Rules vs. Red Tape

Since my experience has started…I have realized that to receive aid as a homeless person (from a government run shelter), you have to go through a lot of red tape.

Red Tape is not surprising in some ways.  I assume many of the rules and regulations they have in place are there for good reason…for safety, organization, control, and law enforcement.  Rules are good.  Moses had the 10 commandments.  (And hundreds of other Mosaic Laws in addition too…)

However, there are some pieces of red tape that drive many of my homeless friends crazy, and keep them from entering places that can truly help them.  Before you read this…I’m not saying the rules are bad or evil. Just observing the feelings of others here at the shelter.

Here are some rules:  (Some rules are obvious…but just listing them….)

1.  You cannot bring food into the outdoor homeless shelter.
2.  No medicine is allowed to be taken without supervision…even if you are over 18.
3.  No unopened drinks or canned drinks allowed.
4.  No doors on bathroom stalls.
5.  Sleeping Mats are taken up at 6:30am…and passed out at 9pm.  (Only at those hours)
6.  All bags must be searched before entering.
7.  Outdoor Area gate closes at 10pm.
8.  No Drugs or Alcohol.
9.  Men and Women have separate sleeping areas outside.  (Even if you are married.)
10.  Can’t be drunk or high….and enter the shelter.
11.  Laundry is allowed…must sign up at 4am.


When I returned to the Outdoor Shelter last night, I experienced a different atmosphere than before.

People were mad.

Apparently since I have been with William in his shed…the staff at the outdoor shelter has changed some rules in order to live in the outdoor area.

People here frequently say that the staff changes the rules all the time with no rhyme or reason. I bet that’s not totally true…but it appears that way to the residents.  Here is what they are saying….

First change: to get a mat to sleep on at night you must now turn in your ID Card. This seems reasonable to me, but according to my friends, it is a huge disaster in the morning. At 6:30am, you have hundreds of people in line to get IDs back….so now, if you are going to work, you have to get up even earlier to miss the crowd so you are not late to work. It seems simple, but when you are out here living this way…it’s a big “pain in the rear.” (Before …you just had to return the mat back to the storage area…and because there was not a card return…it went super quick and efficiently.) FYI. If you lose (or they lose) your ID card…2 hours of community service is required to get a new one.

Second change: Starting tomorrow, residents cannot leave their belongings covered by tarps in the courtyard. They must store all there things in bins (which are nice and waterproof…I was impressed by the quality). Here is the Bad news. The storage bin area is only unlocked at certain times. If you work at odd hours or miss the timing, your things might get really wet…unless you take everything with you. Who takes everything they have to work? (Before now, you were allowed to cover your bags and belongings in tarps or bags so they would stay dry.)

Now, I don’t know the real reasons behind the changes. They might be good reasons. However, if it’s anything like the government (the outdoor shelter is county run), there is a good possibility that the people making the decisions are so far removed from the reality…and/or from the people they affect..that they have no idea of the difficult challenges they have created for the people effected. Instead, changes have been implemented that fail to be positive…nor do they work smoothly for everyone’s benefit.

Too much Red Tape? Is this why William sleeps in a barn?

I don’t know…but the answer is Not Simple…On both sides of the argument.


1 thought on “Rules vs. Red Tape

  1. “ there is a good possibility that the people making the decisions are so far removed from the reality…and/or from the people they affect..that they have no idea of the difficult challenges they have created for the people effected.”

    — You hit the nail on the head with that one!! I used to get so frustrated with changes coming from corporate. While I could understand some of the changes, sometimes they just made the patients frustrated. It was at a methadone clinic working with many people who were homeless. I often wondered how they survived on the streets. Your blog gives a little insight to what they may be experiencing.

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