple of more resources that might be available and that was it. I did find out that they will pay for six months rent once I get a place, so that’s good. By that point it was feeling better as I took Dayquil but still not great. At least I didn’t feel like biting everyone’s head off like a two headed monster. I quickly left for the bus so I could get out to the library, as it’s one of the few quiet places I have to go that’s safe. People don’t bother me and I can work on my comic book. At the day shelter it’s always loud and a lot of times there’s trouble. So I try to avoid that place as much as I can.
I love the library because I can get on the computer so I can write. Blogging has always been a therapeutic outlet for me. So it’s nice to sit down here and relax, and type out all my feelings. On a day like today it’s definitely needed therapy, especially since my therapist is on vacation this week. So yesterday I started to blog away and get my daily fix on a computer. Typing on my phone is so annoying. It was towards the end of my three hour limit when someone left something nasty about me about me being homeless on a Facebook group called Blaze it Forward. I had posted a week ago to see if I could find anyone near me to get to know. I was desperate for the comforts of a home so I posted in the group. Everyone was really nice and supportive. A few days later I had decided to ask for help, which I don’t like to do. The bookbag I had was really bad for my back, it was keeping me from walking very far as it killed my lower back. I also had spilled rice pudding all over the inside so it wasn’t exactly clean anymore. So I thought because this site was for paying it forward and helping people in need I would see if anyone would help me get a new backpack. People were kind enough and helped me get it. I really appreciated it. Now the new backpack doesn’t hurt me anymore. I can walk however ever much I wanted without it hurting my back. Plus I have more places to put my items in. I absolutely love it. It’s the nicest thing I own currently and I wear it proudly. When you get something new like this it makes you feel like a king. That’s how precious valuables are to someone homeless.
Well yesterday a woman felt the need to leave a comment a week after I had posted it in the group, saying I was asking for a lot. Instantly my heart sank. It was one of those days were it just took a whisper to knock me over. I felt guilt and shame. I was being judged and it didn’t make me feel good at all. I was giving this woman too much power and I tried to prevent it from getting to me but yesterday was tough. I felt like crying but I pushed through. It was a beautiful day out and it was really windy. So I decided to have a little picnic outside of the library. I sat down and ate my leftover pizza as the cool wind flowed through me. As nice as it felt I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman’s comment. It wasn’t just about her. Her ignorant, hurtful comment brought up my own shame for being homeless. The fact that I let myself get to this point where I was living in a homeless shelter. Her comment triggered every bad feeling I had about myself and it made me feel so little and alone. It’s easy to feel like the world is against you. So many people judge the homeless and look down upon them especially if they ask for help. They don’t have to say any words to you as you can see it in their stares. Overall I can push it aside but yesterday wasn’t one of those days.
I finished my picnic and headed to the bus station. As I was waiting for the bus the negative thoughts starting to flood in. They were loud and persistent. I had to use every last bit of strength in me to fight them away. I had enough on my plate to let my depression suck me under that bus. When I got to the day shelter I just wanted to chill and forget about that woman. I felt very drained and was enjoying the air conditioning. It was near dinner time and one of the main kitchen workers came up saying that they didn’t have any volunteers to pass out food. The room was full of people and no one was volunteering. Even though I was no way physically prepared to work nearly two hours on my feet I volunteered because it was the right thing to do and they had no one else. I couldn’t let people go hungry. It felt great to be giving back and it gave me purpose. I was determined to make the best of the day by helping other people.
