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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/27/15

Postcard from the End of America: Center City, Philadelphia

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"And you're expected to be out by when?"

"5:10."

"What about people who have trouble getting up at that hour? Like the really old and weak?"

"It doesn't matter. They come round and clap in your face really loud and shout, 'It's time to wake up! It's time to wake up!' It's the most annoying sound. There are three counselors and they rush the sh*t out of you. I swear, when I'm 80-years-old, if I ever hear someone say the words, 'It's time to wake up!' I'm going to, like, have a seizure, because just the memory of hearing it over and over again, and being clapped at, like, in my ears, it's going to haunt me forever. It's terrible."

Angel's shelter is Broad Street Ministry, "Many of these shelters are closed down churches. Each night, they'll only let up to 75 people in. If it's below freezing, if it's 20 below, I think they let up to 80 or even 100 in. They can easily fit 100 people in there. We all sleep on the floor and there's enough space. They can even fit 300 people in there. There are two floors, but the second floor, the bigger one, is only used for meal time. At 7 O'clock, they serve dinner, and at 10PM, they let people in who want to stay for the night."

"So that's two separate shifts?"

"Yes. I feel that a lot of normal people who have jobs and places to stay, they go in there for free meals as well, which is really strange, so they reserve the second floor just for the meals, instead of filling it up with homeless people who just want some place warm to sleep for the night.

You line up outside, and at 10 O'clock, they open the door. There is a priority list. Apparently, you have to have been going there every night for at least six months to get on the priority list, so most people aren't on this priority list. It's mostly elderly women that I see on the priority list, and they line up at the right door. That means that if there are 75 on the priority list, the rest of the people standing outside the left door will be turned away. It doesn't matter how early they got there, or how many there are."

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.


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