The day started off relatively normal (which, I must confess, I am not exactly sure what normal is at the mission). We had a pretty full house but because we are still in the first third of the month we had a couple extra spots on the food/clothing list.
It was about 11:30 when a couple came in the doorway and made their way up the stairs. I didn’t recognize them. I assumed they were new to Cross and Crown and so I did my best to explain how things worked. They said they were interested in getting some food and asked if we were a shelter. I told them some of the different things we were able to offer them but that we weren’t able to offer much in the way of shelter.
They explained how they were from out of town. They came with a fair, got fired while in Oklahoma City and now were stranded. They said they could definitely use the food but shelter was their number one need.
Again, I explained that we weren’t capable of housing individuals but the good news was that City Rescue Mission located downtown did a pretty good job of handling most housing/shelter needs. As I started to explain how to get to City Rescue they quickly interrupted and said that they had already been several times and had been turned away night after night because the shelter was full.
I found that a little bit peculier. First of all, City Rescue is a pretty large facility. They have mens, womens and family housing available. Secondly, most of the individuals we know and that come to Cross and Crown don’t head down to City Rescue or any other shelter when it is as warm as it has been lately. Generally they head that way when it gets cold.
So, after things slowed down on the food panty end I made a phone call over to City Rescue to find out what the couple needed to do in order to get a bed for the night. The individual that I spoke with at City Rescue was very helpful and straight-forward. She told me they needed to be there by 7:00 p.m. and to have one form of i.d. Easy enough. I asked her about the shelter being full the last several nights and she informed me that they haven’t had to turn anyone away in several weeks. Hmmm.
I reported back to the couple and told them what I had been told. Be there by 7:00. Have one form of i.d. I also told them the woman I spoke informed me that they hadn’t run out of beds in weeks and that there were currently beds available…..
“Yeah, but we aren’t separating”, they quickly replied.
After some q & a I discovered that they had been offered beds but were unwilling to separate into the men’s and women’s dorms. They informed me how they had been married for less than 9 months and were unwilling to be apart. Even if that meant having to sleep on the streets? Yep. They both explained how they had one thing going and that was each other. Fair enough.
We talked for several more minutes and discussed some other options in the city. I directed them to some other agencies that offered meals during the day and they seemed content. I, in order to make sure they understood they had an opportunity but were choosing not to take advantage of it, rehashed their decision not to be apart for 7-8 hours in order to have a safe place to stay for the night. But, they stayed true to their decision to not be apart and ultimately decided the risk of being on the streets was not a big enough threat to split up for the night.
I get that they love each other. In all honesty, they were right, they didn’t/don’t have a whole lot going their way right now and so they have decided the one thing they do have going for them, each other, is too valuable to be without, even if it’s only for a few hours.
I, personally, in their position, would opt for my wife and I to be apart for a few hours each night to be in a safe place, rather than the streets. I value my wife’s safety in the long term and so I would choose to be apart at night, rather than together on the streets night after night. But, I can’t knock them for wanting to stay together throughout their hard times. I might change my mind after having to be apart from her night after night. I don’t know.
So here’s my question. What would you do? Do you live on the streets with your spouse night after night? Or, do you split up each evening to sleep in a warm, safe place?