Monday, November 8, 2010

Three nights and YER OUT!! And, bed-getting at UGM

'Tis very early in the month of November, but the Union Gospel Mission dorm is FULL, FULL, FULL. Competition for beds is especially keen when there’s reason to think it shouldn’t be. I can’t understand it. Because of the competition, I’ve been “out” the last three nights.

As regular readers of this blog are likely to know, at the beginning of a month, a great many homeless solo guys get their “happy checks,” which are usually SSI payments [but can come from other sources] and are used/misused to fund homeless addicted living, to a great extent.

Bed-getting is determined on the basis of (1) what tier, of three, you’re in [with newcomers (or those ‘out’ a year or longer) getting top priority; those out three or more nights getting second priority; and those out less than three nights in the bottom tier, last priority] and, then, within each tier, (2) how soon you get to the mission [or, on the list, anyway].
Typically, the population seeking beds1 at the mission drops off a cliff on the first weekday of a month, with there being several empty beds each night for a week. Things remain slack, thought beds are filled, on the second week of a month. A guy who keenly wants a bed on a second week can expect to get one by coming early.

During the last half of a month, typically, bed-getting gets increasingly competitive. Most of the “happy check” guys have used up their funds and come back to the mission to live cheaply.

In the summer months, understandably, getting a bed is much easier than in the winter. Being outdoors is easier in good weather, a course. Winters are difficult, especially so for those off us who have little or no income and just don’t have a ‘stay at Motel 6’ option, or a ‘stay at your sister’s place’ option.  [I'm a no income whatever person.]

Being ‘out’ last night was tough. It was cold, and stupid Tom doesn’t have outdoor-sleeping gear. Also, stupid Tom is especially subject to the cold because his body isn’t protected by muscles and tattoos using ink made with polytetrafluoroethylene2 (the chemical constituent of Teflon and Gore-Tex).

Monday, Monday
But tonight I’m likely to ‘get in’ — that is, get a bed — because I move up into the second tier [having been ‘out’ three nights; see the sidebar in blue] and I plan on showing up at the mission gate early.

That’ll make me happy, 'cause I'll be with my pals who put up with my snoring. Tonight’s the beginning of a favored week of sermon givers: Heart Talk; Brett; Jimmy; et al, and, then, tasty Korean Burritos will be served this Saturday. Mmm, Korean Burritos. AND, I’ll be happy because I’ll have a bed.

Three-Dog Night3
Being out three nights was rough.

My favored area, when I need to ‘sleep out,’ is a particular parking-lot downtown. Unfortunately, my favorite spot in that lot, where I’d’ve been somewhat protected from the elements, was taken, all three nights, by another guy who was ‘sleeping out,’ so I made do sleeping on a stretch of sidewalk next to the building.

Friday-Saturday night was fully OK. It was warm and I caught some good zzzzz's.

Saturday-Sunday night I expected to be OK since the storm wasn’t forecast to start until about 6am. Unfortunately, it was both very very cold and there was some rain at about 3:15am. I was awakened several times that night: By two young guys, dressed all-in-black, who, it appeared, had been booted out of a bar at 2am. They wandered into the parking lot, prob’ly to pee on a bush. Later, a car came into the lot; though it immediately left, its headlight beams blasting into my eyes for about five seconds. What!? I said, awakened and snarlly. Sorry to have waked you up, the young driver yelled out.

Raindrops falling in my ear woke me, again, at 3:15, so I found a spot with a overhang, up the street, to sit until the warm train station was open and had a few legit folks in it, at about 4:30am.

Sunday-Monday night was dry, but very cold for an unprotected person. 40 degrees was the low, I think. Whatever sleep I got was shallow and shivering. Shivering with big waves of shaking, like a poor palsied person having a grandmal seizure during an earthquake. At about 2:30am, a young woman woke me to ask for a rolling paper. Damn her!; where’d she come from? I said I didn’t (have one, that is); I don't smoke; and apologized. She walked away, grumpy. I was very miserable. Especially miserable; it was the night when you turn your clocks back, so on top of it all, I had to be miserable for an extra hour! Finally, train-station-opening time came, and I walked my weary self over to the station, bought coffee from the vending machine, twice, and was restored to general happiness, though with giant, jaw-cracking yawns thrown in.

UPDATE:  The next night, I qualified as second on the second-tier list for getting a bed and got one.  Mondays are thought to be the toughest night to get a mission bed, but, for mysterious reasons, beds were widely available; just about every guy who wanted a bed got one.

Later I would learn that a temporary employer 'grabbed' a bunch of homeless guys for a project that began early the next morning.  He gave them a place to sleep in order for them to start work before dawn on Tuesday.  This was a significant contributing factor to the availability of beds Monday night.

I slept really well Monday-Tuesday night. For a solid stretch of seven hours, I was lost to the run-around bang-your-head-against-the-wall world.  I was warm and comfortable and awoke refreshed, remembering none of any dreams I had.
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footnotes:
1 Also, the count of homeless people waiting to get into Friendship Park drops by ~50%
2 I’m kidding around about the tattoo-ink thing, though there is such a thing as polytetrafluoroethylene and its primary usages are Teflon and Gore-Tex.
3 Three Dog Night was the name of a rock band, popular in the early 70s.  The name is Australian slang for a very cold night (from the practice of bushmen sleeping with their dogs; the colder the night, the more dogs are needed to sleep with).

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