I have never been homeless, but I have spent time backpacking Europe, which is kind of like being homeless but with money and options. Everything I took with me on the trip fit into my backpack: it had to be small and I was very particular on what I would take; after all, I would be carrying it around and be responsible for it for the next 7+ days.
No matter how well I packed my bag, it got heavy after awhile. When you put it on your shoulders as soon as you finish your breakfast and you finally set it down next to your bed, long after the sun has set when you’ve been walking all day, your entire body feels it. Like a burden, it followed me to all the historical sights, restaurants, parks, and restrooms. The picture of me standing in front of Stonehenge features my backpack.
I couldn’t set it down: all my clothes, toiletries, itineraries, alarm clock, extra cash – all of my needed earthly possessions were in that bag. I couldn’t just leave it anywhere. Without it, I would be in dire straights.
Luckily, if I had made previous reservations with a hostel or found a B&B early in the day, I was able to leave my pack with the facility and not carry it all day. It was under lock and key – either in my private room or in a locked closet where the front desk clerk only had access. I could enjoy my vacation knowing I would come home to my pack (my everything!) undisturbed. It was a huge weight off my mind.
Our homeless brothers and sisters have the same problem I had in Europe: their life is on their backs. They have to carry their packs everywhere with them. Leaving it lying around isn’t an option because it could be stolen; with money scarce, the cost to replace it would be nearly impossible to do. They don’t have the luxury of a house with locks on it.
And so, The Anchor has designed a solution to this problem: a day center. It is a location downtown where those without a place to call home can put their pack in a safe dry place for the day to go about their business and pick it up later. For some, it is merely a respite to not carry around a heavy pack all day. For others, it is a chance to go on a job interview or meet with caretakers without luggage. The day center will also double as a mailbox to receive mail for those who do not have a permanent address. In the future, we hope to equip the center with a shower and a free washing machine; clean clothes and bodies are essential when you’re constantly on the move – a comfort not many of our homeless friends currently have.
It may seem small and not all that necessary to most, but for those of us who have lived out of a backpack, whether it be in the short term or long term, this is a welcomed oasis.