Alone

Last night I went back to sleep at William’s place. The barn was a lot more calm and collected now that the weather had improved. The room was much dryer than the night before. Water that fell on my sleeping bag and blanket seemed to dry fairly well in 24 hours.

Hours before returning back to his barn, I was invited by head deacon, Tom Hill, to share part of my homeless journey with my church’s deacon council. It was an interesting presentation. I think my Pastor was nervous about what I was going to say…and how it would be received and interpreted by the group of lay leaders. Deacons are a funny breed. Kind of like pastors…

Some of the deacons did not know about my journey until last night. Some have followed along since day one. Some think the idea is absolutely crazy and wonder how this has anything to do with being a youth minister. Some think it’s the coolest idea in the world. The truth is…all of the above have a good case and opinion. Giving a presentation on a personal journey is a hard thing to do…but I hope they saw my genuineness behind my Lenten journey through my words and readings of the blog.

In the end, I am here to learn more about the community I live in…the good…the bad…the ugly.

Going into the night, I was excited to get to talk to William in a more peaceful environment. I wanted to hear more about this life story…and actually hear him talk without the distraction of the weather.

One thing was missing…

William.

Where was that guy?

I assumed he would arrive sometime before 10pm….but he never did. Then 11pm…and he was still not back. Then came Midnight…but he was a no show…so I fell asleep in his barn all alone. This might seem unnerving but it is not all that surprising. William has friends all around the city and a brother (a retired vet), who lives near town. Sometimes William finds shelter with friends, family, or at a place where he finds work. On the other hand…William could have had too much to drink and was unable to make it back home. I hope he found a good place to sleep.

Staying at William’s barn without him present was strange at first. It was kind of like staying at a friends house when they are out of town. It seemed invasive and rude. Was I invading his privacy? Despite having his permission to stay here anytime…I had second thoughts about crashing on his floor all alone.

I had very little choice after 10pm because I had missed my curfew at the outdoor shelter. It was stay at his barn, under a bridge, or find another place of shelter. I decided to stay in the barn and wait for William.

Despite the mess, dirt, and trash all over the barn. It is a good place to sleep when all things are considered. The good news! I can easily sleep without disturbance from trains, loud people throughout the night, or have a shelter employee wake me up early (5am-6:30am) to return a mat. It was quite nice to have that much privacy and freedom…to choose when to sleep and wake up.

The barn was quiet compared to the night before during the storm. Nevertheless, I sometimes struggle with the outdoor shelter I stay at most nights…especially when it comes to the noise and lack of freedom. It’s very loud and restrictive. Too many people and too many problems live inside those walls. Despite it’s pros…the shelter is very noisy. I always wonder how difficult it is to stay there if someone is trying to recover from addictions, abuse, or other illnesses, and just needing a peaceful place to rest. I can’t imagine it is helpful to be awakened by the train every hour…

I am sure the organization received a great deal on the real estate based on the location…but at what cost? Is it worth the countless sleepless nights?

The noise and the lack of freedom is the major reason William decides to stay in his barn, and he rarely sleeps in the outdoor shelter (despite the obvious aid he receives). The shelter is confining and limits his freedom to make common everyday decisions….like when you sleep or when you wake up.

Spending the night alone in his barn has helped me realize William’s dilemma. Do I go receive aid and assistance at a shelter that takes away some basic freedoms…or do I find peace and rest all alone at a place where nobody can bother me?

It’s a hard choice.

19 More Days to go.

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4 thoughts on “Alone

  1. good example of a common problem in which those who are homeless find some shelters crowded, noisy, and possibly leading to more exposure to illness. Some shelters have bunk beds crowded into a large room, and frequent coughing like you’ve talked about before. Homeless shelters can increase one’s risk of contracting tuberculosis, or TB, a common respiratory infection that requires significant antibiotics to treat. I say this not to criticize these shelters. They provide valuable housing for which is crucial. Like you, I’m just sympathizing with those who are hesitant to stay in shelters and often find it more comfortable to stay outdoors by themselves. Both have their pro’s and con’s, I suppose.

  2. thoughtful post, gavin. simply reading the word “alone” makes me wonder how men and women experiencing homelessness think and feel about that word. i imagine that many of them would give anything sometimes to be alone at night when they lay their head down to rest…i hadn’t really thought of how crowded and noisy the shelters can be. but, i also imagine people like william escaping to a place like that barn by themselves, no one really knowing or caring where they are, wishing that someone was lying next to them…someone who really knew them and cared for them. i feel sad thinking about both scenarios. as you seek to make sense of your world this lent, i continue to pray for you and give thanks for the ways in which your journey had drawn me closer to our lord and savior. love you, friend.

  3. ::RESTRICTIVE:: is the word I hear from my friends who’ve given the Outdoor Shelter a shot, or rather no option at all but the shelter. It’s this or jail. Most of them say they’d choose jail… I make no remark, because I’ve never visited either as a resting place.

    Whether you continue to explore San Antonio, or return to the shelter, I am curious to hear why others choose one way or the other, shelter or street? Why? And the one question I always ask, while on this toic: How would you run it? (It being the shelter ;)).

    You’re a cool cat, Gavin! Praying for you and the remaining 19 days!
    Heather

  4. Gavin I have to say that I support you and your effort to walk in another mans shoes.Everything you are doing will strengthen your testimony and give you the wisdom you are seeking. Personally I dont think I could do what you are doing,so thank you for being the one to bring this lifestyle to us firsthand. Linda

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