By Lisa Oyler
My day begins at 5 am, a routine that provides me with a sense of stability. After all, I am temporarily residing in a woman’s shelter.
By 7 am the announcement for all to rise and shine is heard. However, by then I am already on my way to Amos house for breakfast, a community soup kitchen, not far from the shelter about 8 or 9 blocks except during inclement weather when it seems much farther.
From a distance I see the line of people waiting for the door to open. Breakfast is served between 7 am and 8 but for those who choose to be first, the line forms as early as 6:30 am. Usually it take’s fifteen to twenty minutes to be served and seated… anywhere there’s an available seat that is if you don’t mind sitting next to strangers.
The tables seat six people though four comfortably “as one size doesn’t always fit all.” In the center of the table a pitcher of milk for all to share except at lunch when water is served.
What surprised me the most about dining beside strangers was their generosity, even from the food on their plate, a gesture I never would have expected from people without, amazing!
After breakfast, I return to the shelter to gather those items I believe I‘ll need during the four hours that the shelter is closed, 10am to 2pm and on other occasions 10 am to 5:15 pm. Four hours might not seem long and 7 hours really “sucks”’ but for those without a place to go, it matters! This mandatory time away from the shelter, feels like a punishment for being without.
Each day revolves around timing, location of soup kitchens and weather, especially since most people don’t qualify for a bus pass.
When 2 o’clock finally arrives there’s usually about ten women waiting eagerly for the door to open and the feeling is mutual. It matters not that this is a shelter because “this” is affordable housing for many with little or no income. Trying to making the best of a situation called surviving, a job in and of itself.
It was December of 1988 when Richard J. Walton put his personal experience living on the streets of Providence into words through an article he wrote for the Sunday Journal Magazine, February 12, 1989. Reading this article was what inspired me to write as I see it. My intention is as Richards’ was then to shed light on the truth by experience and to put into words feelings that this situation is associated with on living by limited or no means at all and surviving on the generosity of those people that care about “me” a stranger.
Homelessness is a situation not a description of character, not a community of people separate from the rest of the world as some may suggest, just people.