“Sure, I’ll spend a night in the homeless shelter,” I said. I didn’t really think about the implications of that until the time to do it got closer and then I started to worry about my well being. I was nervous about doing it alone. Fortunately a good friend of the Radio From Hell show, Dick Clark, said ”If you need a wing-man, I’d be happy to go with you.” And so it was set; a very cold winter night in December of 2013, Clark and I met up outside the shelter on Rio Grande to check in.
They’re pretty matter of fact about the check-in process. No one knew who we were, just a couple of guys who needed a warm place to stay for the night. They don’t ask you why you need the shelter or what your story is. I don’t think you even need to give your name. I think all they asked was where I had spent the night before. “At my home,” I said. They gave me a couple of blankets and said to go on in.
Rows and rows of metal bunk beds, with thin vinyl covered mattresses, were lined up in several large rooms. Many of the beds were already claimed by backpacks and other bags of belongings. Dick and I claimed a spot and then settled in.
There were several hundred men in the shelter that night….it was full to capacity…over capacity perhaps because as it got later, there were guys in the lobby with blankets and guys in a sort of TV and vending machine room that maybe stayed up all night. Several things struck me about the men I was spending the night with. People tried to stay out of each other’s way. There was some socializing, but most of the men kept to themselves and even avoided making eye contact with one another. Keep to your own space and hope that others do the same. No one was there to have a good time; sheltering on a frigid December evening was serious business.
Another thing, it seemed that many of the guys there were working people; men with jobs who would leave the shelter in the morning to go work. I walked past a common room to see a man ironing a business suit, presumably getting it ready for his job or job interview in the morning.
When a cell phone rang at 3am, Dick (who understands Spanish) told me the conversation was about meeting up at a job site and indeed, the Hispanic guy and a couple of others with him, packed up a left immediately.
Sure, there were some guys at the shelter who were obviously disturbed in some way…mental problems perhaps or drugs and alcohol. None of them out of control, or I assume they would not have been allowed to stay, but something just “off” about them. But the majority were guys who probably were going to work or to look for work as soon as the night was over. Guys who just didn’t have enough resources to keep a roof over their heads.
It’s a tough cycle. How can you get out from under things if you can’t make enough money to have a place to live? You want to try, you try, but circumstances keep pushing you back down.
I actually slept a little that night, but at 5am I think it was, the lights began coming on, and the announcements were made that it was time to be thinking about moving out; floors needed to be cleaned, blankets laundered, and those vinyl mattresses doused with disinfectant. The shelter needed to be made ready for another night in the cycle.
X96 invites you to help the homeless this holiday season. The Road Home provides emergency shelter and services to hundreds of men, women and families. Drop off needed items like pillows, blankets, towels, hats and gloves at any Rocky Mtn. Chevrolet Dealership. And join X96 on December 21st and 22nd for the Road Home Radiothon. X96 will be broadcasting live all day from the Road Home to raise funds for the homeless. Your support will provide a direct lifeline to these people in a desperate situation, and will help them get back on their feet. Help Utahns get back on the Road Home!
You can also donate at Radio From Hell’s remotes during the month of December. Check the out here:
December 2nd 6-10am
John Watson Chevrolet
3535 Wall Ave in Ogden
December 9th 6-10am
10770 South Auto Mall Drive in Sandy
December 16th 6-10am
Ken Garff Chevrolet
221 South 500 East in American Fork
Click here to see a list of items greatly needed this winter season.