Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No room at the inn

Last night it was cold and rainy. Obviously the shelter filled up quickly. We only have room for 60 people, and having 60 people is really really pushing it. It means that every single mat is full and so people are squished side by side each other.

The shelter closes as 6AM, at which time we kick people out. There are other places starting to open up, and we let people back in for 7AM soup anyway. We need that hour to get everything clean and sanitary. So, naturally, there's a time where we stop letting people in for the night, especially if we're almost full (and by that I mean 58-59 people). At 5AM it's just not a great idea to let someone in to sleep, and so we have policy around that.

Yesterday a woman came to the door around 5AM soaking wet from the rain. Our closed sign was prominently displayed, but she was banging on the window. I had to talk to her and tell her that we were closed and full. She argued that she was freezing, but my hands were "tied". I turned down the microphone, and turned away, I had to leave her standing there. We don't give away blankets, so I couldn't even do that for her.

How hardened am I, that I could just turn away and continue my work with barely a second thought? How hardened am I, that I could come home, eat a bagel and sleep for 18 hours not thinking of her once? Or, have a simply learned the good and healthy boundaries that will keep me from going insane and burning out in this job.

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