At first it was only going to be me handing out food on eight different stations. We feed around 200 people and it gets pretty crazy at the start of dinner. Thankfully they found three more people to volunteer but only one was really helpful. The guy next to me was so slow that I had to do his other stations plus mine. If I didn’t pitch in we would have a line out the door and people get very inpatient. So I was working overtime to get people fed. I had never done this before and I really wasn’t trained but I went with it. It was a lot harder than I thought, especially because the kitchen was so short staffed. Usually they have one volunteer per food but not today. The guy next to me wasn’t carrying about portion control so the taco salad ran out quickly and that was it. After about 30 minutes the two (who weren’t good) ended up sneaking away and left. It was just me and another homeless woman, who was very helpful and nice. A half hour in my body was about to collapse. I looked at the clock and wondered how I was going to get through the next hour. I didn’t think about it, I just did what I had to do. People needed to eat and I couldn’t leave them empty handed. So I pushed through.
At first it was really rewarding even though I was beat but it turned quickly when the guy who is one of the main workers started to treat me poorly. I accidently had pushed the buffet table forward a little bit and I was trying to pull it back. He saw me and quickly pushed me aside and pulled it back. He goes you got to pull it like a man or something to that fact. Implying I was treating it like I was a boy. I have seen him enough to know the kind of attitude he has and this is how he is. He’s hard assed and doesn’t tolerate any sensitivity. He looks down upon it. It’s his way or the highway. One day there were no seats and I asked if there was somewhere else to sit to which he replied, you are just going to have to stand like the others. Well no one else was standing and he wasn’t very nice. Whenever I eat at the kitchen I do what I’m supposed to. I’m considerate and am not greedy. I say please and thank you. Which most don’t.
Once this guy got started he didn’t stop belittling me. I was enjoying working with Paulette, the other woman who volunteered. Once it slowed down we started talking and I mentioned how that a month ago I wasn’t barely able to walk a few hundred feet. I have been very proud of how far I have come. Well that didn’t make this guy happy and he started to tear me down by calling me lazy. Yes, he actually used the word lazy. I had enough fire in me to say it wasn’t from laziness and just went back to serving food.
Another thing that started to get to me were some of the homeless were just downright rude, demanding and greedy. I could have handled this if it weren’t for the worker giving me grief. One guy said I needed to wear a net around my beard. I wanted to tell him off and say that I was homeless too and that I was killing myself to feed your ungrateful ass. If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t be eating but I shut my mouth and went to the next person. Serving food wasn’t easy because a lot of people just stared at you confused when you asked them if they wanted the food I was serving. Which made it difficult at times to move the line but I did the best I can and I was always kind. Overall most the people were really cool and appreciative. It was nice when a few people came up to us and thanked us. Those who did that really made up for the unkind people before. I loved when it was slower because I could be myself and be more personable. There was this sweet old lady who came through the line and I enjoyed talking to her.
About halfway through we started to run out of certain items like the taco and macaroni salad. We had nothing to replace them with either so if you came later in the dinner service you just went without. The last fifteen minutes the only thing we had left were the entree and one of the green leafy salads, and not the kind everyone wanted with the tomatoes, cucumbers and mushrooms. I felt bad as people came through. We didn’t even have any desserts left to give out. Thankfully we had a lot of entree left so I tried to make up for it the best I could. I was really surprised how greedy some people were. If you go to the kitchen enough you know that they get low on food and they can only give out so much but that doesn’t stop people from demanding more. It’s one thing if they are knew but the ones who were demanding more knew better.
Usually the last fifteen minutes they call for seconds and anyone left can get more of whatever is left. If the food is really good there isn’t much left but if it isn’t there is usually plenty. Today there was plenty. Two big trays of the entree. There was no way they could give it all away. So I asked the manager of the kitchen if he wanted to call seconds as people were already asking. He said that it was okay and I called it. People started coming up with the trays they were using so I could give more. I didn’t take the tray to my side. They just put the tray over the buffet table and I put it on the plate. I didn’t touch their tray at all. Well this wasn’t how it was supposed to be done so I was publicly scolded for doing it the wrong way. Then I was also yelled at because I was giving out seconds when it wasn’t time yet. He kept arguing at me while the manager who told me to call seconds just sat there and not saying a word. Finally after a few minutes the manager told him that he allowed it. The manager was about to not say anything either. So I was flabbergasted. Still I just grinned and beared it.
