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All of Us Are One

Life Inside the Men’s Shelter

By Ronnie Barbett

I first entered the Men’s Shelter in June of 2012. I didn’t like it and stopped going before July was over. I only went inside for the volunteers served meals that were very delicious. There’s nothing to like about going inside the men’s shelter. It is noisy and crowded and violence is always close by. Men wait for a half hour near the Capital and must wait another 15 minutes to get “processed.” The volunteers serve meals that are delicious. That is the one good thing. Maybe it’s me, but I believe that I deserve better than to be warehoused in a noisy and cramped pen like a sheep.

I am a senior citizen of this great country and I used to be upper middle class. I also spent time bumming around during my lifetime, so I can put up with what the Porchlight Inc. run Men’s Shelter has to offer. When Hell freezes over of course, bunk beds (metal) with no pillows, one blanket, one sheet allowed. Two separate nights my body was threatened by someone tougher than me, not unlike the way I jumped down off the bunk bed at 2:45 AM in the morning to use the restrooms in the morning.

Most of the time you had coffee and whatever else that was left over from dinner. I never liked taking showers in Phy Ed and I don’t like taking them now, with 5 naked men all competing for what limited space there it. Not only that, your valuables are vulnerable the entire time you are in the shower. Cell phones, wallets, bus passes, watches, etc. vanish and can’t be traced.

Petty arguments can turn violent. Many of the men at the shelter are very stressed out and have a limited I.Q. so they are more likely to snap when pushed too far. Homeless people can be a handful. If they buildings space design is not suitable, and I believe that the shelter is unsuitable for these people.

Many of the staff are callous and uncaring. They want to get their job over as quickly and incident-free as possible and don’t like complications. Better men can make due on a day to day basis. It is a difficult job but the right people do make a difference.

Upon getting inside the shelter you and twenty or more other guys wait in line to use the shower and the toilets. The time in the morning is never enough. That makes some very irritable men. There are only 3 toilets for a lot of men. That isn’t enough. When waiting in line for getting the paper work out of the way they are not allowed to use the toilets upstairs. They are locked up.

Sanitation is sometimes a problem. The showers frequently back up and the toilets plug up. Athletes food is a problem. Dave has been battling it since he has been in Madison. Bedbugs showed up one day and the problems of them coming back are still present. The one thing that the homeless need more than any other is someone who can understand the pressures that they have to deal with day in and day out. These people are very rare and certainly worth a lot!

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About Operation Welcome Home

OWH is a group of homeless people in Madison, WI and their allies organizing around the root causes of homelessness- racism, poverty, and criminalization. We are fighting for housing, jobs, and an end to the criminalization of poverty.

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