Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ruthie On The Road, Update

"It's a damn cold night..." --from the song by Avril Lavigne.

The snow is blowing sideways like a flapping, frozen curtain of white. The power keeps cutting in-and-out in this motel and at the Burger King next door.

My flashlight is right beside me on the table.

I'm in West-Central Iowa now.

But while I can still use the Internet, I will post an update about how I got to this location.

I left the Super 8 in Creston, Iowa (off of Highway 34) and walked out to the road. I got rides, but they were few and far between.

Near the end of the day, when I was losing daylight, a man picked me up. He drove me to Council Bluffs, Iowa where we finally flagged down a local cop.

We asked him where I could go to get shelter. He said that all single women stay in a shelter in nearby Omaha, Nebraska.

"Why should those women have to leave the State to get shelter?" I wondered.

The man and I couldn't find the shelter and he had to go to a meeting in Omaha. Or so he said.

So he left me by a ramp to Interstate 80 Westbound in Omaha and then took off. Before he drove away, I asked him if he would give me a couple bucks for a cup of hot coffee. He refused.

Somewhere down the line, I sincerely hope that he (who said that his name is Gordon) has a moment of very bad karma.

I stood there, on that concrete, grass and gravel ramp, for three hours. No one ever stopped. When I finally gave up and walked back down the ramp, the temperature on a bank sign read 36F.

I walked into that Mickey D's and the crew there immediately took charge.

They called the cops, directed me to a couch, poured me a large hot coffee and matched it with a Big Mac in a bag. I thought of Gordon and mentally flipped him off.

The cops, a lady and a man, walked in and smiled at me. I was instantly relieved because the cop that I'd talked to earlier in the evening in Council Bluffs DIDN'T smile.

The cops brought me over a shelter...which is divided between a building for men and one for women.

I got my laundry done, took a shower and then went to bed. I stayed one extra day after a couple of staff women said that they were going to put me on a bus to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

I can take short hops on a bus but I won't tolerate any more long-distance runs.

The women told me that the ticket was purchased and that all of the plans were made. I would be getting on a bus the following morning.

That never happened.

(The following is taken from an email that I sent to a member of the provider-system in Omaha, Nebraska. It describes what happened after the bus trip plans were made.):

______________________

I recently stayed at a shelter in Omaha for two nights. I am
hitchhiking back from Muncie, Indiana to Oregon.

And when I first got to Council Bluffs, Iowa, the cops there told me
that there is nowhere for single women to stay in their city.

So I ended up at that shelter in Omaha.

During the time that I stayed there, I was offered a bus ticket to
Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

But that bus ride never happened.

Instead, I walked out in the morning rain to a building where a
so-called case worker said that she would meet me. I was there when I
was supposed to be there. She was going to help me to do some research
online before I was driven over to the bus station.

The woman never showed up. Neither did the driver.

But a man with a temper and a terrible attitude did. He said that he
was the one that bought my ticket. I tried to explain to him that
nothing that was originally set-up was materializing. I didn't know
where anyone was or what to do.

He just started lecturing me and I finally walked out.

Now, it was cold, rainy, windy and I had no idea where to go to get some help.

I had checked-out of the shelter and I walked up the street wondering
what to do next.

A young man, named Caleb, came up on his bike and befriended me. He
helped me with my big, heavy backpack, found the walking bridge over
the river to Council Bluffs, let me use his phone to make calls, etc.
He was dedicated to the cause.

Caleb is eighteen-years-young and just got out of jail.

We met a middle-aged woman in Council Bluffs who noticed us trudging
down the sidewalk. Her name is Cheryl.

Cheryl didn't have a car but she does have a very good heart. She
walked with us over to Burger King and bought us each a burger and a
cup of hot coffee.

Then she got on a city bus with us and paid for the fare. She directed
the driver to drop us off at the Salvation Army building. I struck out
there and we were told to go over to the nearby Micah House.

We did but we found out that they only shelter men.

The female workers there confirmed the fact that there is nowhere for
single, homeless women to stay for any length of time in Council
Bluffs.

But they wanted to help me and after I said goodbye to Caleb, they
brought me into the building.

The ladies fed me a hot meal, put together a bag of travel food and
found me a winter jacket with a thick liner. They let me use the phone
and then they prayed for my safety on the road.

I walked out of that building with a renewed sense of purpose.

When I reached the I-29 North and Southbound split, a man came out of
nowhere in his car and stopped beside me. He took me 20 miles north to
the Missouri Valley exit and put me up overnight in the Super 8 motel.
Then he gave me twenty-three dollars and patted me on my shoulder.

This man saw me, turned around and came back. His mother fell and
broke her hip yesterday in Florida. He was on his way to that State
when he happened to see me.

This morning, after a stormy night, I am going to go back out on the
ramp to I-29 Northbound. I hope that I at least get a ride to a rest
area where I will hunker down until Sunday morning (I will make use of
the free wi-fi as I have my own laptop). Or perhaps I will make it all
the way up to Sioux Falls and beyond.

Whatever happens, I know that God will be with me. He sent angels to
care for me yesterday. One right after another.

But the organized set of providers in Omaha totally dropped the ball.
______________________

Hope springs eternal, I believe, from those who truly give a damn.

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