I have developed a severe dislike for 7PM: zero hour at the shelter, the point in time where those waiting on the seven o’clock rule for whom there is a bed available get in and you tell those for whom there is no room that they must leave and you close the gates. At which point you get to tell anyone who comes that there is no room and that there is nowhere else in Abbotsford, not even a barn, to find shelter in.
In a job that is by its nature stressful, counting down that first hour to zero has taken the stress to a whole new level. The bell tolls 7 and you become Ming the Merciless, at this time of the year often sending the surfeit off into the rain. On those very rare nights where the shelter does not fill up until after 7PM the lifting of the burden of sending people away at 7 results in a feeling of profound relief, of almost being on holiday.
With the flood of new homeless inundating the shelter these days those rare occasions of relief are to be treasured, for they are scarce and threatened with extinction. It is no longer unusual to turn away a dozen people because there is no room at this “inn”. In fact in the last couple of weeks we have twice narrowly missed (by one) turning away more people than we can accommodate when full.
I wish my words could convey what it feels like night after night to say no, in effect saying: get your hungry ass back out into the rain and the night. To see and record the numbers as the situation worsens. They are far from saints, many of them there as a consequence of bad choices and/or stupidity, but just as many are there because of mental illness, the personal challenges they face and a growing segment who is there as a result of the poverty entrenched in society by our current social and economic policies.
I could, have and will again in future list solid, materialistic, self-centered, it is all about me reasons that people should be demanding those they have chosen to represent them address these growing social issues. But not here and now as this is about feelings.
NO, this is not about “those type of people” except indirectly. It is about us and what our inaction, our complacency on these issues says about US. Those who claim “I am not responsible…” are either lying to themselves (something we all do to varying degrees), lacking in spirit or lacking in substance – that is to say: shallow. We are all responsible for the outcomes of our actions or inactions.
The current society we decry so loudly as uncaring and cold did not just spring into existence. This society is the one we have built using the building blocks of our deeds, our refusals to act and our evasions of engagement. One of those building blocks is that there are so many people I have to turn away at 7PM. We are capable of addressing this and similar issues, of building the society we claim to want – If we choose.
It is about our choices, about the fact that a significant portion of what I feel at 7PM is despair with and disgust for our so-called Society.