Commuting to shelters.
I have spent a few days in St. Paul. The conditions at Harbor lights proved simply intolerable. The environment is noisy, overcrowded, and chaotic. Although I am on a waitlist at Our Savior, I have not been able to get in. (I finally got in on Friday). The process of moving in and out of a place every week and going to lottery over and over again is stressful and seems counterproductive.
St. Paul offers its own set of challenges. I am not entirely familiar with the area. I have opted to stay at Dorothy Day. Check in at Dorothy Day appears to have the both random PBT testing and bag searches at the door. Dorothy Day now provides bedding to people staying in the free to stay area. You get a plastic bag to store the bedding in and write your name to keep track of it from night to night. You should inspect the bedding before use as it may not be clean.
Check in is at 8:30 p.m. and exit is 6:30 a.m. The center reopens at 9:00 a.m.
In the morning, I opt to go to Salvation Army for breakfast. The breakfast seems more like a dinner or lunch at times, but the food is not in short supply. The center does not open until 7:15 or 7:20 because service does not start until 7:30 a.m. (I am not entirely sure why departure from Dorothy Day is 6:30 a.m. when breakfast is not served until 7:30 a.m.)
Dinner has been a bit more problematic than anticipated. Last fall when I spent a few days at Dorothy Day they served hot meals even during the later check in. Now it is sandwiches.
Between 6:30-7:30 there are few things one can do. There is a free hotspot at the St. Paul Convention center provided by Headwaters cafe. I am not entirely sure what there hours are as they seem to close fairly early (3pm) and open later (7 am) than the coffee shops in Minneapolis. I picked up a cup of coffee at the cafe. There is also a document printing company inside the convention center. It is tucked away in a small corner of the building. You have to go upstairs and toward the carpetted area and go through the glass doors on the right.
The library hours are also a bit different. The library is typically open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Monday has different hours, but since Monday is lottery day, I won’t be in St. Paul anyway. The library does provide access to the internet. In my experience, such access was limited to 1 hour per day per library. You need to library hop in order to get more than 1 hour. In Minneapolis, the access to the internet seems much better- allowing for multiple renewals. The wi-fi access is unlimited at St. Paul so having a laptop or netbook is critical in that circumstances. For people without their own laptops, netbooks, or wi-fi capable devices, Minneapolis is probably a better bet. There is a scanner on the third floor, but you will probably need a usb stick to take full advantage of it. Printing costs a dime.
Transportation can get a bit sticky. MTC has placed automated machines inside their store. Points of sale appear to close relatively early, which means you cannot count on purchasing fare after 5 p.m. This can make it very difficult for someone like me. I can’t buy the fare until I know that I have a bed at Our Savior. I don’t find out until 6 p.m. The smart thing would be to have a token in stock for such an occasion. (Free bus rides would again be helpful).
After a few days in St. Paul, I headed back to Our Savior. My first night in Our Savior I had a room all to myself. It is the first time in months I have had a room to myself. Still, it meant a bed that could have been used was not. Some people have been wondering why the shelters do not call us, rather than always vice-versa.
In any case, my last night at Our Savior is tonight and then the cycle of stupidity begins again with a new lottery Monday.