Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Real Problem with Homeless Shelters: The Homeless Yawn

The longer I stay in the shelter, the more and more this fact has dawned on me. I've written posts and books that complain about the food in a shelter, about how the 'guests' are treated by staff, about the living conditions in various shelters, but the number one reason why it is so difficult to live in a shelter is:

(Drum Roll Please)

The other homeless men.

The complete and utter lack of respect for others is what drives me the most insane while living here. And most of what bothers me is deliberate, done by the offending party to be the most annoying.

Case in point: What I like to call 'The Homeless Yawn.' Normally, when we yawn, it might happen once in a while, when we're tired or just want to wake up, and it's pretty quiet, at most a little bit of an audible grunt. In the shelter, yawns take on a whole new meaning. It's done by a small percentage of the population, but it is so pervasive, that you'd think most of the population is doing it. It's a cross between a lion's roar and a Wookie's roar, and it's loud, long, and obnoxious. I've recorded some of this on audio, I may make it available later. Every time I hear this (20 times or more in a 2 hour period in the morning alone), one thought comes to my mind (other than shutupshutupshutup) is what they are really saying to me is: "I'm bored, I don't want to be here, and I want EVERYONE to know that, over and over again."

In the last few months most of those yawns were perpetrated by one man, whose street name is 'B-More', short for Baltimore, where he came from (and where I hope he goes back to). B-More was the most obnoxious person in the entire building and his bunk was just a couple from where mine is. The man is loud, and never stops talking until he falls asleep. I asked him one night if he has a volume other than yelling. He told me not to talk to him no more. I don't like talking to him in the first place.

Anyway, I think this trend for loud yawns started with him, and has spread throughout the shelter. At the moment he's no longer in the shelter, and, frankly, I hope it's a permanent thing, because despite the yawns that proliferate the place at all hours, it's still quieter now than when B-More was here.

There was another man in the shelter, in the bunk across the aisle from me, who was the second most obnoxious person in the building. He not only yawned, but he snored. He snored loud enough to wake the dead. And he sang. Loud enough and bad enough to make the dead wish they could run away. And he was always throwing snippets of rap songs out there, just one line, over and over again. That seems to be a trend in the shelter too, and it's annoying. He's gone too, caught with food outside of the dining hall and a cell phone that rang at the worst time for him.

And that's a growing trend too, flagrant disregard for the rules of the shelter: Foul language where every other word is four letters, and if you took it all out the conversation would make no sense. Hell, it doesn't make sense to me even with the language. Using their cell phones in the dorms, having their ringers on loud, trying to wash their bodies in the sinks and their clothes in the showers. Breaking into line, trying to change the channel on the TV or complaining because they can't. The worst trend of all is the total lack of respect for others in the shelter. Intimidation, asking for the food on my plate while I'm still eating it ("You gonna eat that?") Treating women badly, as sex objects or as sex slaves and frequent use of the word 'bitch' or 'nigger.' And these are black men who should know better than to use that word, but they do it anyway, because this is how they've grown up.

And worse to my mind is the blatant  homosexuality there. I have a friend who's gay, and I respect his right to be that way, but I'm not gay, and I don't want some guy, black or white, to sidle up to me and try to subtly get a rise out of me. I want my personal space, and dammit you will respect that! I've been told that guys who wear their pants down so far that certain body parts are showing are trying to pick other guys up. I've heard that in prison, that's justification to get yourself reamed. Nice to know, if I ever go to prison.

And let's leave the worst piece of lack of respect for last: Stealing. We have homeless men, some of whom are working and buying a few extra things that they need, like sheets and clothes (underwear,and socks even!), for instance, and other homeless men are stealing these goods from them. Homeless men stealing from homeless men. How much sense does that make? In a world where there is no respect, I suppose it makes perfect sense.

The point I'm trying to make is that these people need guidance to get them out of their bad habits. They need to be told by someone in authority that what they're doing is wrong, and if they don't straighten up, they won't hold a job very long. This is one thing I hope to accomplish with Project Five-Star, as at least one of the sessions will be dedicated to how to act on the job, and language, verbal as well as body, will be a key point to that. Do they really need to be told not to yawn loudly in a training session? Yes, yes they do. Do they really need to be told not to steal from the very agency that's trying to help them? Yes, yes they do. And some will continue doing what I ask them not to do, and then I will be forced to ask them to leave. but I hope that those that are left will learn to change those habits for good!

Because despite the fact that some are not salvageable, I feel the better part of them are, and that will make all the difference.