Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Dilemma for Those Homeless: To Shelter or Not To Shelter

Words and Images by Al Griffin

When I found the couple standing in front of a boarded-up storefront, I thought I recognized him and her. As it turned out I was wrong, but we shook hands and chatted for a moment. 

Turns out they were waiting to board a bus to another part of town where a shelter was located. Obviously living on the street, they still exhibited a pride and did not want to appear in need. He seemed earnestly engaged in some discussion with her while she was clearly preoccupied with her cell phone.

Living in desperate circumstances does not change our basic human nature. In the finest houses of our cities, in the fine cars, and in the fine and exquisite neighborhoods, some of us ignore others in favor of our devices, some of us don’t notice we’re being ignored and just rattle on. Or so I’m told sometimes.

I recently interviewed the Executive Director of a homeless shelter serving several counties. I learned that among the homeless, the down and out and truly desperate, there is a stigma associated with going to the shelter. It becomes the last choice, the last resort of those in the most need. Many make the choice to avoid the shelter at all costs, and in many cases the cost is too high.

Even those who utilize the shelters seem to deny their affiliation sometimes. As I sit here, I wonder what decision I would make in that circumstance, what story I would tell others about my lodging choices.