Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Charlie Quimby

Blogger Charlie Quimby doesn't write online very often anymore, but when he does. Wow.

Quimby lives part of the year in Minnesota, where he volunteers in a child care center for homeless children, and part of the year in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he volunteers at a day center for homeless adults. His blog, The Great Divide, includes detailed stories of what it means to be homeless. Today, there's this Shelter Report from Grand Junction:

JC told me he went to bed hungry last night. Sometimes it's that way, he said.

Now that it's toward the end of the month, he is out of SSI money. Because he sleeps on the street, he doesn't get the breakfast and dinner served at the shelter. He's on his own for food and other expenses, such as buying the diapers he needs for his incontinence.

Early each month, his benefits account is credited electronically and he withdraws money in the predawn, calls a cab and takes it out to the Love's truck stop on the interstate. He typically orders biscuits and gravy for $7 plus coffee and a tip. Then he pays $11 to use the trucker's showers.

The showers are deluxe compared to what we have at the Day Center. They have a second head about waist high which can be directed at the feet. Since he's paying, there's no one banging on the door that his ten minutes are up.

He takes a cab back to his camp. The fare is $20 each way.

All in all, he spends nearly $70 within the first few hours of receiving his payment.

It may seem foolish, given his empty belly last night and the prospect of more if he can't raise a few dollars panhandling. But by spreading his dollars out, he might have to give up this one luxury, the only time all month when a few people do as he asks. When he can sit at a table and not be asked to move. When he can feel the hot water soothe his aches, the way we can do anytime we've had a bad day.
Quimby is a writer I wish everyone had to read before they offer an opinion about the undeserving poor. When he's not volunteering, he spends the rest of his time writing fiction; his first novel, Monument Road, synthesizes the empathy he clearly feels into excellent prose. I hear he's at work on another one. Can't wait.

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