Every night the process is the same. At 7:30 pm the people hoping to get into the shelter would start showing up at the gate. If you approached the gate before 7:30 pm, you’d be told to go away. They didn’t want people congregating too much at the gate, so people would have to go at least a block away, and wait.
I’d begun to recognize some of the people who were coming each night. We’d talk a little to pass the time. At 8:00 pm, the gate would be closed. If any person currently staying at the Tent showed up after the gate was closed, they’d be considered late and without a good excuse, they’d loose their bed – meaning that one of us waiting would get his bed. That happened once during the past week. The guy pleaded to be let back in, he was sent packing. His demise gave the rest of us hope.
A little after 8:00 pm, the guard at the gate came out and wrote down everyone’s name, who wanted to get in. He then went back inside.
Some time later he came out and made a little speech. “OK, we have a just a few beds opens. I know that some of you have been waiting for a long time to get in. Just know that if we don’t get you in tonight that we haven’t forgotten about you and we’ll get you in as soon as well can.”
Then he called out for numbers – 4, 5, 8, and 12. My number was 7.
All of us not called started walking away. I put on my back pack, grabbed the sleeping bag, and joined the walk of disappointment. But one of the four had yet to respond. They called out for that person again, by name as well as number. No one replied. I stopped in my tracks. I said, “call out another name, then.” The guard said, “hold on a second”. Most of those who had been outside the gate were already half a block away. He went back into his trailer office, briefly, then came back out. “Kevin Barbieux, number 7”, he called. He didn’t have to repeat himself, I didn’t hesitate to step inside the gate. The four of us who got in were standing together, half smiling and meekly congratulating each other. We were happy to be inside the gate. We knew full well there wasn’t enough happiness to go around.