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Punching the clock - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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Punching the clock [Sep. 17th, 2004|03:06 pm]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

I have walked past the fountain in Public Square a number of times recently, and noted that there are never more than a few coins in it. Then I realized: for business folk and tourists, it's a place to make a wish.

To the homeless, it's an ATM.

There is a substantial homeless population in downtown Cleveland, and a lot of begging. The park benches and sheltered doorways house a remarkable number of disabled vets, uninstitutionalized mental patients, and chemically dependent men and women (no category being mutually exclusive). During the day, they array themselves around the blocks, requesting spare funds with which they will feed either themselves or their habits. They are largely ignored by police and security as long as they do not hassle people (the woman following after people and screaming at them to give her some fuckin' money was hussled off the street pretty quickly). I do have one question, though.

Where do they put their bedrolls during the day?

Some of these people have a substantial array of belongings, and no business will tolerate the clattertrap in their doorway during daylight hours. They clearly aren't carrying them along when they are begging. So where does it go? Do they have lockers somewhere? I really have no idea where they put the stuff.

I've noted, too, that there seem to be shifts. I always see the same people at lunch time, but if I have to stay late in the evening, it's a different crew working the streets. Have they worked out their territories? Is there a union?

In my mind, I envision a small office that smells like a Greyhound depot. It's lined with those bus station lockers and manned by a guy chewing a cigar. A small woman with ragged hair comes up to the counter complaining that Old Joe won't get off her corner at 5:30, like he's supposed to. The guy just hands her a form, "Fill out a complaint."

And every night they draw straws to see who gets to make a withdrawal from the fountain.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: pheret1
2004-09-17 07:10 pm (UTC)

The office

Here in Chicago, its under the overpasses. Underneath the highway, there are steep embankments up on either side of the road going perpendicular under it. Even when you're traveling right next to them, you don't notice sometimes. But at the top of the embankment, using the highway as the roof, there is couple of feet of flat area. I often see shopping carts loaded with stuff or people sleeping.

Even when the windchill was twenty below, they were there.
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[User Picture]From: lilituc
2004-09-17 07:11 pm (UTC)
Here in Tucson, there is a contingent of 4th Avenue homeless that definitely have a sort of union. They all meet and work out which part of the street each one will work - we've seen them do it. However, imposing on people at the sidewalk cafes (until employees can try to get them to leave) seem to be fair game for anyone. Crazy people seem to get away with doing whatever, too.

I can't really feel bad for them, though - the particular group is just such assholes.
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[User Picture]From: dagrrl
2004-09-17 07:16 pm (UTC)
Here in Denver they mostly stash themselved under the bridges of the South Platte River, which runs right through the middle of downtown. Funny thing is I think you may be right - I've noticed the same thing here. The ones that have that shift off tend to lie on the riverbanks, reading whatever book they've managed to scrape up, or drinking out of the last bottle before their next shift.

I could write a book on that. I just might.
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From: jendurrfukt
2004-09-17 07:16 pm (UTC)
shelters have lockers for them, which are ofetne easy to get into and so they frequently get robbed by both other homeless people andthe shleter's staff itself.
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[User Picture]From: greybeta
2004-09-17 07:29 pm (UTC)
Back home in Ft. Smith you could find random shopping carts in alleyways. The eyes of a homeless person prevent you from inspecting any closer, however.
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[User Picture]From: donkey_hokey
2004-09-17 08:59 pm (UTC)

umm...

Unless you're homeless yourself, you probably wouldn't want to look any closer, anyway.
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[User Picture]From: channonyarrow
2004-09-17 07:56 pm (UTC)
In Seattle, at least where I used to work, there was a sizeable homeless population that would use the loading dock/dumpster area of the building as a sort of all-purpose storage and general arena for many, many things and activities. Since it was mainly an apartment high-rise, I think it was easy to get away with stashing things there; often large furniture would be left out to be taken away.

Also, there is a company that's marketing (to cities, not to the homeless) some sort of porta-shelter that would have four walls (not sure if there's a roof, but probably) and would be foldable - I think it folds down to a large door zize. As I recall, it's about six or seven foot by four, I think, and the idea is that it can be locked, can keep the elements off of homeless person and possessions, and can be folded up and tucked away during the day; the city is presumably responsible for assigning spaces for those to be put.

In Oxford, the homeless had their possessions with them, and woe to you if you stepped on the cardboard that someone had stashed near a doorway until they used it for their sleeping bag to be laid out on, and you would always, no matter what time of day, see the bedrolls with the person. They tend to squat on the sidewalk there, whereas in Seattle my experience is that the homeless move around a lot more, although within a constrained area.

The issue in Oxford, though, was that it is one of I think three cities in the UK that you don't have to have a fixed address to receive dole checks in, so a lot of the homeless congregate there. I believe that one of the others is Edinburgh.
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[User Picture]From: hookncrook
2004-09-17 08:07 pm (UTC)
When I was in Dublin and walking the main fair through town there were all these little cute dirty kids with plastic begging cups giving puppy dog eyes for change. Later on a back street I discovered a guy with a big plastic milk jug with the top cut off. The little kids would come running up and dump their change in the jug and if there was too little he'd yell at them... It was like a child slavery racket or little kids begging union going on, probably more of the former rather than the latter.

