A few weeks ago, the second night I slept under the bridge (which happened to be the night after I slept under a bridge for the first time) was a nervous night for me. I was not afraid of any apparent danger by other homeless people…but I was afraid to get busted by the police.
SAPD had already given me a warning for trespassing and was told the next time I would receive an actual violation. But my friends made me feel better…they told me because the bridge was busted the night before…it was unlikely that it would happen 2 times in a row….(I don’t know how sound the logic was…but it sounded good.)
That night, Jesse made the decision to not sleep because he could not sleep well during the night (the talking, trains, etc…) and needed to have a less stressful environment. I thought it was funny to assume a bridge is more peaceful than the outdoor shelter…but in someways, it is true.
After meeting 2 other friends who were homeless, CT and Lindsey, we went under the I-10 bridge to find our spot and create a large pallet. (Jesse forgot his blankets…so we needed to combine resources.)
Unlike the night before, where I was in bushes in between bridges, we found an area truly under the bridge with a exit ramp close to where we were sleeping. It was louder, but still constant enough to get used to the sound to sleep quite well.
The ground was not smooth but covered in gravel…so we laid all of our sleeping bags and blankets down for padding and used a friends giant blanket to cover to stay warm. Jesse, who does not like group pallets, used my bag to sleep in. (See Photo) Unlike most Spring nights, where the weather is cool….this night was cold…so it made it even more communal.
A few years ago, when I was a youth pastor at UUMC in north San Antonio, I led a group of High School students on a poverty simulation in Waco, Texas. For 3 days and 2 nights our students became citizens in poverty and had choices to make…like whether to spend their money on indoor bunks vs food, clothes vs blankets, toothbrush vs toothpaste, etc. Because the weather seemed good, all the students, including myself and the intern, chose to stay outside and save money. It was a bad decision. Around 1am a thunderstorm hit and a cool front entered Waco. It was miserable. All of our stuff got soaked and we were freezing. We had to huddle down and bear through the pain. After some investigation around the outdoor courtyard, some of our students found a storage shed that was full of old tables. They decided to empty the shed and sleep inside. It was not a bad plan! After the bin was cleaned out, all of us huddled up inside and warmed up! It was truly effective. We really needed each other to stay comfortable. Two of our students stayed outside because they were sleeping on top of a washer and dryer. (They were like Jesse…better off alone…but still smart enough to survive)
This night reminded me of that experience. All of us under the pallet needed each body to create heat inside the make shift pallet. It worked nicely. You get to know someone really fast when you have to sleep that close… strange… but also comforting.
It was a good vision of community.
Each of us were needed to stay comfortable the whole night.