Monday, November 5, 2012

Day Two: An intensely sad, lonely crowd

I've been very tired at the beginning of this street retreat. Perhaps it's because in the days before I was keynoting at a nearby conference and I always feel worn out at the end of a conference. Perhaps it is the switching of the brain from academic thoughts to those of basic survival that have me all worn out. Or, perhaps it was the memories if how exhausting on all levels my street retreats are and a bit of my exhaustion was pre-emptive.

Regardless, I spent much of the afternoon yesterday resting on the lawn in front of San Francisco's City Hall. I have some delight in the ability to be so anonymous in that space, because lying on the sidewalk makes me unrecognizable as someone who used to have meetings and official business in there just a few months before.

I also rested there because there are no meal programs that are open for dinner on Sunday and often times, churchy do-gooders will bring snacks and toiletries to those gathered.

It was my lucky day.

While many shelters offer dinner to guests with week or longer reservations, often those who are only able to get an emergency slot or only have a one day reservation are not entranced until after dinner. Sometimes they don't get in until well after midnight.

I panhandled some funds to buy something at a local coffee space so I could use the wireless Internet and talk to my family.

The ability to charge phones, have access to bathrooms and stay in contact with family members is one of the reasons coffee shops have replaced the drop-in centers that the Newsom administration worked so hard to close.

After saying goodnight to my family I went to the Fools. Since most shelters have either a 6 or 7pm curfew or lose your shelter bed, I made sure to make it back around 6:30.

The curfew leaves very little time for socializing with friends who work or participating in church or community events.

This morning, despite going to bed around 9:30 pm, the morning came too quick. I had a horrible time trying to get up at the 6 am wake up call most shelters have and the requirement to be out the door by 7am felt like a punishment.

Even without the difficulties of being woke up every hour or staff that had changing rules, I found the curfew and shelter hours to be oppressive on my body even without actual shelter conditions.

So today, I again felt incredibly lethargic and in need of more rest. So I went to St Bonifice Catholic Church.

This church allows folk to sleep in the pews in the morning and keeps them safe and sheltered. It was here, amongst my hundreds of sleeping companions, that I realized that I'm a bit depressed.

I miss my family and my baby. I know they're coming soon, but dreams of getting in trouble by Child Protective Services for simply being in the same spaces as homeless folk have been haunting my dreams.

I imagine this is just a small fraction of the fear homeless families experience. How much more will I feel this when my son is actually here?

As I wandered into a side chapel area, I saw this icon of St Bonifice and remembered that he was the patron saint of children, who helps women get pregnant and helped keep children safe.

I began to trust that I am in the right place to feel these feelings and remembered that I have lots of support and that millions of families experience homelessness in the U.S. and by peering into the margins of their world I will become much better equipped to support them.

Today I pray for all the parents who are busy finding food and shelters for their families. Give them more than their daily bread. Give them safety and the ability to know their children are safe.

And, as I will do everyday of this street retreat I'll beg you, if you are able, make a secure online donation to Welcome, or participate in our reverse auction.

Pastor Megan
P.S. email me at if you'd like to provide me with food, beverages or a meal companion at any point on my journey.

Location:Golden Gate Ave,San Francisco,United States

No comments: