Homeless people are well aware that their well-being and safety depend on other people and contrary to common believe, most are not “looking” for free handouts, but for a little help in getting back on their feet. Being aware that your fate is at the mercy of another person, having observed people being put down and thrown out of a shelter for no reason at all, you learn fast not to bring attention to yourself. After all, the only place you can go after being expelled from a shelter is the street. And you heard stories about life on the street. You also know that once you are put out by one shelter, you are going to be labeled a trouble maker by the next, word travels fast within the homeless community and rumors travel even faster.
Lets say Mrs. A has been banned by shelter 1 because she dared to ask for an umbrella while having to leave the shelter on a rainy morning because the shelter closes its doors at 6 a.m. every day until intake later in the afternoon. Mrs. A was told there are no umbrellas so she asked for a garbage bag. “We have no money to give you all garbage bags for free, this is a homeless shelter. Do you know what is costs to keep the lights on and the TV running all day? Don’t you enjoy your shower every day? Do you have any idea how hard I work to make sure you are loved and eat every day? Isn’t that enough for you? Now you want a garbage bag, you ungrateful woman! Why don’t you try to get one from shelter 2 and see how they treat you. Don’t you ever come back here!”
Everyone standing around and witnessing the event would not dare to tell the truth, everyone would agree Mrs. A had it coming and deserved to be barred. Self-preservation – because you never know who would hear what you say and whom they would tell. By the time Mrs. A got to shelter 2 or shelter 3 the news of her “ungrateful attack” on the director of shelter 1 was common knowledge.
Of course, this event never took place, the director was never at the shelter before 9 a.m., long after the homeless had left for the day, but the elements used are not fictional at all.
When you are desperate the lines between wrong and right easily become fuzzy and you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive.