I practically fell down a mountain into the Salt Lake Valley with feelings of excitement and worry. I was excited to be in a new place with a new adventure. I was also excited to see some of my family and a couple of friends that I hadn't seen in a while; one of them had been out of my presence for over five years. However, I was worried that being so close to so many people that I hadn't seen in so long would distract me from the reason I was there. How can I get a feeling for homelessness if I have places to stay all the time? Arriving on a Friday afternoon, I decided to just scrap the first weekend and do some visiting; I would get started on Monday.
That weekend, I rode a long board down Provo Canyon, I hiked up a mountain, saw a lot of family and a few friends, and enjoyed my life.
I spent so much time wandering around the city and taking in it's history that sometimes I forgot what I was doing. I was able to keep myself on track. There's a lot of ways for the 13,000 homeless people in Salt Lake to live. Some things are the same as other cities, and some are different. There are a few different shelters where people can stay and eat. During the colder months, they need to leave the shelter by 7:15 AM and can come back by 3PM for women and children and 4:30PM the the men. Then there are the people who, for differing reasons, don't stay in the shelters. Some of them have cars that they sleep in, some are left on the streets hiding from the police (for "safety" reasons they are not allowed to sleep out on the streets), some do stay with friends or family, and some go up into the surrounding canyons and camp.
I've heard a few stories and reasons people have decided to stay "unsheltered" at night. Some people just want to be able to sleep next to their husband or wife, the shelters keep men and women in separate areas for obvious reasons. It would be nice if they had an area for married couples to sleep. One man that I talked to got the blood of a drug addict sprayed on him one night. He was laying in bed and the guy in the bed next to him went to "shoot up" and blood sprayed all over. So he left right then and never went back.
I slept in my car as often as I could. I decided that I could handle being one of the homeless people that stayed with friends and family for my time here as long as I kept my mind on what I was doing.
The block that the City and County Building sits on is another place much like Pioneer Park. It has beautiful, very shaded grounds. There's benches to lay on and everything. Incidentally, I don't like sleeping on park benches. It's not that they're uncomfortable, quite the contrary. My problem is that if there are people walking by, even when I'm asleep I'm still aware of all the people. It's not very resting. This guy didn't seem to have any problems.
Liberty Park is a huge park in Salt Lake, but it's not very close to anything. There are a few homeless people that spend time there, and the fact that the park has a Wi-Fi signal doesn't hurt either. Yes, I talked about the internet and using computers. If you don't think homeless people can have a laptop then go to the backside of the Salt Lake Library before it opens. You will see.
And so, even though, I spent much of my time in Salt Lake City sleeping on couches and being taken out to eat, I had time to learn what life is like on the streets of SLC.