September 21, 2012

This morning, I drove for another car auction for Labor Ready.  I had to be at Labor Ready at 6:00 a.m., so I asked to be woken up at 4:30 a.m..

A couple of days ago, I bought a jog bra/shirt and a pair of long shorts to wear in the shower.  Everything that I do in the bathroom that’s physically revealing is something that I turn the lights off for.  That means putting my clothes on the shelf next to the shower so that I can put them on in the dark.  Since I can’t make the room totally dark, I wrap the towel around my waist so that I can take off the shorts and put on my underwear and pants, and then I put the towel around my chest or over my shoulders so that I can take the jog/bra shirt off and put on the bra and shirt that I’m going to wear.  Of course my shower outfit is wet while I’m doing this, which makes it more difficult to take off and also means that I have to try to keep it from touching my dry clothes.

Nobody is supposed to be in the bathroom at the shelter for more than 15 minutes at a time, especially in the morning.  Depending on how the staff is feeling and if they’re around, some of them may decide to remind you of this from the other side of the door, sometimes more loudly and sometimes less.   The 15-minute time limit is also something that the less nice of the guests will sometimes use to try to make someone whom they don’t like feel bad or get her into trouble, even if she hasn’t gone over the time limit and even if they sometimes go over the time limit themselves.

Although I did get a shower this morning, here’s some of what I didn’t get done in the bathroom at the shelter:

–combing my hair

–brushing my teeth

–putting on deodorant

–dealing with the fact that I got my period yesterday and had to be prepared for that

I threw my shower clothes and towel into a plastic bag, gathered everything else up, and put the things that I wasn’t going to take with me away in my room.  I didn’t have time to make breakfast at the shelter, even though I had food there to make it with.  I had time to comb my hair and put on deodorant.  I took a pantiliner with me into the closet in my room where two of my roommates where still sleeping, and put it in my underwear, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to use a bathroom at the shelter again before I left and that I’d have to wait until I got to the bathroom at Labor Ready to be able to make use of a tampon and brush my teeth.

Something that people may not realize about being homeless is how much time it takes to do things when you aren’t living in your own house or apartment.  I can’t leave anything in the bathroom; I have to bring it with me and bring it back to my room.  I bring my bag with me into every room that I go into in the house; I’ve done that at every shelter where I’ve stayed, and so does everyone else who stays at shelters and who takes proper precautions.  If you want to make a phone call and you want some privacy, you have to plan how you’re going to do that.  You have to work around the fact that other people want to use the kitchen, the laundry machines, and every other resource and room in the house.  It’s like that to be homeless in the first place; the abuse makes everything worse.

The shelter where I’m staying now is a house instead of an institutional building and is therefore more normal in some ways than other shelters where I’ve stayed have been.  For example, it has a washer and drier and you can do your laundry on the night that you decide to do it, if other people haven’t already asked the staffperson if they can do theirs.  At most of the shelters in the Boston area where I’ve stayed over the past year and counting, you could do your laundry once a week and you had to sign up to do it days in advance, if they had machines for you to do your laundry at all.


Copyright L. Kochman, September 21, 2012 @ 4:05 p.m.