Thursday, March 15, 2012

Homeless in Houston

#20 on my 30 under 30 list is to take a homeless person out to lunch or dinner.  Now, my original plan was to actually take a homeless person out, but my family said that was a bad idea and I compromised and decided to volunteer at a homeless shelter and serve them lunch. J

I searched several places and found one that I really liked called The Beacon.  It is really close to Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston.  I called and made an appointment to volunteer last Sunday.  I didn’t take pictures because I didn’t think they would appreciate having their pictures taken, so you just get the story. :/  Hope you like it anyway.

My shift was from 9 am-12 pm in the food service department.  It was pouring down raining when I left my house that morning but I didn’t want to cancel on them (they said a lot of people do cancel if it’s bad weather).  I got there around 8:45 am and signed in.  They assigned me to the cream, sugar, sweet n’ low section as what I like to call the “Sweetener Nazi”.  I technically wasn’t serving them lunch…but it’s the serving part that matters. J

Apparently people like to horde sweetener at this place because you can only have one creamer, and three total of the sugar or sweet n’ low (per drink) and they aren’t allowed to grab it out of the bucket, you have to get it for them.   At my station there was also an older lady giving it out also (they really only needed one person, but I guess they knew that they would take advantage of me being there for my first time).  The older woman was definitely a pro at being the Sweetener Nazi.  She gave me the run down on who is who and what you can and can’t do. I heard multiple times ‘it’s the rules’.  Okie dokie.

They let the homeless come in around 9:15 a few at a time.  They can take a shower, drink coffee/tea, do their laundry, and at lunch time they eat lunch.  They came in slowly at first and started getting their drinks.  Some of them tried to get more than what they were allowed and we had to point to the sign a few times.  One lady said, “who do they think they are telling us how much sweetener we can have in our coffee’’.  Really?  It’s free!  You aren’t paying for it (I really wanted to tell her that, but I didn’t).  Then another guy wanted 10 sugar packets and I told him no (I was getting into my Sweetener Nazi role) and he said that he wanted it and that he didn’t have to listen to women in his country.  I did tell him that those are the rules and that he is in America so he does have to listen to them here.

At 11 am the other Sweetener Nazi had to leave and I was left manning the fort by myself.  After she left they started serving lunch so I added salt and pepper packets to my list of things ot pass out (three salt, three pepper each).  I then thought of myself as the Condiment Nazi.  The rule was that they had to have their tray with them (because people tried to come up multiple times).  I understand that the rules are there because the salt/pepper/sugar/sweetner/creamer can get expensive.  I understand both sides of the argument that that stuff is expensive, but on the other hand these people don’t get much in life and they should have some sugar.  I don’t know.  I’m not on the budget cut committee.

So, I know I shouldn’t admit this but there was a guy there that was hot (and homeless), but in my defense he didn’t look like he should be there or that he was homeless. Maybe he was just wearing his Sunday best?  He had on khaki’s and a really nice button down shirt.  I don’t know, but he did look like my ex (the Chef) and I think that’s probably why I noticed him (and he actually had the same name as him! Weird!).  Ok, feel free to judge me for checkin’ out a homeless dude.  I am judging myself.  :/

Would I volunteer again?  Not sure.  Maybe in a different section, but I don’t think I would want to be the Sweetener Nazi again.  Honestly (and I might be a bad person for saying this), I don’t think they were very grateful for the services they were given (that is a generalization, some people were very polite and said thank you and you could tell they were grateful). It’s a free service that the Beacon is providing and they seemed to take it for advantage like we (society) owed them something.   I know some of them have mental illnesses, but a majority of them that I saw were just fine (but it could be hidden). 

Overall, it was an interesting experience and I’m glad I did it.  Have you ever volunteered at a homeless shelter?  What was your experience?

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