At this point the mean worker tells the women that she can go eat and leaves me alone on the line to finish up. I was about to crash as I could barely move but once again I pushed through. It was 6pm and the kitchen closed. I was so relieved and was ready to go upstairs to the men’s dorm. As he was cleaning the tables he started barking at me about something. He was telling me to take the trays of food to the kitchen to cover up. He was ordering me to do more work. Something the volunteers don’t do. Usually when the dinner service is done they leave. So once again like the good worker bee I did what he asked for but then I was done. I didn’t care if this guy said anything else I was done and told him that I was leaving. The other woman he thanked profusely and told her how good of a job she did. I barely got a thanks. I could barely walk and I had to go back to the day shelter to get my belongings. It was so painful to carry my backpack upstairs.
Even though the guy treated me like shit I didn’t have the energy to let it get to me too much. I went upstairs exhausted but still feeling good about helping out. I was so hot and feeling horrible it took all my energy to get to my room. When I got to my room there was a note on my bed. At first I thought it was just to me. Occasionally they like to leave these notes about things that we aren’t doing right. This was one of those. Like I said every morning everything on the floor has to be put on the bed. There had been an inspection that day by upper management and the people who fund the shelter. They were not happy with the conditions they found in the rooms. I looked at the note and then my bed. I saw it wasn’t as neat as it usually is and everything just came crashing down upon me. It was like a tidal wave had took me under and I was drowning. I took it personal. If there hadn’t been more to the memo I wouldn’t have been so defeated. In the warning it was said going forward if your room wasn’t clean and your bed wasn’t made that you would get kicked out for the night. If you did it a second time you were out for good. I started to panic even though I really had no reason to as I’m usually pretty tidy. It’s tough to stay organized when you have nowhere to put things, they have no tables. So I have various bags that I have items stuffed in.
I went from defeat to anger. Then to rage and into sadness. Thankfully my roommate was cool and let me bitch up a storm. He wasn’t very happy either. We were joking about the conditions of the shelter and how they were worried if the beds were made. That was the biggest joke of the memo is the fact that the rooms are the cleanest part of the shelter. Our bathroom has a gaping hole where a sink use to be, that constantly drips water and floods part of the bathroom. There is a stall that’s out of order because people keep clogging it up. The other stall and urinals are always dirty with you know what and the shower is never cleaned. The floors of the men’s shelter are always dirty, so are the walls. The day shelter isn’t any better as the conditions are the same but worse because they lost their only custodian. So trash is overflowing. Floors are unswept and dirty as can be, and the bathroom is usually beyond nasty. Yesterday someone shit their pants and left their underwear behind the toilet. The urinal doesn’t flush and the floor is always littered with trash. They run out of food in the kitchen including utensils like spoons, etc. I could go on about the conditions but I think I painted you a pretty dirty picture.
Yet godforbid your bed is not made. That is an abomination. I wondered if the upper management was Miss Hannigan from Annie. I wouldn’t be surprised if she became the new manager of the men’s shelter. We will have to start mopping the floors on our hands and knees. We had a mandatory meeting at 8pm where the guy working overnight went over what happened, he wasn’t thrilled about it either. I guess he got yelled at too. The sad reality is those who needed to be at that meeting (the ones who leave their rooms mess) were the ones not at the meeting. I joked with my roommate that today they would get booted because they didn’t bother to pay attention.
Afterwards I tried to go to bed and just felt this sadness I couldn’t bear. I started to cry and was trying to hold it in the best I could because I didn’t want to sob in front of my roommate. The tears began to soak my pillow and I couldn’t take it anymore. As I bolted out the room I began to break down and thankfully the manager was in his office. At this point I was starting to sob and asked if there was a place I could go alone to cry. He quickly got up and found me a place, a private bathroom for the staff that was locked. It was dark and cool. I sat on the floor behind the door and just started to sob. I haven’t cried like this since my first heartbreak when I was 21. Everything hit me at once including my Mom’s death because it was in that moment that I needed my Mom and she wasn’t there. So I was alone and miserable. I had no one to turn to so I just hid in that bathroom for a good thirty minutes and let it all out. I have never felt more alone and desperate in my life. It felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.
