We get lots of calls on the hotline.
Some are older homeless adults just trying to navigate the shelter system in Atlanta, which is harder than you think. Before I started volunteering at Lost n Found, I thought you just had to show up at a shelter and they would provide you a place to sleep. It doesn’t work that way, at least in Atlanta. There are multiple times for entry, multiple locations, different requirements, some require some kind of payment.
I get the reasons for these things. Each agency is trying to stem the tide of chaos that already is their business. They are trying to survive, keep from being overwhelmed.
Some are youth as young as 12 or 13 who are discovering that they are gay/lesbian/bi/trans and don’t know what to do about it, just want someone that will understand and listen.
Some are young adults, mainly the population we serve, from 18-26.
Steve (name changed) texted us last night while I was on duty. He is 24. He’s at a men’s shelter in Atlanta, one of the ones about which I have heard horror stories. Men sleeping on cardboard, bugs, sermons in order to be able to eat. I wish I could say that this is what hooked me but it wasn’t. I was glad he was at a shelter. It saved me from having to tell him how to survive a night on the street by going to an emergency room, or buying a cup of coffee at Waffle House and making it last hours, or trying to sleep at the airport until the Atlanta cops kick you out. It saved me from hearing that he was at a public park trying to get through 8 hours.
I invited him to come to the youth center we run, open 7 days a week. We would try and find him more permanent solution for shelter.
Then he told me the rest of the story.
He had been living in Charlotte before he came to Atlanta, to meet his birth mother. He was adopted at a young age and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. His adoptive family was not very accepting, which prompted his move to Charlotte. When he found his birth mother in Atlanta, he had been excited, maybe this was a place to belong, a family of his own.
Until he told his birth mother he was gay.
She made him pack a suitcase and she drove him to the shelter and dropped him off. He left all of his other things with her. She said he would have to get them within a certain amount of time or she would throw them away.
He was scared…
Maybe because of my eating disorder but hungry get me every time.
I drove over and brought him breakfast, made sure he could get on the subway. Told me that we would try and find a solution for him when the youth center opened.
I have done things that I’m not proud of in my life. I just hope that I’m never that cruel.
I just can’t understand how one piece of information changes your ability to see the other as a person.
Steve is the reason I try and show up when I work the hotline. I aspire to be the kind of person who provides caring and comfort to someone in trouble and unable to see the light of day.
May I always try to be that person.