Neighbors for a Night

She dragged her cardboard next to mine.

Alongside of a hospital parking garage, next to a bus stop, a group of some of Miami’s most hardcore homeless sleep every night, just three blocks down the street from one of largest homeless shelters in the country. 

Two blocks down the street, The Sisters of Charity feed the homeless every day. Except Thursdays. The food is nourishing if nothing else.

One night, as I lay on my three layers of cardboard, I watched a woman nearby under the bus stop. She was a gaunt black woman in her fifties with salt and pepper hair.

A man came up to her and stole her blanket. I got up and went after the blanket thief.

After a brief confrontation and one sharp kick to his knee, he relented and gave up her blanket. I went back to my cardboard and gave the woman her gray rag wool FEMA disaster blanket. She was appreciative and thought it was safer to sleep near me, so she dragged her cardboard next to mine and went back to sleep.

Later that night, she told me her name was Lavita.

A woman came up to us and offered some very expired Christmas cake. We accepted it and split it between us. Lavita ate it greedily and with relish, even though the buttercream frosting was slightly spoiled.

Roughly two weeks later, Lavita was brutally murdered on the sidewalk near the Sisters’ mission. Allegedly beaten to death by a man who propositioned her for sex.

Speak Up is a voice and opportunity for those facing homelessness.

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Mark Gansert is one of Speak Up’s most prolific writers. Read more of his work.

Shelter Shock
The shelter life, as unbelievable as it may seem, is often more stressful than actually sleeping on the streets.

I Wait for Redemption
All I have written lately are incident reports for incidents I didn’t create.

Hypothermia, Interrupted
Cold and wet and homeless, we found refuge under a human-sized air dryer.

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Being homeless is not an easy thing. Being homeless with federal probation on top of it is unbearable. 

Sleeping in the Car
Within a half an hour I could tell it was going to be a very long night.