It took me an hour to reach the front of the UGM bread line. I got myself a couple of pastries and some bread. Just like last time, I could take much more but I decided not to; it is my last night here. Once the bread line completed, I walked over to the Carnegie community center one last time. I took a quick survey on which shelter to stay at for the night. The consensus was that the emergency shelter – The Crosswalk – was the best one to stay at (which is closed now). I hope this place was free of bedbugs.
While I was waiting for the doors to open, a man started a conversation with me. He was going through some tough times in his life. What really struck me about this person was that he wasn’t homeless nor poor. In fact, he owned an apartment in downtown Vancouver. The reason he was staying here was because he was not getting along with his wife.
His wife was an alcoholic. So he was too scared to sleep in his own home because, her condition made her very unpredictable. She threatened to commit suicide on a few occasions. Most of their altercations resulted with the Vancouver Police Department arriving at the scene. This newlywed couple was in some serious turmoil. It was serious enough that her husband was sleeping at an emergency shelter and not sleeping in the comfort of his own home. Much to my surprise, it seems that the homeless shelters are not only used by the homeless after all.
As time went by, more people gathered near the entrance. The temperature was to dip below the freezing level by tonight – so many came here to seek refuge from this cold weather. Another man approached me and started a discussion about our judicial system. I wish I clung to his words more carefully, because he had many interesting things to say.
One thing he noted was that no police officers – or anybody for that matter – has the right to ask for your name. Legally, you have the right to withhold that information to ensure your privacy. Furthermore, nobody has the right to write your name down for you. Police officers are only allowed to ask you for your credentials if there was a real complaint made against you, otherwise routine questionings were simply illegal. I am not a legal expert, so I am just repeating what this man had told me.
When the doors opened, we walked in one by one. Inside the shelter there was a man holding a clipboard. He asked for our names and then scribbled it on paper. That man just walked right in without saying a single word. Now I could see what he meant. Revealing your name to the shelter is a privacy issue and according to that man and this organization had no right in collecting names. The man holding the clipboard did not even bother to ask for his name. It looks like they had this privacy debate before.
Once we checked in, everybody was given a sheet, pillow and a sandwich. Water was available at the front of the room. This shelter could sleep about 30 people. Just before the lights went out, I checked to see if there were any empty beds. There were about 10 vacant beds. I can rest assured knowing that I did not take the last bed on this cold winter night.