Homeless On The Free Range, Land Of The Unbrave

Here’s irony for you – yesterday, I was doing a laundry run for the local PADS homeless shelter yesterday. It was absolutely the last day to do it, because the shelter we at Holy Moly volunteer for is a Friday night, and they needed to have the soiled laundry picked up, dropped off at the local hospital that donates the bedding sets, and clean sets returned to the site. Normally, I do this (about once a month or less) on Sunday after church the week I’m scheduled, but it can actually be done any time between Saturday and Thursday. But last Sunday, my husband David and I had a commitment, and I was under the mistaken impression that since it was the last pickup of the season, all I had to do was pick up all the soiled and clean laundry sets and return them to the hospital – a one-way deal. Wrong-o – a review of my most recent scheduling emails revealed that in fact there was one more shelter night, and although the total number of sets needed was smaller, it would still need to be a two-way run. I thought I’d get it done earlierr in the week, but time has this annoying habit of slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future (and by the way, I can’t stand that song or anything Steve Miller ever did).

So, there it was. It had to be done, although it was likely that there were enough clean sets to suffice. I picked up the laundry in the morning yesterday before work – fortunately, the door that I needed to be open was unlocked for the start of the day, saving me at least 5 minutes of time slippage. And there were only five bags of dirty bedding, and they were already loaded on the cart that lives in the shelter laundry room (in reality, it’s the basement of a nearby Lutheran church). Another couple of minutes of slippage and ergs of effort saved. I got the stuff loaded up and headed to work, only struggling a little with the loaded cart at the door when I went to return it, as someone was there to hold the door for me when I exited the first time. Off to work I went, with a little time to stop at Starbucks and use up the last of a gift card I’d won just before our trip to Maui. I planned to do the rest of the run during lunch, which was just possible if there were no problems.

Well, there were problems. First of all, I took surface streets to the hospital, instead of the expressway, which goes a little out of the way but is actually a little faster if there’s no traffic. Then when I got to the hospital, I burned about 20 minutes trying to find someone to help me – I only had to dump the five bags at the bottom of the loading ramp, but then I had to get 8 clean sets, and the sets were in a rolling rack that I just couldn’t maneuver to where I could reach inside and get the sets. Finally, finally, found someone who could help me (and it was not the elderly Catholic brother who doddered along helpfully with me for a while, looking for someone from the laundry department. Delightful chap, but I finally realized I’d be late getting back to work and took off in a near-panic. That’s when I found someone, who simply propped the laundry dock door open in a way that the rack could be pulled out and accessed.

Well, duh. There’s always a simple solution, and I just didn’t see it. Someone that really works for a living at a physical job like this knows far better than I how to get things done. Oh, and almost everyone I spoke to except for the kindly brother was Hispanic, so I wonder if they’ll take the day off Monday to go downtown to the big rally? I bet the hospital gives them the opportunity, because they’re obviously into the peace and justice issues if they support an untold number of homeless shelters by providing free clean bedding.

Off I went back to the church with my eight clean sets, after calling in and advising that I was stuck on an errand for a charity and would be late logging in from lunch. I hoped this would get me off the hook. Anyway, I didn’t bother with the laundry cart, because using it requires an extra trip just to return it. So I just made two trips with the plastic-wrapped sets and tore out of there on two wheels.

The irony: on my way back to church, I took the expressway part of the way, and when I got to the exit, there was a guy in shabby clothes walking up the line of cars waiting at the light. He carried a cardboard sign that said “HOMELESS – EPILEPTIC – PLEASE HELP THANK YOU.”

As he approached, I rolled up the windows and locked the doors, and didn’t make eye-contact. He passed by, succeeding in getitng small handouts from a couple of other drivers in the lane. Meanwhile, the bedding in the back was quietly accusative – if he happened to sleep at that particular shelter, he would have been greeted as a guest in the name of Jesus, and given food and a place to wash up and sleep. Was I actually carrying his bedding in the back of my car?? And here I was, locking the door on him (and by extension, on the living Christ). Intellectually, I knew I was safe in my car, but psychologically, I didn’t want to be digging in my purse for cash to hand to him. And then I feel pretty strongly that handing a homeless person more than a buck or two was little better than handing them “ice” or “crank” or a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor.

Yeah. I’ll definitely be chewing on this one a while.

Recent Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *