I shared about how we’re using our space at Trinity United Methodist in this previous post. That post explained that a pivotal consideration has been setting aside space for folks to sleep but it didn’t explain why we need such a space, why some of us sleep for part of the day. It has nothing to do with the stereotypical lie that people experiencing homelessness are lazy. There are a number of legitimate reasons why some of our folks sleep during the day, here are some of the most common ones.
Have you ever worked third shift? Some of us do. Makes for a tired morning. At least a third of the people who come to Love Wins have jobs. They are housing and/or food insecure despite the fact that they work. They have a job, earn a regular paycheck, but not enough to afford consistent food and shelter. Some of us work second shift and can’t stay at homeless shelters because our work schedules conflict with the curfews set by the shelters. We have community members who work until 11pm or later and then have nowhere to sleep until we open the next morning.
Have you ever gone camping? Some of us sleep outside, either in a tent in a wooded area or tucked into some nook or cranny in the downtown core. Sleeping outside is not all that restful. You never really get comfortable, never feel secure, and the routine yet erratic noises and lights (especially camping in the city) keep you from getting into a deep sleep. Plus you’re subject to the elements and are often genuinely not safe. It makes sense that those of us who sleep outside are tired the next day. We’ve all had the experience of not getting a good night’s sleep. Maybe you’ve strung a number of these together (if you’ve had a health condition or a new baby). Pretty soon, you feel run down, exhausted. Now imagine months and months of this, night after night of not sleeping well. You’d nap the next morning too.
You might wonder why anyone would choose to sleep outside. There are homeless shelters in Raleigh. Aren’t those better than sleeping outside? Yes they are, for some people. But, as we said, some of us can’t take advantage of the shelters because our work schedules conflict with the shelters’ curfew policies. Some of us can’t handle the shelter environment, which offers a lot of smells, much loud snoring, and even people screaming with night terrors. We’ve posted before about the challenges of sleeping at the shelters and we do not mean to throw shade on any of the work our colleagues are doing. It is very hard work and we know our partners at the shelters do the very best they can in continually difficult circumstances. That’s the only point here, those circumstances are too difficult for some, so some of us choose to sleep outside because the shelters aren’t a viable choice.
Do you have allergies, asthma, or spend a lot of your day walking? Many of us spend a lot of time outside, walking, waiting for the bus, etc. Many of us have allergies and/or asthma which gets triggered being outside so much and from so much physical exertion (all the walking with a loaded backpack). We help fill as many prescriptions as we can because going without allergy medicine or an inhaler makes you feel run down quick. Also, some of us have injuries that make regular walking painful. Raleigh isn’t pedestrian friendly outside the core. Getting around and getting things done is enough to make anyone extra tired.
There is one other reason why some of us sleep during the day. Some members of our community, mostly younger, smaller, and some LGBT, do not feel safe either at the shelters or sleeping outside. It’s not that we’re paranoid. Experience has taught some of us that we are legitimately not safe. We are regular targets of violence. So we walk. All night. We’re the sleepwalkers. We leave here at 5pm when the CEC closes and walk around until 9am when it opens again. Sometimes we stop in places that are open until we’re told to move along but most of all we just keep moving because that is the surest way to stay awake and keep safe. How tired would you would be if you walked around all night constantly looking over your shoulder, worried about being attacked (again)? The sleepwalkers are among the most vulnerable members of our community, and some of our dearest friends.
So when you come visit us (and we hope you will) and see people sleeping, we hope this helps you understand why.