Rough Night

From 7:00pm on, people start gathering at the gate of the tent shelter. All of us are vying for whatever few possible open beds, made available because someone else didn’t show up for bed call. Bed call is at 8:00pm. At 8:30pm the guy working the gate tells us that there are no open beds this night. Quietly, everyone walks away back towards the center of town.

One of those people waiting catches up to me and asks me where I plan to bed down for the night. I am reluctant to say, one because I don’t really know this person, and two because a good place to sleep can easily be ruined when over run by too many people.

Up ahead I see the trolley pull up to the Imperial St and 12th Ave station. I tell him I have to catch the trolley and so I’m able to avoid telling him. I jog to the station, catch the trolley, and take a seat on board.

A few moments pass before the trolley doors begin to close. Right then, that guy who tried talking to me jumps on board. The closing doors just miss him. He looks at me and says, “hey”. I tell myself, “Terrific, now you’ve got a shadow.”

He asks me, “you heading to your spot?”

Now I’m stuck.  I tell him no, that I’m going to McDonalds for a while. But then I think for a minute about what I’m doing, and what I want to accomplish. I’m supposed to be the good guy here. I’m not out for my own benefit, but to hopefully make things better for other homeless people. (I try to not hurt my arm, patting myself on the back).

This guy seems ok enough. As the trolley passes the area where I sleep, I point it out to him. At the next stop, he gets off the trolley, walking in that direction. I continue my way up to the City College station. I exit the trolley there and walk the rest of the way up to McDonalds.

After a couple hours at McDonalds I head back towards the camp. I had left too late and missed the last trolley, so I walk the whole way. Just south of C street for a couple blocks down 12th, I pass the scary collection of street people. These homeless are not getting ready for a night’s sleep. They are more like the angry and aggresive homeless I lived around, back in Nashville. I keep my head low and walk with purpose, hoping they’ll ignore me as I pass. And they do.

I arrive at the area where I sleep and it is indeed crowded, even though I don’t see my earlier shadow. There is just enough room to set my sleeping bag at a 90% angle to the fence that encircles the empty lot,and keeps the homeless out of it. the sidewalk changes just beyond where i set up to dirt and rough asphalt.

I set down my things, walk over a short way to the bushes, look around for any cops, and seeing none I take a leak. Back to where I set my things, I unroll my sleeping bag and prepare for sleep.

I was thinking and perhaps hoping that with it being Sunday night, we’d have a quiet night. No such luck. People were having a difficult time settling down. Some people were talking, others milling around, one guy was having a psychotic fit where he’d constantly pound his fist into is other hand over his head, repetitively. At the same time he was trying to keep his head and face covered with an old t-shirt. He did this for a while, as he sat up against the chain link fence, but he eventually got up and walked around doing the same thing. He came over to me and asked if I had anything to eat. As soon as the word “no” came out of my mouth, he asked if I had anything to drink. He was staring at my McDonalds cup. It was still mostly full. I let him take it. He seemed to need the contents of the cup, (Orange Hi-C), more than I need a piss cup for the middle of the night. After a short time he was back to his fist pounding. It was loud enough that I could keep track of him as he roamed an empty parking lot a block away. More people were milling around, some talking loud, some were non-homeless people making their way to the trolley station for the ride to points south.

There had been an outside rave earlier just a block away in a different, usually empty, parking lot. The music from it could be heard a mile away. I am guessing that that may have had something to do with the lack of tranquillity on the street. All the activity around me made it hard to fall asleep.

I did fall asleep, only to be awakened by the sounds of a commotion among the other campers about 20 feet away from where I am. An argument quickly turned into a fight. The obvious sound of a fist striking flesh happened only once, then there was more arguing. I’m all too familiar with it. People who fight and argue usually don’t stand stay in one place but push and shove each other around. I look to make sure the parties involved are not moving my way, then lay my head back down, ignoring them, hoping to get back to sleep.

Each time that a peace would settle upon the combatants, someone’s anger would flare up again, and the yelling and pushing would start over again. It took several minutes for things to calm down enough for the instigator to leave. From what I gather, the instigator is a non-homeless guy who was walking his dog, but also intoxicated from earlier partying.

After a few minutes of peace, and as the others are settling down, I see this non-homeless guy come running back towards us at a fast clip up the street. The first two homeless people he comes up on are standing with their bicycles. They had been talking quietly to each other. The drunk guy yells “WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY DOG?”

He then grabs the closest homeless guy and throws him to the ground. He then turns to the homeless woman, who is also standing over her bike, and pushes her to the ground, yelling “YOU HAVE 5 SECONDS TO TELL ME WHERE MY DOG IS”.

The next person in this guy’s path is me. He looks at me for a second, but instead steps over me and head for the next person standing up. I reach for my phone to get ready to call the cops. What happens next I don’t know because it’s behind me. I’m guessing either someone pulled a weapon on him, or actually clocked him once. Whatever happened, it took the rage out of him. At that point people were able to tell the guy what they thought happened to his dog. His dog had run after one the guy’s he was trying to fight with earlier, that guy had heading up another street.   Then the cops show up. In the safety and security of the flashing blue and red lights, I was able to calm down from all the agitation. I’m sure everyone is agitated. Shortly afterwards, I fall asleep. When I awake, some 3 hours later, I can’t find my wallet.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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