Friday, November 9, 2012

Night Shift

It's almost 12:30 here and I'm working the 8PM to 8AM shift. We have a midnight curfew, so its pretty quiet.

Spent the evening seeing to the usual things one sees in a dorm full of people--cut fingers and hurt feelings mostly.

The shelter I'm working at is known as a "self care" shelter. That is to say all our residents are able to care for themselves and have few special needs.

Out in the lobby, we have hot and cold running law enforcement, which is a luxury when tempers are frayed.

Some of the residents are coming out of their shock into anger. Lots of bitter words about how much help they think they deserve vs how much help is actually available. There are still people trickling into the shelters because they still can't return to their homes and they either can no longer afford hotels or there's just no rooms to be had.

One of the huge problems here in New Jersey is that the central office for whatever their welfare program is (every state calls it something different and I can't remember the initials now) is without power. This means they have no computer connectivity. This means they can't make determinations of eligibility for things like food stamps etc.

Worse yet, some people have lost their jobs because they had to be transported to shelters where they couldn't get to work.

Been comparing and contrasting, the reactions of people in New Jersey to reactions of people I've known in other disasters. As always, we have a variety of reactions. Some people feel better with something to do. Others need to create little dramas.

Someone once said that adventure was long periods of boredom interspersed with terror. That's what disasters feel like to me. Strange to say, but for many of the residents, lack of activity is their worst enemy. With the disruption of their normal routines and day to day life, people are left at loose ends. They are also left without the trappings of their lives that make them feel like themselves.

Although residents here are technically homeless, very few of them are homeless. Mostly they are people experiencing the astounding bad luck of being in Sandy's path. I know many fear homelessness becoming a normal thing in their lives.

The uncertainty, the lack of sleep, unfamilar food, unfamiliar rules all conspire to make very touchy people, and yet they live their lives not much different than before.

The night shift is quiet and I have time to talk to people--to have those conversations people only have late at night. I've had three of them since I started this shift and its now almost 5:00.

Gas rationing has started in New York, where more than half the gas stations are closed at any given time. They say its only a short term thing, but people here are settling in for the log haul.

1 comment:

Julia LaJolla said...

Thank you for the blogging, Ceredwyn. You've given us an insightful view of people at the shelter. Have a safe drive home.