Friday, November 30, 2012

The Homeless Shopping Network

There was a discussion in my dorm earlier today that involved people stealing prescription drugs, phones and clothes. It brought to mind a few things I've noticed around both the shelter and the streets in general.

Homeless people have several sources for getting what they need:

1) Charitable organizations like churches and Human Services and individuals who donate directly to homeless (beggars). These provide food, clothing and to a small degree, medicines.

2) Trading with one another. This happens for a variety of reasons. We give each other food we don't eat; we buy food or provide cash in exchange for services (in my case computer stuff or charging ipods or other electronic items); Technically, this is against center rules, but it happens. There's one guy who regularly and loudly announces that he is selling clothing that I'm sure he gets for free from one of the sources previously mentioned.

3) Stealing. It happens. The center manager regularly announces to lock up your stuff; to leave nothing out where it can disappear. Yet stuff still gets stolen because people don't pay attention. They leave their phone charging, and either walk away or let it sit overnight, and it walks away. I had a phone stolen myself, by accidentally leaving it on the counter while I was being searched. I left it there no more than 30 seconds. It walked away. No one to blame but ourselves.

Well, that's not really the case. We can blame the thieves who take advantage of it. But they really can't do anything about it. The center has security cameras in every dorm and in the dining hall. They tell us, though, that they can't run the tape back because that is managed from downtown. The Wake County Deputy on duty scans the live video pretty regularly, but they're not going to pick up every thief.

The stolen property gets sold or traded or pawned, and the Homeless Shopping Network continues.

Edit: A friend had his suitcase stolen today. It's too big to fit in the locker space provided. Usually he might have his computer in it, but not this time. What he did have in it was his laptop charger, his portable terabyte hard drive and his medications, stolen while he slept. We're hoping to track things down because of the terabyte, not something you see very often and it was something he shared with the community.