One guest at the Day Center was telling me, "You're really patient. You could be a doctor. I was going to be a doctor but everything bothers me." He pauses to bang on the shower door to tell his friend to hurry up. (The friend's been in there about three minutes.) "I'm not patient. They told me 20 years ago to put myself in a box and not go outside of it." (Bam, bam, bam on the door.) "Now it's kind of scary to come out of the box. Hurry up, let's go!"
I tend to write about the Day Center as a place of comedy, caring, intellectual stimulation (today chess games and a theological discussion went on in front of me) and pathos (a young heroin addict in treatment talks about sleeping during the day because if he's on the street too many people pester him for his connections).
But we also see evidence of the hard edge to life for people who don't have stable housing.
Today one of the regulars showed up with a damaged eye that was almost swollen closed. A couple of the guests were telling him it looked bad and he should have it looked at. What happened? one asked. Poked it on something, he said.
This can happen when you live along the river and are making your way through the tamarisk after dark.
Later in the morning, a woman showed up with cuts above and below her eye and a swollen cheek. Fell off a bike, she told our supervisor. Also possible, since bikes are a main mode of transportation for many of the local homeless.
Later, we found the two had gotten into a fight the night before.
It's possible to look at addiction, dysfunction and irresponsibility and cite it as justification for cutting social programs and spending public money more "productively." Many of the people here will not escape the cycle they are in. But some of them do, and you can't always tell who they will be.
Today, a young woman who's had some hard times with her kids and a bad marriage came in on her way to court to "correct my mistake" — getting her divorce finalized. She looked good. She looked happy. And most important, she looked ready for something new.