I Went Undercover at a Homeless Shelter -- You Wouldn't Believe the Shocking Abuses I Found There
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I work with the homeless every day at City Walk (and I mean Every Day, on Sundays when we are closed, my husband and I take a group of them to church.) One of my biggest goals is to show them God's love for them, that there is hope, that they have value and they can overcome this trial in their life and get back on their feet.
We have a group of guys that stay at The Shelter that come every day to escape the drama of that area of town. They love to come help and pass the time blessing other people. We help them apply for jobs online or in person, counsel them and figure out where they need to be (sometimes this involves letting them work off a bus ticket back to family.)
Whenever I first heard complaints about The Shelter, I shrugged it off. I figuredof course they are going to complain about it. It is not supposed to be Club Med, but a place to sleep outside of the elements. If it was too comfortable, people would not be motivated enough to leave.
But as time went on, the complaints started coming from different sources about the same things. We give out backpacks, clothes and blankets at City Walk. I kept seeing the same faces come back for blankets or backpacks. When I ask them what happened to their other blanket or backpack, they tell me that staff at The Shelter threw them away.
After getting this "excuse" 10 times a week for several weeks, I decided to inquire with my daily volunteers. They told me that they won't let you bring your own blanket. I figured it must be so people can't sneak in any drugs, alcohol or weapons.
Many of the guys sleep outside under the polebarn, which is fenced in onShelter property. They told me that they are not allowed to bring their backpacks inside when they go eat. When they come back out to the polebarn their backpacks were collected by staff and thrown in the dumpster.
Many of these backpacks contained all the men had to their name, including important documents like their Birth Certificate, and photos and letters from loved ones.
The last straw was Sunday morning when we picked up 4 of the guys for church. I asked them how they slept and they all said lousy. Their blankets were taken away and staff would not issue any of the 42 men that slept outside a blanket at check-in.
When one of the men went back up to tell staff that they all needed blankets, the staff member yelled at all the guys, "You are not getting blankets tonight and I don't care if you all freeze to death!"
This irritated me, but I know there are two sides to every story. As I inquired with others, the stories matched up too well. I also know that many good citizens of Tallahassee go out of their way to donate blankets to City Walk or directly to The Shelter, so to deny the men a blanket is spiteful to the rest of us whodonate. It's funny they don't have any problem collecting their paycheck paid for from our donations and tax dollars.
So I decided to go undercover and see for myself what it was like for a women to check herself into the Tallahassee Shelter.
Since many of the staff has seen me around there giving out blankets and Bibles, I knew I had to disguise myself. I put on an auburn wig that made my hair shorter and a baseball cap.
Sunday night, as I entered the area to check-in, an older black woman entered right behind me. The male staff member behind the counter yelled at the woman,"You're late for check-in, you have to sleep outside tonight!"