COSAC at midnight

By Ally Krupinsky, University of South Dakota
I see a dimly lit driveway-turned-shelter hangout. There are two American flags and a string of Christmas lights. There’s an orange razor on the floor. Empty cans of salsa collect cigarette butts. There’s a corner full of wheelchairs and walkers. Miscellaneous recliners line the left side; there are shelves stacked haphazardly with books towards the back. There’s a full trash can below a sign that says ‘Some of my friends are flakes’ with a picture of a snowman.

I see a scattered group of people. Most of them sit in furniture and wheelchairs alongside the fence. Some people slowly wander by. At first, the residents are wary. But once a few of them get talking, they don’t stop.

One woman, Fran, says she feels safe as long as no one comes by with a gun. Eventually she gets out of her wheelchair and talks. There’s another resident, Carlos, who listens with a smile. Some people keep their distance. They seem hostile, or maybe indifferent. One of them, who never shared his name, said the shelter at night was “pretty gay.” Joe, the security guard, sits opposite the residents with a walkie talkie. At first he’s dozing, but his face brightens when someone says hello. He says, “I do like to help people, and this place help me.” He’ll be here all night.

I see a different security guard, Cliff, jogging to the front door. Inside, a man named Mike sits in a chair, complaining of chest pain and breathing difficulty. Staff members take his blood pressure and decide to call an ambulance. Cliff asks him different questions. How’s your vision? Is your chest tight? Mike answers, and his chest jerks as he breathes laboriously. At one point he says, “Enough has happened to me already. I don’t need no more.” Cliff is tense; the desk worker, Mike, is unfazed. Another staffer, Tom, helps when he can. Mike remains wearily coherent until the ambulance comes. He shuffles to the stretcher in slippers.
I see a different resident, Wade, sit and watch Mike’s departure. He’s wearing Adidas slip ons, navy blue pajama pants, a white t-shirt and a frog-covered visor. He almost immediately reveals his calves, which are wrapped in bandages. He says the doctors don’t know what his disease is; they don’t know why he’s lost most of his circulation. He says, “I’ve had a great life. But this hit and I lost it all.” He talks about his past jobs. He says his dad was an alcoholic, which is why he’s never become an addict. He seems genuine and caring. He’s grateful for the shelter and the fact that he can still walk.
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Midnight in a homeless shelter

Contributed by Carl Castro, Southern Connecitcut State University, Nicole DeCrisco, DePauw University, Ally Krupinsky, University of South Dakota and Roberto Roldan, University of South Florida

Read the full Storify

 

Last month, Carlos Perez lost his low-rent apartment in a fire. His landlord just so happened to be Sean Cononie, founder and director of the COSAC homeless shelter in Hollywood, Florida.
For the last 30 days Perez has lived in a cramped room adjacent to the shelter. Perez doesn’t care though, as long as he has his computer. Perez has been a gamer since DOS. He said his first game was Bedlam, an interactive text-based adventure game that was released in 1986.
Nowadays, Perez stays current with gaming through Steam and massive multiplayer online games like World of Tanks.
“When there were no graphics you had to use your imagination,” He said. “Now, the graphics are so great that you don’t really care.

 

Shortly after midnight, Mike Allen, a resident at COSAC had difficulty breathing.

Allen exhibited other heart-attack-like symptoms including chest pain, slowed mental processes and an odd taste in his mouth, according to Cliff Pieczarka, a security guard. Pieczarka then decided that it was time to call an ambulance.

“With everything combined together, you want to get him to the hospital,” Pieczarka said.

Pieczarka said the response times of the ambulance was normal, despite an approximate 10 minutes that the ambulance sat in front of the shelter after Allen was put on the stretcher.

Photo by Carl Castro, Southern Connecticut State University

Photo by Carl Castro, Southern Connecticut State University

“They have to do many many tests,” he said, offering a reason for the seemingly long intermittent time.

The ambulance team can test heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and even have the ability to perform an emergency electrocardiogram (EKG).

“[An EKG is] going to tell them exactly what’s going on with that heart,” Pieczarka said.

He said that it also speeds up the intake process at the hospital to get the best possible treatment.

Pieczarka noted that Allen was in the hospital last week.

Ally Krupinsky, a Will Write For Food (WWFF) staff member, saw Pieczarka run inside the shelter.

“I just didn’t know what was going on,” Krupinsky said.

She noted that his chest jerked while breathing in an irregular manner.

“I don’t think he could have faked that,” she said.

Despite a few residents coming outside to find out what was going on,  Lakeidra Chavis, also a WWFF staff member, was surprised that a crowd of residents did not form.

“People just kind of kept to themselves,” she said.

Shortly after midnight

By Nicole DeCrisco, DePauw University

Shortly after midnight, Mike Allen, a resident at the Coalition of Security and Charity homeless shelter had difficulty breathing.

Allen exhibited other heart-attack-like symptoms including chest pain, slowed mental processes and an odd taste in his mouth, according to security guard Cliff Pieczarka.

Pieczarka then decided that it was time to call an ambulance.

“With everything combined together, you want to get him to the hospital,” he said.

Pieczarka also explained that the response time of the ambulance was normal, despite the approximate 10 minutes of lag time that ambulance sat in front of the shelter after Allen was put on the stretcher.

“They have to do many, many tests,” he said, offering a reason for the seemingly long intermittent time.

The ambulance team can test heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels and even have the ability to perform an emergency electrocardiogram (EKG).

“[An EKG is] going to tell them exactly what’s going on with that heart,” Pieczarka said.

He said that it also speeds up the intake process at the hospital to get the best possible treatment.

Pieczarka noted that Allen was in the hospital last week.

Ally Krupinsky, a Will Write For Food (WWFF) staff member, saw Pieczarka run inside the shelter.

“I just didn’t know what was going on,” Krupinsky said.

She noted that his chest jerked while breathing in an irregular manner.

“I don’t think he could have faked that,” she said.

Despite a few residents coming outside to find out what was going on, Lakeidra Chavis, also a WWFF staff member, was surprised that a crowd of residents did not form.

“People just kind of kept to themselves,” she said.