I looked at the open window and I really thought about jumping out of it. The pain was just too bearable. I begged God to listen to my tears. I cried out for my Mom. I’m not going to lie I was closer than ever to ending it all, then and there. Being homeless got to the point where it was just too unbearable and I didn’t feel like I could make it any further. I kept looking at that window as it was a relief to have that option. I continued to call out to my Mom and I repeated a song by Bette Midler from the movie Beaches. It always makes me cry and I was trying to release all the negative energy out of me. With each flood of tears I was starting to feel better. I had to get it out of me and then I just let it go. I stop trying to control the sobbing and let it take me over for a good five minutes. Then I saw this floating fuzzy thing in the room. It was something from a tree outside. It was slow moving and it was white. I could see it as clear as day. It graceful floated in front of me like it was dancing. It was so peaceful to watch and it calmed me. I felt my Mom’s presence and I felt safe.
I pulled myself together and cleaned off my face. I went to my room and I just laid down. I felt drained but empty in the sense that I let go of all the frustrations, anger and pain… well most of it. I still didn’t forget what happened and had no plans to ever help out the kitchen again. I value you my time and energy. I’m a hard worker and I refuse to be taken advantage of and mistreated anymore. I had trouble falling asleep and started to get hungry. I also hadn’t finished getting ready to bed, nor did I take my medicine. So even though I didn’t feel like moving and it was tough to do so I got up and did what I needed to do. I hadn’t ate since lunch. Whenever I get overworked both physically and emotionally I lose all of my appetite, food becomes sickening. By 9pm I was starving and thankfully I had more leftover pizza. I ate two slices and they tasted heavenly. I guzzled down my tropical punch Crystal Punch and felt so much better.
Usually my roommate likes to take control of the room. He closes the window because he gets too cold. Then he closes the door because it’s too noisy. Never does he ask if I’m okay with that. So he can sleep but I can’t. So last night I’m like I’m keeping the door opened and he didn’t say a word. He didn’t shut the window either. Which was nice because the room was nice and cool, so I was able to fall asleep fairly quickly. Otherwise I would have been sweaty all night and not being able to breath because the room had no air. I have asthma so my lungs were already in bad shape before I got sick and now I had just killed myself for almost two hours. By the time I got to the room I could barely breath, taking my inhaler didn’t help. So I was just happy I could fall asleep as I dreaded today thinking it would be absolutely painful.
Afterwards that was my fear, getting worse. I have to be careful because I can get bronchitis very easily and until you get it the Doctors won’t do anything for it. That’s what I hate about upper respiratory infections. You’re miserable and there is little that can be done to stop it. You just have to suffer through and hope it doesn’t get worse. That’s why I dreaded getting it because I knew what it would do to me. So I’m not getting better and my cough is getting worse. So I just pray that I feel better soon.
Again I woke up very tired and not feeling great this great. I was just going to put on dirty clothes and not clean myself. I just didn’t have the energy because I knew I had to make the bed spotless. If you piss me off enough I get petty and passive aggressive. So I was determined to make my bed look perfect. Last night out of all the stuff I had to do I also had to organize everything so everything was stuffed in all my bags neatly. Plus I changed all my bedding because I didn’t want to get kicked out for having dirty sheets. I also didn’t get a sheet to cover up with. I don’t make my bed, fuck that. I haven’t made my bed since I was a kid. I’m an adult I have the right to leave my bed ready to jump into. Beds are suppose to be comfortable. We don’t get a lot of time to get ready and out the door so I try to get out the door easily. So not having to make my bed is a plus and without a sheet I don’t have to. I just make the fitted sheet fit which it doesn’t because they are super loose and never stay on the mattress. I fluffled my pillows in spite and neatly stacked all my bags on the back corner of the bed.