In New Mexico, Silver City, they stash their stuff at the Big Ditch (a river/arroyo) that cuts the town in half. Most leave there things in the ditch at camp sites because the end of the ditch is near where the Mission is...and the Downtown bar... Most have dogs and will leave their dogs tied to their things if they have to go up to panhandle at Wal-Mart or Albertsons. the city is pretty strict on people panhandling downtown, but at the other places in town they let it slide.
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[User Picture]From: ls56
2004-09-17 08:38 pm (UTC)
Was his name Bill Sykes? Was one of the kids Oliver?
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[User Picture]From: kimmaline
2004-09-17 10:20 pm (UTC)
That is so totally what I was thinking!!!!!
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[User Picture]From: crystalrowan
2004-09-17 08:24 pm (UTC)
You know, when I went to visit some friends who were living in Arizona at the time, they said that they homeless people there really did have shifts. First of all, they had to wear orange vests (like road workers do) that I suppose they got from the shelters or something. And there couldn't be more than one on a corner or something. And I actually saw one handing off his spot to another guy who had his own sign and was putting on his vest. It was very interesting.
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[User Picture]From: ls56
2004-09-17 08:39 pm (UTC)
The Pittsburgh homeless so need to organize.
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[User Picture]From: dream_labyrinth
2004-09-17 08:59 pm (UTC)
in Bangor, especially in Fall and Winter, the homeless came to the library when it opened, sitting in the chairs in the reading room with their belongings all around them and reading papers and magazines.
Probably some of them left their stuff with a friend while they were outside. Though I don't remember seeing somebody actually begging on the streets. (Probably because I didn't go to malls or any place worth begging at.)
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[User Picture]From: kimmaline
2004-09-17 10:28 pm (UTC)
I think that I fell into the same category that so many of the masses do for a number of years, regarding the homeless. They are annoying, they are a nuisance, I don't want them in my town, etc. Then, I had an opportunity a few years ago to work for a charity that ran a free dining room and gave medical assistance, and I was blown away.

The stories about people being homeless because they want to, are just that, stories. You always hear about the one guy who makes $100 a day panhandling...but I think you hear that because it is so very much the exception. I was blown away at how many people that were on the streets were mentally ill...and even more than that, mentally retarded. Sweet wonderful people who through bad luck or bad planning ended up on the streets...and once you are there it is so impossible to get away.

There but for the grace of God, right?
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[User Picture]From: shermel
2004-09-17 11:07 pm (UTC)
Back in the 60's they re-modeled our city centre and built a snazzy new car park where machine would take your car away for you and bring it back when you'd finished shopping. Unfortunately it was slow and queuing time stretched to hours on a busy Saturday. Finally, after only 6 months, the machine broke down with a car still in it and they couldn't get it out. And so the huge, ugly, concrete block was abandoned and that's where our cardboard city used to be, before they knocked all the 60's development down a built a spanking new--totally characterless and story-less--mall.

I don't know where the homeless people stay now. The cathedral grounds I think.
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[User Picture]From: correspondguy
2004-09-18 01:48 am (UTC)
If you want, I can ask how it's done in some cities - Milwaukee, and New York, at least. The advantage of hanging out with addicts is that you get these kind of answers.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-09-18 02:05 am (UTC)
I would be fascinated!
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From: appleblossomtru
2004-09-18 02:20 am (UTC)
When I took my sons to see the Browns last month, they saw their first homeless people. On the way home, one was sleeping over a steam grate, curled up on a flattened cardboard box and covered with a blanket. As we stepped around him, my older boy commented, "Doesn't he have someplace *safe* to go?" I told him that by the time you're reduced to having nothing but a flat box and a ratty, dirty blanket, why worry about safety? It really saddened us, but my kids now know how lucky they are to have a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Have you seen the large guitars around the Rock Hall of Fame? There's one that's covered with real money and checks, and you can see where people have torn some of it off.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-09-18 02:26 am (UTC)
Ah, the Guitar-t. I have not seen the one of which you speak, but you'd have to be crazy not to know that money in the public would never remain there.

I find it tacky, myself. But every city has to have it now. Kansas City has its cows, Cincinnati has its pigs, Milwaukie has its "My Creepy Pony"s, and Cleveland has Guitar-t....
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From: appleblossomtru
2004-09-18 02:29 am (UTC)
My daughter saw it with her uncle and commented to me about the missing money on it. She said she'd be too afraid to rip anything off of it because with her luck, there'd be an undercover cop or hidden camera somewhere and she'd get busted. I suppose if you're homeless, a night in a holding cell would be like the Renaissance Hotel, though.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2004-09-18 02:33 am (UTC)
I suspect that the woman who screams at people has it all figured out - she gets a warm bed, and maybe a shower.
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