More excerpts from my journal:
Friday, May 30, 2014, continued
On the bus to Ocala
Woke up in time to see a sign that said “JOY Find it at 88.1.” It reminded me of when I was trudging around Orlando yesterday, and I saw an old Watchtower magazine on the ground. The article it was opened to was “Wings of a Blue Butterfly”!
My feet are hot, sweaty, and athlete’s footy. Shoes are always wet; haven’t changed socks for a couple of days.
Later that morning
I turned around and took the next bus out after arriving in Ocala! The Greyhound station there is 5 miles from town – that would never work for my butterfly needs… Bought a ticket to Gainesville…
The same evening
After arriving in Gainesville, I called the shelter downtown and was told I needed a police clearance to use the shower and other day facilities so I walked until I found the station. When I reached the shelter, I signed up for a bed, but none are available for tonight so I guess I will walk the streets tonight (illegal to sleep on public property here).
It’s getting to be old hat now: signing waiting lists for a bed when no beds are available. I’m so tired! I walked away in tears, remembering the incident at the bus station last night and not looking forward to spending a night at the park.
Sure enjoyed that shower today! Thankful to be walking around in clean clothes, even though they are still wet.
Called a couple of pastors in the area and asked for help. One returned my call and kindly arranged a room at a Super 8 for me.
Sabbath, May 31, 2014, Gainesville, FL
Must have put in 20 miles yesterday. I walked for nearly 2 hours last evening to find the Super 8 Motel where the pastor had made a reservation. To make a long story short, I eventually realized that I had been talking to a pastor in Gainesville, Georgia and not Gainesville, Florida!
So his room reservation was wasted and I was exhausted. I stopped in the entryway of a little motel and asked from permission to sit on the ground in a dark, out-of-the-way corner.
“That’s okay,” the man answered kindly. “Do you want water or anything?”
“No,” I thanked him. “I just need to rest for a while.”
I slept on my backpack for about 45 minutes.
Then a women (presumably his wife) woke me up yelling, “What are you doing here? You can’t stay here. Get out!”
I picked up my bag and started walking again. I wandered back downtown amidst the drunk students from the university. It was about midnight by then. I walked to Bo Diddly Park and happily discovered about 30 “unsheltered” people settling down on the pavement for the night.
Finding a woman about my age, we struck up a conversation. Exhausted, I laid down on the bare concrete and slept for a few hours, extremely thankful for group safety.
Homelessness is a great equalizer. Just a bunch of misfit humans banded together helping each other to survive, some selfishly demanding their own way, some hoarding, some stealing, but some loving and assisting others… Beggars telling other beggars where to find bread…
Later on Saturday
The worker at the downtown shelter told me to be there to sign up for a bed at 8 a.m. I was there. But the same guy who told me that on Friday just laughed at me and said, “No, I didn’t say that. There’s no case manager here on weekends. You’ll have to wait until Monday.”
As I walked from the “shelter” back to Bo Diddly Park, I saw a black hose on the ground that reminded me of a snake. I thought of the devil trying to discourage me. How many more nights will I need to sleep amidst the noise and smoke and arguments and vulgarity in the park?
My blisters are so bad that I don’t feel like walking anymore.
I saw the workers at the shelter go through all the bags of donations and take out the nice clothes for themselves before putting out the junky remainders for us mere mortals. Something is wrong with this picture.
After meeting me at the shelter today, one homeless man said, “It’s rare to find a real woman who retains her dignity and beauty.” I appreciated that. (To be continued.)