I was about to leave dirty. I thought what’s the point in trying when I will just get dirty soon and I had very little energy left but it was strong enough to get me out of bed and into the shower. I got the last clean outfit I had, that’s very uncomfortable as it’s tight and showered. I refused to let yesterday defeat me. I wasn’t going to let it affect me today. I gave yesterday and the people in it way too much power. I was in the driver seat and I had no control over them. I got to the day shelter to wait for the first bus to the library. I just had to get out of there. While I waited I was very tired and still worn out. Thankfully I brought my pillow just in case I wanted to rest, which is tough for me to do sitting up. I started to feel remnants of bitterness and I didn’t like how it made me feel. I have realized lately that anger and negative feelings towards others only hurts me. So I try hard to let it go. So I got my pillow out, put on some relaxing music and rested my head on the pillow. I’m not sure if I fell asleep but I drifted off to the music. It was so relaxing and it felt so nice. I wish I could have just slept for hours like that but it’s too noisy there to do that, and uncomfortable. After about fifteen minutes I get up and feel completely relaxed.
While I have let it go I have learned my lesson. I will always be me but I will be more cautious how much I give myself. I have to set limits and speak up when my boundaries aren’t being honored. That’s the biggest thing that I’m working on. I always take care of everyone else and never have anything left for myself. I built a life around not taking care of myself. Finally I am starting to do that and I can’t be trapped any more. So I’m looking at yesterday as practice, apart of my training both in not taking things personally but not getting walked all over. I need to stop being a people pleaser because no matter how much you give it will never be enough to some people. A part me was like I’m not ever going to give myself again like this but that’s letting the win and I refuse to change who I am. I’m a good hearted person who is kind and thoughtful. I will take my energy and efforts to places that honor and cherish my work ethic. So as Bianca Del Rio (a famous RPDR drag queen) says, not today Satan. So when the kitchen asks me to help again because they know I will get stuff done and I work my ass off that’s what I’m going to say but more nicely.
That’s the problem with being an overachiever. Some people will take advantage of that especially if you are working with others who give far less than 100%. You have to pick up their slack because you do have work ethic and know it has to be done. So those over you will take advantage of your hard work by piling even more on top of you, like this man did yesterday. They know you won’t say no, it’s not apart of your worth ethic they think. That’s always been my problem with the jobs I have had in the past. Employers would always take advantage of me. I would work my ass off for six months and then I would get burnt out. You can only keep working like this before you start feeling used. So I would quit because I couldn’t handle the stress anymore. All the jobs I have had in the past have been like this. All but one that is. This just added to my mental illness and has lead me to the shape I am in today at the age of 41.
So while I won’t help the kitchen out anymore I will help in other places of the shelter and especially the staff I really like. It’s clear that upper management gave the employees a lot of trouble. You could see it today in their faces. The main manager of the shelter was out sweeping and you could see that even she was defeated. She’s usually full of energy and fire. She can get a little perturbed if you don’t do something but it’s nothing like this man downstairs. Usually she’s very nice, as long as you treat her with respect. I’ve seen her gone off on some fools and let me tell you she wins everytime. She kind of reminds me of Electric in my comic book Dragzilla. Honestly if it weren’t for the women workers the whole experience of living there would be pretty dismal. I have really bonded with many of the women. My favorite is Lucy. To work there you have to be to be stern because you have to put up with a lot of shit. People will walk all over you if you let them. Lucy isn’t afraid to let someone have it when they’re trying to play her or if they’re being rude. She will give it right back and then some. She’s told people to walk away. I just love her. As long as you treat her with respect and care she will do the same.
