Life in a homeless shelter

Posted on Posted in Stories, The Younger Years

This story continues on from the Uhaul post.

After several days of cruising around in the Uhaul we finally got accepted to move into a nearby homeless shelter.

What it was like living in a homeless shelter

The shelter we moved into happened to be brand new. We were one of the first few families there, so It may not have been like the others.

Living in a homeless shelter felt like prison as a kid. The entire thing was gated and we weren’t allowed to leave unless it was for school or an approved occasion. This place was locked down like Fort Knox. The whole facility was monitored by cameras, and they were watched closely. I may or may not have been busted roaming the halls several times. You couldn’t be out of your room after 8 PM and visitors weren’t allowed, period. They had certain times to eat and you were either there on time or went hungry.

3459043982_c8fce85bc6_zImage: kudumom via Flickr


There was a recreation room with computers and games, a TV room, and you could check out a bike to ride around the complex. I spent a lot of time cruising around, weaving in and out of the homeless, while listening to Killing Me Softly by The Fugees. At 12 I didn’t understand the words anyway and I think it was the only cassette available for checkout. All the other activities were on a schedule and if you didn’t show on time, too bad.

The food was OK. For breakfast we had cereal with milk that came from a big machine like a fountain drink. I’m not sure it was even real milk. For lunch we had ham and mustard sandwiches. I don’t remember what dinner was like, it must have been delicious. We also had a snack time before bed, which consisted of those chocolate stripe cookies and more milk?.

The entire family stayed in one room, but, … we had our own beds! We were pretty lucky, because in most homeless shelters everyone slept in one huge room. This was like the 4 star version of being homeless. The rooms were just bunk beds with a small walkway in between. We had no television or toys, just beds and one dresser for everyone to share.

Plus side was, not being  able to bring anything with you made it easy to make everything fit.

This wouldn’t be the first or last time that I had to leave everything I owned behind. 

3164349203_b2be17f596_zImage: Bz3rk via Flickr


As you can imagine it was a very diverse crowd. White, Black, and Mexican all in the same facility and never a problem that I can recall. You might not believe it, but the homeless are more giving and willing to lend a hand than any group of people I have known.

This video depicts it perfectly.

The homeless shelter was actually one of the safer places I have lived. People just minded their own business and we’re happy to have a place to sleep.

The staff was great as far as I could tell. I even convinced them to let me stay out till 9PM, after writing a letter pleading my case (even as a kid I looked for opportunities for advancement) .

From what I remember we lived there for six months or so before the next opportunity popped up.

All and all it really wasn’t that bad. I met some cool people and experienced something new.

Sound like a crappy place to live? Well, just down the road there was a guy sleeping under a bridge, because he wasn’t lucky enough to get in. It was easy to see, it could have been worse.

Everything in life is an experience, good or bad. These are the things that make us all unique. There may have been times when my life completely sucked, but there have been many more times that it was great. Learning to let go of the past can be hard, but it has changed my life completely.

Pave the way to your future with new bricks, and leave the old shattered ones behind – Me. 

You won’t regret it.

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Author: Sam LIonelli
Author: Sam LIonelli

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