11/27/12: The Pine Street Inn
November 27, 2012
Last night was the second night in a row that I didn’t get a bed upstairs or a cot or a mat in the lobby from the lottery at the Pine Street Inn. Like the other women who also didn’t get those things, I slept on two chairs that were pushed together, in the lobby.
There was coughing at various times throughout the night and in the morning. Some of it was prolonged and very loud, obviously deliberate and meant to be harassing. The door to the office was open this morning when some of the worst coughing happened, which means that the staff who were in the office heard all of it and did nothing about it.
They turn the lights on in the lobby at 4:30 a.m., and everyone who sleeps there has to get up then. The coughing that happened this morning went on for at least half an hour before everyone had to get up.
Yesterday morning, I had left my coat on a chair while I went to get my breakfast. When I got back to the table, someone had put her sweater on my coat and was sitting in my chair. That is something that I’ve never seen happen at the Pine Street Inn before. Within the context of homelessness and its intrinsic insecurities, most homeless people are not as bereft of manners and consideration as much of the world might think. It is understood that leaving an article of clothing or something else on a chair means that the chair is taken, and it’s very rude and aggressive to take someone else’s seat like that. Fights happen for less than that, especially in places where there are hours during which there aren’t enough chairs for everyone.
I said “That’s my seat.” The woman refused to move, and she laughed at me. I’ve said before that the laughter of someone who behaves the way that she did doesn’t make me feel bad about myself; she didn’t have the right to take my chair, and with her laughter she demonstrated that she knew what she had done, was proud of it, and was not worried about the fact that she’d done it.
I told a staffperson what had happened. She did not make the woman move. In fact, she ended up yelling at me after she’d said that I could sit in the seat next to the woman who had taken my seat and I’d said “She doesn’t have the right to take my seat.” The staffperson yelled at me, saying over and over “Do you want this seat or not?” until I said “No.”
I took my coat and walked into the other room. I heard the staffperson tell the woman not to do that again, and then yelling at the woman when the woman yelled at her. All she had to do was make the woman give me back my seat, which she didn’t do because the conglomerate is successfully stigmatizing and persecuting me.
Last night, when I was about to put my coat on two chairs that were pushed together and that had nothing on them, a woman who had two chairs next to them said that they were saved for someone else. The other chairs that seemed available were in the next row, a couple of feet from the woman who told me that the first chairs I’d gone toward were reserved.
She did some yelling last night. She also decided to eat something from a cellophane bag a few hours before people were supposed to get up.
After the lights were on and the chairs had been put back where they usually are, a woman put her things in the chair next to mine and then asked me to make sure that they were safe while she was away for a few minutes. I said “OK.”
When she got back, she kept saying things like “It smells here! It smells like pee!” She walked away and then back again, holding her hand over her nose. She continued to say and do things like that until I said “Next time, don’t ask me to take care of your things for you while you’re gone.” She started to yell at me.
A staffperson who looked like she was a supervisor heard the yelling; I told her what had happened. The woman who had been harassing me said “It smells, but I wasn’t talking about her.” The staffperson said to me, “It does smell over here, but she’s not talking about you; it’s not about you.”
The woman said “She’s white and I’m Latina,” and tried to imply that I was racist and abusing her. After the staffperson walked away, the woman sat in her chair with her hand over her nose. When the staffperson looked over at us again, I raised my hand. She walked over and I said “She’s been sitting there with her hand over her nose.”
The staffperson started to talk to me as if I were being stupid or difficult, saying loudly and slowly, “Let it go.” She said it several times, in a tone of voice that implied that I was doing something wrong by objecting to what was happening.
A few minutes later, the same homeless woman took out her inhaler and started to use it. A few other people started coughing.
I went to the door of the office and tried to tell the two women who were there what had happened. At first, they wouldn’t let me speak. They kept saying “You can talk about it later; we’re busy right now.” When I’d said “I can tell you what happened in two sentences” a few times, they stopped interrupting every word I said long enough for me to say “She asked me to watch her stuff for her and then when she got back she kept saying and implying that something smelled.” One of the staffpeople then said “We’re going to put you both out if you don’t stop.”
It seemed like the right time to leave. It was not yet 5:30 a.m..
When I got to Cambridge and was sitting in the park across the street from On The Rise, waiting for On The Rise to open, I wrote all of the above. When I’d written the last sentence in the last paragraph, a “HOMANS ASSOCIATE” truck drove up next to the park.
On The Rise is a day shelter; people don’t sleep there. I have been barred from almost all of the shelters where people stay in the Boston/Cambridge area, because of having been abused until I couldn’t take it anymore. Although a lot of people would already think of a place such as the Pine Street Inn as being “The End Of The Road,” they might not realize that it doesn’t have to be THAT true. There were other places where the road of my being able to be in a shelter has ended where it should not have. I have been homeless for much longer than I would have been if the conglomerate hadn’t been persecuting me; if the conglomerate hadn’t persecuted me, I might not have been homeless over this past year and a half. A lot of things would not have happened that did.
I am out of time and can’t edit this for grammar or spelling.
Copyright L. Kochman, November 27, 2012 @ 2:24 p.m.