Lucy is like a mama bear. She will bite your head off if need be but once you are in her pack you’re her buddy. That’s how I have become. I would do whatever she wanted. One night the place was a disaster as the worker quit. So I helped her clean the place. She didn’t ask me I just did it. Lucy not only values my time and energy but she sees me for who I am and embraces me as Drew. She’s very cool with me being transgender. Lucy has been like that since day one. She doesn’t usually come up to people to say hello but she always does with me. Many evenings she sits at the employee desk in the day shelter and we just chat away. It’s my favorite part of the day. The other day when she got in the middle of the guy who was trying to beat up this women I didn’t think twice about protecting her. That’s just who I am. I protect and defend the people I care about. I’m fiercely loyal and nobody messes with the people I care for. Once you’re in my inner circle I got your back for life.
So even though I had convinced myself I wasn’t going to help for a while and I hesitantly offered to help Diane because I knew all that she did to accommodate me in the men’s shelter and how kind she’s been to me. Even though I could barely move and was still bitter I was willing to push myself further to help her out. I told her I couldn’t do much strenuous activity but I could clean the windows. She was appreciative of that and said she would get me some cleaner and that it was no rush. That’s the key she valued me and my time. Diane could have gotten the stuff then but she took my feelings into it and my body. So when I get back to the day shelter I’m going to help clean up the shelter because it needs it.
The sad reality it’s not really the employee’s fault that the place is in shambles. They just don’t have the time or energy to do everything. Many of them don’t get paid a lot, especially not what they give. They’re constantly stressed out and are often times running around like chicken with their heads cut off. Yes, there are a few bad apples there but many of them are good hearted and are there to make a difference. I have seen what they have to put up with and how mistreated they are. Honestly it breaks my heart. They have to deal with so many people with very little resources. They see the pain and struggles day after day. Yesterday a woman in her 40’s came into the shelter with two teenage boys. The one is 18 and the other is 16. The youngest has special needs. They have no family and have been living in the Mom’s car. I listened to Lucy tell them that the family shelters in town wouldn’t take teenagers and that the one that would wasn’t doing any intakes right now. Even the hotel program that Lucy runs is only good for three days. So what is this poor women to do? That’s the system that’s in place. So many people fall through the cracks. I can’t imagine what she’s having to endure. They showed up to dinner and my heart sank. I just wanted to grab all three of them and hugg them. I wish I had the place to give them. I would give them my place if I could. No child should have to live like this. Yet they do all the time.
The funding for the shelter is just the bare minimum and it’s obvious by the conditions. The shelter is understaffed. This morning there was no clean towels or wash clothes. The wash hadn’t been brought up yet, nor had it been done. Things like cleanliness go by the wayside because other pressing matters are more of a priority, like keeping a mother and her two children off the streets. The kitchen can only do so much with the little food they get and they have to make what they have last so it usually means food that’s not very filling. I heard the manager talk about the lack of resources lately. You can tell by the quality of the food and the fact that they ran out of food early. The guy who is running the kitchen is also doing what he can. He’s new and doesn’t really know how to cook. What he put together for the entree I guess was horrible. The meat was barely chewable and he only had so much to work with. You can’t turn fatty byproduct into New York strip steak.
There is trouble at the shelter all the time. It’s a daily occurrence. Cops are called out to the shelter all the time, so much they don’t take matters as serious as they should. People are passing out drunk often and they are carried away by ambulance every time. Fights happen all the time in both shelters. So many are loud and obnoxious, and have no care or consideration of others. They just don’t care and feel like the world owes them. So it’s a miserable environment for everyone involved. People are lost, frustrated and hopeless. Most just want the same thing; Independence, freedom. privacy, purpose, safety and happiness. That’s not found when you are homeless when you struggle with the basics like staying clean and feeding your hungry.
Today is a new day. Yesterday is over and I won’t be returning to that miserable day. While it might feel like Miss Hannigan is in control but in reality it’s Annie who wins in the end. She gets everything she’s dreamed of and deserves. As I’m going to do. The sun ☀ will come out tomorrow and it always does.