Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sleeping sickness

August 20, 2009
Because of an alleged fumigation of our shelter we were on lock out until 4 p.m. Such lock outs occur monthly at this shelter and daily at the men's shelters. I suspect this shelter was initially intended for battered women, which is why it has 24 hour access. There is a 9 p.m. curfew which unless arrangements are made in advance will result in an over night lock out. This is of coarse to keep the girls from being distracted by drugs or alcohol in the evenings. This month we were treated to a trip to the smallest zoo I have ever seen and a picnic with the most food I have seen since homeless summer camp. About a third of our contingent grabbed the picnic blankets and went to sleep for the day.
Homeless people are always sleep deprived, which is why you see them sleeping in doorways and parks all over the place. They are not necessarily passed out, from drinking all night. Dorms have from 30 - 150 people, sometimes on beds, sometimes on matts which are only inches apart. The lighting is kept dimmed but still enough for visibility, so staff can monitor the room. Even in a sober environment, staff must watch for theft, violence, illness or seizures. At least 25% of the clients are battling some virus that has them coughing, tossing and up & down all night, this keeps everyone around them awake. Oh and I forgot to mention 25% or more who snore; at least 3 or 4 having sleep apnea which means they sound like an ultralight circling the dorm. Sleep deprivation is especially true for the men staying in sober dorms because at least a few pints will dull the senses a little. I have only 1 room-mate and last night I probably didn't sleep more then 30 minutes at any one time. So next time you see some "bum" sleeping in the park, appreciate that this may be the only rest he has gotten in 24 hours.

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