My Day @SalvationArmyUS Rome #Georgia

William Booth (1829–1912), founder of the Salv...

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Salvation Army homeless shelter for men requires that we vacate the premises every morning at 6:30am. (Thanksgiving day was an exception.) SOW INC, a family shelter, opens its doors to us at 8:00am. Despite having to aimlessly wander the streets for an hour and a half, I was incredibly excited that I was going to receive a special visitor.

SOW INC is a family shelter, but they allow the single homeless into their TV room each day because there is nowhere else to go. There is a flat screen TV on the wall that is accompanied by a DVD player. They allow us to plug in our cell phones or anything else that needs to be charged. (I am especially thankful for that, because we are not allowed to use the outlets at the Salvation Army.) People come by to donate food, so we usually have something to eat. Still, I carry my own vegan supply with me in the event that I cannot partake of what is offered. They sat and watched movies all day. I watched the films also but found myself continuously running to the front door to see if my visitor had arrived. Even my friends were asking if I had heard from her as to when she would arrive. Despite the excitement, depression hovered over me like a dense fog until it finally set in and I took it upon myself to increase my dosage of medication.

At five o’clock, we must leave the day shelter. I started walking in the rain when I got the twitter message from my friend informing me that she would not be able to come at all. My pace slowed. I was disappointed, but still honored that she had initially intended to visit me.

I came upon my fellow homeless friends a block away from the Salvation Army. They were huddled under the awning of an empty building trying to keep dry. We are not allowed on the premises of the Salvation Army until 5:30pm, so we have to keep our distance while the clock ticks. When warm and dry time finally arrived, we headed for the shelter.

Walking upstairs, I started to review the rules in my mind. If we break a rule we can get written up. If that happens twice, we can be put out on the streets. As soon as we walk into the door, we must sign in but we were told not to do so today because he did not want us to drip rain water on the form. I set my wet bags on my bed because we are not allowed to leave them on the floor. I could have put them in my locker, but there is another rule that says we may not be in the dorm at meal time. I had to be quick about it. My cell phone rang. It was Jenni. I told her that I could not talk because I was afraid I might be breaking a rule. There are so many, that I have lots of trouble remembering them. The night before, I got in trouble because my slippers were not far enough under my bunk bed. Jenni’s call came while I was trying to ascertain if I had so far complied with regulations. I was also contemplating my next move and attempting to make haste.

I usually don’t eat at the Salvation Army, but on this day they had tater tots, potato chips and bananas. I wasn’t hungry, but I was depressed which was a good reason to eat. I walked into the dining area and grabbed a plate. All the while, I was watching my every move to make sure I did everything right. As I started to eat, it had dawned on me that I forgot to wash my hands. Oh my god! Had they noticed? I could get in big trouble for not washing my hands before meal time!

One of the shelter managers then announced that there would be a meeting at seven o’clock. Oh no! Someone broke a rule, which is always call for a meeting. I thought and thought. I racked my brain. Had I done something wrong? Did they notice that I had not washed my hands? Was the meeting about me? I went through orientation on my first night at the shelter. It was two hours of signing papers wherein I agreed to comply to shelter rules. Now I was wondering if I had missed something. Did I leave my conditioner in the shower? Did I forget to put something in my locker before leaving at 6:30 that morning? I took more medication.

During the meeting we discovered what transgression had been perpetrated. Someone had left their flip-flops under their bed after they had left the shelter at 6:30am. We were all lectured about how the rules must be adhered to and how the shelter managers did not make the rules but were there to enforce them. Because two men had left their flip-flops under their bunks, we all had to pay the price. Our television and iced tea privileges were taken away. There was more. As if our spirits were not dampened enough by the rain, we were informed that bad weather could mean our eviction despite being good boys. The building that houses us was initially built as a shelter for families in the event of a flood. The city of Rome sits in a valley and if families show up to escape a flood, we will be put out to fend for ourselves. Thank God for the Salvation Army!

