It’s been a busy morning at Patchwork.
Last night there was a deluge in Evansville, complete with strong winds, torrential rain, and storm warnings. As I open the doors, I hear one of our regulars comment, “It feels so good inside here.”
I talk to everyone as they sign up for showers and pick up soap, shampoo, and towels. One man borrows our hair dryer to dry his clothing. He’s sleeping outdoors in a tent, spent a miserable night dodging leaks, and is glad for Patchwork this morning. We chat about the weather.
A man who is new to Patchwork discovers that he can take a shower here and exclaims, “Hallelujah! Thank God for small favors!”
A couple people use the phone for important phone calls. Someone asks me to look up a phone number for him.
We brew the fifth pot of coffee of the morning as a list of nine people wait patiently for their turn in the shower.
Another man comes in to shave. I don’t recognize him right away and I ask, “Have you been here before?”
“Yes, I was here this summer with another guy–tall, skinny, grey hair. He’s the one who told me about this place.”
“Oh yeah, that sounds familiar,” I say.
He’s happy to have someone to talk to, and he tells me the story of his summer. He’s been homeless and has alternated between the shelters, the outdoors, the hospital, and (briefly) jail. He says he didn’t mind living outdoors during the summer, but now that it’s gotten rainy and colder he’s contemplating his options. He says that if he hadn’t been able to come to Patchwork this morning, he would have attempted to shave off three days of stubble on the banks of the Ohio River. He says it feels good to be clean-shaven again. He’s optimistic. He’s been waiting three years to get disability payments and anticipates that it shouldn’t be too much longer before they’ll come and he will be able to afford housing.
Another man wipes up counters and washes coffee cups in the kitchen. He noticed that our custodian wasn’t here today and he wants to help out. He was a child in Patchwork’s children’s program in the early 1980’s, and he remembers the time before the Washington Avenue Temple burned down. He has fond memories of Ruth Doyle and of Calvin Kimbrough playing guitar. “It’s always a pleasure to come back to Patchwork,” he says.
The next day, I’ve found an old photo album for him to look at. He flips through the book: “There’s me on the swim team. There’s me in the spelling bee. I won it two years in a row. There’s my sister–there are more photos of her in here than there are of me!”
He tells Shawn that this is one of the best days he’s had in a while. He’s gotten to relive fond memories and he got some warm clothes out of our little clothing bank.
He shows the book to his friends who are sitting around a table, eating donuts, and drinking coffee. He tells them, “Too bad you didn’t come here as a kid. You could have done all this stuff, too!”