The Walk of Shame the Homeless Encounter at a ‘Mission’ – blog post by Ernest Ramey, President of Veterans Theater

I am a person who has been homeless and though I am now housed, I am never far from being homeless again. The thought of losing my residence and moving back into a homeless camp does not scare me, because I’ve been there and done that. Since I am now older and in poorer health I know that the challenges would be great.

The reason that I didn’t mention anything about going to live in a Shelter is simply, I would never consider it. I have two dogs and the thought of giving them up truly does scare me. The thought of penning my Pets outside in the elements while I stay inside does not fit in my head. Neither of my Pets has spent a single night alone in their lives. The older Dog I bought for 10 dollars in 2009 while living in a homeless camp.They are a part of my life and share equally in all the things that I do. They are served portions of the same food that I prepare for myself. They have their own furniture and my human guests are not allowed to sit in their furniture. They have a say in who visits my home and if the dog does not like you, you will be asked to leave my home. They are nice Dogs and have always loved the people that I have invited into my Homeless camp, and later into my Home. For me the two are the same. A homeless camp is a Home. Especially when you have no other.

When a person gets to the end of their rope and they have to make the Mission walk it can be with mixed feelings. The first time I made the Mission walk I did so slowly and painfully because my feet were sore from days of being on my feet, and not having clean socks to put on. I was grateful to be in the Mission dormitory and off my sore feet. Luckily I had a current ID or I would not have been granted entrance to the Mission or been given my small place to relax. I was only allowed to be in my small assigned area at certain times. I had to be up and out at 6 in the morning and could not return until 3 in the afternoon. I had to be checked in by 5 in the afternoon or be kicked out of the Mission for a 30 day period. Lights out was at 10pm and if I was not in my bed I would be kicked out. Bed checks were made every two hours and if I was not either in my bed or in the communal bathroom I would be asked to leave. At the Mission I stayed at you were only allowed to stay 3 days every 30 days, unless you were good at jumping through hoops like a trained circus animal. There was the job search hoop trick, the volunteer to work on the property hoop trick, the go to school hoop trick, or if you were lucky enough to have a job hoop trick. Then you would be allowed to stay longer like any good circus animal. People who live in homes think that Homeless Missions are there for homeless people always ready to take them in 24 \ 7 , that is not the case. That is what they put in the brochures when the Mission is fund raising. They never show the hoops to the unsuspecting public. If You find yourself in need after 5 pm you must wait until the next day to be given refuge.

The first Mission walk I ever made was to the Gospel Rescue Mission of El Paso. When I say make the ‘Mission Walk’ what I am describing is the moment in a persons life that you have no home to go to, so you go to the last place available to you. As you make the Mission walk for the first time, You are on a learning journey. You have become homeless slept outside and are still trying to put up a front to society that you are not homeless. Still a member of that Society. The act of checking into a Mission for the first time strips away any chance of denying that you are homeless, and therefore undesirable. You are bone tired and do not know anything about the place that you will seek refuge in. On the first day you stay there if you are lucky enough to get in, most of your belongings will be stolen because you think that you are in a safe place, later you will learn to keep all of your things with you at all times. You will learn the all abiding rule at a Mission   ‘ KNOW YOUR PLACE ‘.   You will be shown the hoop and encouraged to jump through it. If you don’t you will be kicked out. You learn to revere the people who work at the mission as if they were ‘ Gods ‘ because they can promptly and with extreme prejudice kick you out of heaven.

Now we will talk about the ‘ Walk of Shame ‘. The Walk of Shame is when you have been told to leave the Mission, and so you head out to sleep rough. As you walk away from the Mission all the residents watch you go, they know what challenges you face. If you have made any friends you say your goodbys and head out to do the best that you can. This happens every day in every large city in this Nation. Missions are not the Saviors that they make themselves out to be. They are institutions that deal in the currency of homeless body counts. When push comes to shove the Homeless are the ones that feel it. They are the the unseen in this picture.

Ernest Ramey