I met Doug about 2 weeks ago. I had gone to get some food for my friends I had met last time, but when I returned with a sandwich they had left. I felt really bad, but was determined to give the sandwich away. I went up to the third floor of the library and heard some coughing. I walked toward the coughing and I saw three or four people that looked like they might be people that would accept my sandwich. I sat down in a chair facing a friendly looking Native American. I was sitting across from him for quite some time staring out the window wondering how I was going to start the conversation so I could give him my sandwich. Then all of a sudden he pointed outside and mumbled under his breath, “I wonder what that cop is here for this time.” I looked out the window, and what did I see? The cop was briskly walking inside, I turned to the man to start up the conversation and he was gone, he had taken off to go see what the excitement was about. A few minutes later he returned and we started talking about what had happened and it was a perfect conversation opener and I started asking him about his life. He detailed his life explaining that he grew up on the Navajo reservation and used to build log cabins for a living down on the beautiful reservation. He went into great detail about how hard of work it was, but how good the log cabins turned out to be when they were completed. I inquired as to how he ended up on SLC. About 3 or 4 years ago he and his friends decided that they were going to go up and work in Alaska, and every year in the summer they would leave Arizona and go up to Alaska, but 2 years ago their car broke down in Salt Lake City and they couldn’t get anywhere. His friends eventually left, but he decided to stay. I asked him if he wanted to go or be anywhere else, specifically somewhere warmer. He said someday he will make it up to Alaska, but that it was out of reach at the moment.
What is a normal day like for a homeless person?
I asked what a typical day was like for him. He explained the following. “Well, at 5:30 they kick you out of the shelter, so you are up before the city wakes up and it is hard to find a warm place to go, on days that they don’t have temp work we hop on tracks and we ride it up here to 7-Eleven and get some coffee, their coffee is the cheapest around, something like 79 cents, the other places charge a lot more, then I walk around a lot of the day. I come here to the library and read and then I will go to the store and get cup-o-noodles, and then I’ll come back to the library. It isn’t a lot of fun, but it keeps me busy. I read and look out the windows. I really do like to work, but the new manager of the temp agency is a real jerk, they used to take 10-20 people out and treat us real nice, but now they don’t even show up half the time and only a few people get to go and they don’t treat us like we are people. The guy that was in charge before would throw us a BBQ every Friday when he would hand out our paycheck. He was the best, but this new guy is the worst……I like it when I work, but it doesn’t happen a lot. After work or being at the library sometimes the shelter will have dinner for us, but a lot of the time they don’t, so when the library closes we all go over to the shelter, I used to think that it was a long way to walk, but not anymore, it is so easy now, I can walk all day. Anyway, we go to the shelter and they smell our breaths for alcohol and if they can smell liquor on your breath then you stay at this shelter, and if they don’t then they take that group to Midvale and have them sleep in a warehouse. They give you 2 pads and 2 blankets and then you go sleep on the ground, it is really noisy in the homeless shelter, but if guys get out of hand then they kick them out. It isn’t a pleasant place. Then the next morning they wake you up at 5:30, the worst days are Sundays, because there is nothing open and tracks doesn’t even run until later, so I am just cold until something opens up. This place is a ghost town on Sunday morning, it is like everybody has died, no cars, no activity, nothing. Sunday is the worst day. Sometimes, I have gone to church, there is a church nearby that gives us food if we go to their service for 1 hour, but they make you sit through the service so a lot of us go over there, but it is worth it to get a meal, you see my food here, I take this with me to the shelter because I get hungry at night.”
We talked for a little more and then he started to pack up his things. I asked him if he wanted my sandwich and was a little taken back when he asked what kind. I told him it was a good sandwich and he took it and thanked me. We walked out together, I shook his hand, and I told him I would see him around.