By Joseph Perry
There’s no privacy. You are nearly strip searched every time you enter the shelter. When I first entered the shelter you were not allowed to bring in food. You had to be up at 6:00 am, leave the building at 7:00 am and find some crappy breakfast. The staff stole from the constituents like there was no tomorrow and would get away with it. Even if the constituents had some type of income, the staff wanted to control all of your affairs. They’d tell clients that the money was being saved so that when they did find a place to move, they’d have moving expenses and money to help pay their security and rent. However, when clients would find a place of their own, all of a sudden the funds they felt were saved didn’t match what was returned to them; or the staff would have some excuse as to why they couldn’t return the money.
The shelter’s requirement was that the clients would remain in the shelter as long as the constituents wanted. The shelter had work programs so that the constituents could work and they would be hired for permanent jobs. After they would complete their program, all of a sudden they would be placed on a waiting list.
It was a disheartening struggle while I was in a shelter, but by pushing and praying, I made it out of there. I began to search for an apartment that I could afford. I applied for help to pay for the security deposit. Believe me, I would leave from the shelter every morning to go to work, but my income was not enough to pay the high cost of rent here in Providence. Thank God I was able to leave the shelter with some help from my friends. I have a place to call home and now I have my freedom back. I don’t have to worry about going back there and standing out in the cold weather -at my age- waiting to get in and having to knock on the bathroom door before I can enter.
Nobody pays attention to this issue until they are faced with the grim reality of having to go to a shelter. The general public’s attitude is that the shelters are nothing more them free hotel rooms for people to come and go at their leisure, when the truth is much harsher and sometimes scandalous. But not too many people want to bother with this issue because they are either too busy trying to make ends meet so that they can remain in their homes, or they are too busy shopping on their credit cards to care about anyone but themselves.
The call is out for a collaborative effort from all shelter agencies to make changes to the shelter system, and they also must play an integral part in the effort to turn around the underperforming shelters.