© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Guardian reporter Jim Day spent a quiet night at the Bedford MacDonald House in Charlottetown recently.
Jim Day spends quiet night at Bedford MacDonald House
The phoney arrives.
It’s roughly 5:25 p.m. when I show up at the men’s shelter in Charlottetown Wednesday looking to spend the night.
My watch, wedding ring and gold chain all left at home. No overnight bag. Just the clothing (drawn from my gruffer attire) on my back.
Lloyd, the night supervisor, was expecting me, the reporter.
He still did his best to play along, treating me like he would any of the homeless who show up at the door of The Salvation Army Bedford MacDonald House on any given evening.
I fill in the obligatory form that seeks information such as medical conditions, substance abuse addictions, and referral, whether by police, social services, corrections, self or other.
I was given a lengthy set of shelter rules to read, then to follow.
The grand tour was next.
I had been offered a good look at the place in the past prior to the facility re-opening in late December 2012, but the shelter certainly takes on a different appearance and feel when you know you are going to be spending the night — and you are left wondering how many homeless people will be sharing the facility with you and just what kind of interaction, if any, is in store.
The shelter can accommodate nine men with seven beds and two roll-away cots. A full house like that, I thought, might make for an intriguing night — perhaps even a rather uncomfortable, intimidating one.
Would I be sized up as a fake? Would I unintentionally offend? Would I be harassed, possibly harmed?
The night would turn out to be tame and uneventful.
First, I make my bed from the neatly folded sheets, pillowcase and thin wool blanket. The bed, which is slightly shorter than me, almost stretches the length of the tiny, tight room. A small plastic garbage receptacle completes the furnishings.
I head downstairs to the large common area, plop down on a soft couch, and flip on a large, flat screen TV.
Television, a book, and a pleasant chat with Lloyd would eat away the next five plus hours before I set off to sleep on not the most comfortable of beds.
Regrettably, I am not able to experience the shelter with the presence of homeless people on this particular night.
I am able, however, to allow my mind to wander into that rather chilling ‘what if’ scenario. What if I should be debilitated by a mental illness, consumed by addiction or simply fall on hard financial times, being left a homeless person?