Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ruthie On The Road, Update

The following letter has been sent to several sources. What they plan to do about the problems remains to be seen:

I am writing to you because I don't have a direct line of written
communication with _____, who, I understand, is
the Chairperson on the Board of _______ in Utah.

So I am sending this letter to you with a request that you CC it to
_____. I appreciate your assistance.

I am homeless. I am a fifty-three year old woman. I have a bad left
foot and walk with a cane.

I am not helpless. I am not a drug user or a drinker, either. I don' t
even smoke. I have no criminal record.

And I expected a much better experience at ________ than I received.

I walked in to _______ at the usual time on Monday, November 10 to
check-in for the evening. I saw a bowl of candy on the counter.

"Hey, may I have one of those?" I asked the two people behind the desk.

"You may have only one" said the woman, "And you can't eat it upstairs."

"Okay by me" I replied and put one in my hand.

I stood there for a minute waiting to be breathalyzed. Everyone who
checks-in to stay at _______ every night has to be breathalyzed. That's
part of the routine.

"What are you waiting for?" asked the woman. (The man never said a
word at that point, by the way.)

"Aren't you going to breathalyze me?" I asked.

"No, why...should we?" answered the woman, in a rude tone of voice.

"No" I said, offended, "I don't drink."

"Well, you can't eat that candy upstairs." The woman said, taking her
obvious condescension up another notch.

"I know" I said "I heard you the first time."

"Well, if you're going to have an attitude then you can just put the
candy back." said the woman.

I just looked at her and shook my head. Then I unwrapped the candy,
popped it in my mouth and headed for the elevator.

I went upstairs into the women's dorm. I got my stuff organized for
the next day and then I went into the bathroom. There are two sinks in
the bathroom and one of them is connected to plumbing that sometimes
makes noise when it's used. But I figured that I could just use it for
a few minutes and try to adjust the water flow so it wouldn't do its
little squeaky noise. Besides, everyone else up there uses that sink
whenever they darn well want to, and nobody says a word to them.

I brushed my teeth and was about to wash my face when a big, Black
woman charged in and turned the water off.

"Quit usin' dat water!" she bellowed, "Use da odder sink!"

I pulled the toothbrush out of my mouth and told her that I would be
done in thirty-seconds. I then informed her that I'd use any sink that
I chose...just like everyone else does.

"I don't want you usin' dat sink!" she said, "It's noisy and..."

"You're making a whole lot more noise right now than the sink is" I interrupted.

She gave me a look like she couldn't believe that I wouldn't do what
she told me to do. Then she went and got the dorm monitor and they
both tore into me.

Two women hassling me in a shelter bathroom was just too much for me.
I could see that they were just starting to be unreasonable...and that
it would only get worse if I stayed.

The dorm monitor should have handled it differently. But it's no
surprise that she didn't.

A shelter doesn't always work right if the only thing one does is just
throw money at it. And there's such a thing as throwing good money
after bad.

So, I got my stuff together in the plastic tote bin and carried it
along with my backpack to the elevator door. I then went downstairs
and told the so-called "security guard" there that I was going to
re-dress for outside in the downstairs ladies room, pack up my
backpack and leave.

He asked me what happened and I refused to elaborate. I knew that it
was pointless. That guy isn't nice. In the short time that I was at
_______, he was never nice to me.

Then he told me that I couldn't put on warm clothes or re-pack my
backpack. He told me to get out and got very close to throwing all of
my clothes and possessions into a puddle outside. He told me to get my
things and leave the property.

Without changing my clothes, I would've frozen outside. It was a cold,
windy and wet night. I needed to be prepared for it. And with rain and
puddles everywhere, it would've been impossible to pack everything
properly into my pack.

The man was totally unreasonable.

Then, I told him that I was going to call for help and took the
plastic tote with all of my stuff outside.

"If you don't leave right now, I'm calling the cops" he said.

"I'll beat you to it" I responded, and dialed 911 on my cell phone.

I got the dispatcher on the line while the man was still raving. He
said, "I've been through 100 people like you. I'll tell them that I
have sixteen witnesses that saw that you did something. You won't get
anywhere with..."

That's when I put up my hand, silenced him and then informed him that
I had the 911 dispatcher on my cell phone. I told him that, at that
particular moment, it was a good time for him to shut up.

Then I gave him a look that made it clear that I wasn't kidding.

He is much bigger and taller than I am. But I had put up with enough.

"You don't really have the cops on your phone" he jeered. I showed him
the numbers on my cell phone screen and continued to answer the
dispatcher's questions.

Two cops showed up as a result of my call and told him to leave me
alone. One cop dealt with him after that while I explained my
situation to the other one.

"So at this point, you want to change into warm clothes, pack the rest
of your stuff into your backpack in a reasonable fashion, give him his
plastic bin back and leave, right?" asked the cop.

"Yeah." I answered.

"Okay, just a minute, I'll go talk with him." said the cop.

Then he went inside and came back out, leaving the insecure security
guard by the shelter door.

"He says he's willing to let you take care of what you've gotta do."
explained the cop.

"It's about time" I said and thanked him.

I walked back in, past the guard and went into the ladies room. Just
like I had first planned to do.

And I did.

Then I left.

And I walked up to a gas station where a nice lady works. I never
asked, she offered and ended up taking me up to a truck stop
after her shift was through.

From there, I walked up the interstate to the next exit where a larger
Pilot truck stop (and a better chance for me to get a ride) is
located. Then I hitchhiked from there to where I am a small
town in Idaho.

A very kind woman, with five little ones in her mini-van, saw me
walking through the rain along a highway and made a decision. She
pulled the van around, parked, prayed and then drove up beside me. She
saw me, walking with my cane, backpack on my shoulders and with my
thumb thrust out toward the traffic. And she asked God if I was worth
the risk.

I believe that God said yes.

I accepted the ride, got pizza, met her friends, met her husband and
stayed in a nice, warm bed here at their home last night.

She and her husband are aware of what happened to me. And that is one
of the reasons why they are letting me use their home computer to send
this to you.

She and her husband didn't let me down. The people who picked me up
along the way yesterday didn't let me down. The cops didn't let me
down. God didn't let me down.

The people at that shelter did.

My point is made.

Please pass this letter along to the Board Members.

Ruth Rader

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