Michael Newberger is a senior at Flagler College. He’s the co-editor of “The Gargoyle,” Flagler College’s newspaper. During his time at WWFF11 he spent time getting to know the Homeless Voice’s editor, Mark Targett.
As I walked up to the lobby of the homeless shelter, I noticed two little boys sitting anxiously in a chair, peering out the blinds. They attempted to open the locked door. I was buzzed in and found a man – maybe in his 30s – was in the waiting room, explaining his predicament.
The director of the shelter came out and sternly asked how he become homeless.
Had he worked?
The man explained he was a part of the painters union and had worked a variety of industrial jobs around town. But after he received custody of his sons from their mother – the two boys in the lobby – finding a job that could fit around their schedule had become almost impossible.
Did he try talking to 211, county support to prevent people from becoming homeless?
He had called them recently, but had been put on the waiting list.
The director shook his head disappointedly, and broke the news that he was going to be on that waiting list a long time before he would receive help.
Asking for a room, he was warned that this was not a shelter made for families, and that there was a convicted sex offender in the building. This father looked even more despondent, but before he said anything, the director made sure the children were fed.
I ran into him three hours later, while the sun had started setting. He had come back from the park and was returning to settle down for the night.
The rooms had all been filled, but they could set up a curtain for them and some mats in the hallway. He put his head into his hands while the two boys sat in his lap. One had been crying. He got up and left, saying he would sleep in his storage unit – one of the few places he had left.
The three ended up returning to the shelter for the night, unable to find anywhere else to go.
Watching this was a painful lesson that changed my preconceived notion of homelessness. It’s not just alcoholics, druggies, or the mentally ill. There are also people like this family struggling in tough economic times. Out of all the people I met over the weekend – the ones with lofty aspirations, the ones trying to make up for past mistakes and those who won’t make it back into society – it was this family that stuck out to me the most. This man trying to give two little boys the best life possible – confused and out in the world without a home. It reminded me how the tides of fate can turn and that any of us could end up in a predicament like this.