When the meeting was over, I put my wet bags and jacket into my locker. Leaving them out is another no-no. After taking my shower I lied down in my bunk, making certain that my slippers were pushed under my bed. Soon thereafter, a manager entered and pointed out that someone had their jacket hanging on the end of their bunk. This is prohibited! The culprit apologized as he retrieved his garment for storage in his locker. Each time a manager walked into our dormitory, I cringed. I checked my slippers to see that they were far enough under my bed. I looked around my bunk again and again to make certain that nothing was out-of-place. Was there a rule that I may be forgetting?

Lights go out at 9:00pm. All cell phones must be off. No one is even allowed to text, listen to music, check the weather, etc. on their phones. Except for using the restroom, we are not allowed to get out of our beds. We cannot talk. We cannot go into the next room (dining area) for a drink of water. Sleeping or not, we must remain in bed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We are not allowed to walk out of the dorm until a shelter manager walks in and turns on the lights, which is usually at 5:30am. Many of us start getting ready at five. Once we cross the threshold into the dining area, we are not allowed to go back into the dorm except to use the restroom or brush our teeth. We therefore must have what we need for the day. Our beds must be made and no belongings may be left out of our lockers when we exit the barracks.

The television privileges had been suspended, so we could not check the weather forecast. A kind gentlemen in the dorm checked his cell phone and informed us that it was in the fifties outside with rain. Since my gloves, scarf, ear muffs and one of my jackets were wet from the previous day, I was relieved. They would undoubtedly still be wet since they were stuffed in my locker. Remember, we are not allowed to have anything outside of the locker. Tomorrow, the forecast is for rain and snow mixed. With any luck, they will be nothing but damp. Hopefully, my dry clothing will take some of the moisture away.

I have a large bag with wheels that I usually pull behind me while walking around. It contains my own food because they do not cater to vegans. It also has things like: plastic forks, harmonicas, a drawing tablet, a deck of cards and other miscellaneous items. My rain poncho would not cover it, so I left it behind today.  I only grabbed my laptop case which can easily be protected from the elements.

I stepped into the dining room and set my computer bag down on one of the tables. After making a cup of coffee, I headed for the stairs to go outside and have a smoke. Nicotine is an anti-depressant and I was due for a good dose. Someone stopped me before I reached the stairwell. I had a cup in my hand! I had almost broken a rule by going outside with a cup of coffee. I apologized and set my coffee on a table, hoping that I was not setting it in the wrong spot.

At 6:30am we stepped outside into the pouring rain, after which time we are not allowed on Salvation Army premises until evening. At 7:00am, the Honeymoon Bakery opens. Those fortunate enough to have the money may step out of the rain for a cup of coffee. I have treated many other homeless to coffee and I am very thankful to my friend, Martha Brock, for making it possible today. She gave me a prepaid Visa card.

This morning, Mark McKinneley and I walked here to the Honeymoon Bakery. We stood outside waiting for opening time. The girl unlocked the doors five minutes early. Wow! They don’t even do that at SOW INC! We entered and I ordered two coffees and two Haystacks – they are vegan. Mark sat quietly while I started to write this post. Eventually, he set out in the rain. I then received a call from the housing authority. They wanted me to go in and get finger-printed. I got in touch with Jenni, who came to get me and drove me there. After my prints were taken, I was told that it may be two weeks before I even hear anything. I honestly don’t know if I can handle another two weeks of this. Why does compassion have a schedule? Why does compassion have so many rules? Why is compassion in Rome, Georgia limited to a few establishments?

With so many churches in one small city, why is there no church van waiting outside the Salvation Army barracks at 6:30am? A warm, dry seat in a van would be a level of compassion that is foreign to the homeless here in Rome, Georgia. If it were accompanied by a warm smile and unconditional altruism, not bound by rules and deadlines, it would be all the more precious. A mere seat, however, would be more than suitable. Who am I to complain? After all, I have things going for me because I am staying at the Salvation Army.

Visit SOW (Serving Others Worldwide) INC on Facebook and thank them for having us in their TV room.

Visit the Salvation Army in Rome, Georgia on Facebook and tell them how grateful you are that they help others in need.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” ~ James D. Miles

“Being motivated by compassion and love, respecting the rights of others – this is the real practice of religion. ~ Dalai Lama

1 Corinthians 13:3-5

New Living Translation (NLT)

3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a]but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” ~ James D. Miles