Last night, after returning from the youth trip on the train back to San Antonio, I arrived back at the Outdoor Shelter at 9:45pm…only fifthteen minutes before they shut the gates. I was glad I made it back! I did not want to have to find a place to crash that late at night again.
When we were pulling into San Antonio, our train went right by the outdoor shelter. All my students and volunteer leaders got a great view of the shelter, because you can see over the gate while on the train. They saw the people sleeping outside in the area. All of them were eager to see where I have been sleeping the past 3 weeks. It was strange to go by on the train and see the shelter as a passenger. In a way, it felt like a bad museum tram tour…like at Universal City.
After we deboarded the train, a parent, along with some students, gave me a ride back to the shelter on their way back home. It was interesting to watch their reaction when we pulled up to the area. (It is not in the best part of town.) “You sleep there?!” they asked. I don’t know if they were impressed, worried, or thought I was crazy…but it definitely made an impact on them and how they view homelessness. I guess this journey became real to them and that I was actually living like a homeless person…not just blogging about it. I even had myself fooled.
Here is the cool thing about my return. When checking back into the shelter that night, I did not know if anyone would realize I had been gone for 4 days. How would I fit back in? However, once I entered back into the area about a dozen residents immediately realized I had been gone a few days and said,”Welcome back.” or “Where have you been?” To be honest, I was not shocked to hear this from the few men who sleep near me at night…but it shocked me that other people, who I was not as familiar with, noticed that I had been gone. They were glad to see me back. I have to confess. Feeling welcome at a homeless shelter is a rare feeling…but It felt really nice and comforting to be missed and loved like that. I was really glad to be back… even excited to be back.
Am I becoming part of the community here? Am I becoming accepted at a place where people come to when they are not accepted anywhere else? That’s radical hospitality.
This place is starting to feel comfortable.
Almost like home.