In Search of Sleep
Introducing "I AM VINCE" — a new publication by Vince Shumate
This piece was first published by I Am Vince, a new publication from longtime Speak Up writer Vince Shumate.
Vince’s new creative endeavor allows him to share more frequently as he faces homelessness in Charleston, SC, and works to escape life on the streets.
Vince has been writing for Speak Up for nearly seven years. He’s authored multiple multi-part series, including “One Man’s Journey” and “One Week On the Streets.”
In 2016, his work was recognized by the International Network of Street Newspapers with the award for “Best Vendor Contribution.”
Please consider subscribing to his excellent new project.
In Search of Sleep
By Vince Shumate
During last night's storm when the rain was blasting away, I found refuge on the fifth floor of a city parking deck.
I managed to get in there before I got drenched. A lot of residentially challenged people (“RC” from here on out) were walking the streets at 5AM this morning soaking wet. I was grateful that I had thought ahead of the storm and gad headed toward the deck.
I still got a little damp from the blowing rain but it was a decent place of refuge. Thankfully I didn’t encounter any police activity in the parking garage. Charleston police do not ticket you or take you to jail for trespassing the first time they catch you on private or public property. They'll give a warning and tell you not to return to that location—and if you do they will take you directly to jail. Do not pass go and do not collect $200.
I had recently been sleeping at a place behind an office off of State Street: in a commercially managed parking lot. I had been sleeping there on and off for a couple of weeks. It's good to change locations often because if you sleep in one place 100% of the time, eventually the cops are going to come up and hassle you. Every night is a roll of the dice. At least I'm not drinking (much)—getting caught drunk is a guaranteed trip to jail.
Anyway, the other night I was in my spot behind the office and had fallen into a rare and needed restful sleep. Then at 12:48 AM I awoke up to the sound of a car and the sight of high-beam headlights right in front of me. I have to tell you, my spot in that parking lot was ideal. No one could see me from any angle. I was completely hidden from public (and police) view. Before I tried that spot for the first time I looked for any No Trespassing signs. There were none. (A sign would not have stopped me from trying to get some rest but knowing there were no signs at least allowed me to fall asleep easier.)
So at 12:48 the police roll up. I know what's about to happen so I sat up and began to put on my shoes in anticipation of being told to leave. It turns out it was the same cop who chased me out of the Charleston County School District building's parking area only a couple of weeks ago. So we both knew how the morning was going to go. He was doing his job of protecting and serving the property owner and I can't blame him for that, EXCEPT, the officer himself had to break the law of trespassing by entering private property in order to even know I was there! (Yet even in my terribly sleep-deprived state I had the wisdom to keep my mouth shut and not point that out to him. Things would not have gone well if I told him that he too was trespassing since he had no probable cause or warrant to be there in the first place.)
He told me that I was trespassing on private property. (Exactly what he was doing!) I didn’t argue or try to make the rhetorical point that if I was not allowed to rest on private property would it be alright to rest on PUBLIC property? We both knew the answer to that question if I would have asked. I'm homeless. No matter where I lay down the cops are going to tell me to leave.
I was sober, exhausted, not in possession of any illegal drugs, and just needed sleep. I hoped he would exercise a little grace and give me a pass. (Even artichokes have hearts!) But he did not give me a pass—and I didn’t make the artichokes comment, as that would have made things worse.
I had to move on.
So there I was at 12:48 AM wondering where I might try to get a few hours of sleep.
Now I’m going to be cagey with the details. I can’t share where my next attempt at sleep occurred because the cops already know of my new media project—vinceshumate.com— and if I share, they’ll be waiting there for me in the future. I have to be careful of what I say. But let’s just say that I had to walk very far from city central to even think about getting rest.
I finally found a spot at 2AM and took a chance. I got a little rest. But I was up and walking the streets again around 4AM. No wonder my mental acuity is not as sharp as it could be. Lack of sleep will cause that.
There you have it. Another night in the life of Vince. It's happened many times in the past and surely will continue happening until I find a stable living situation.
It is what it is.