Sunrise comes later in the lengthening shadows of autumn days growing shorter and nights longer.
My body wants to stay in bed, to remain snugly curled up under the covers just a little bit longer.
My brain says, ‘get up. It may be dark but it’s morning. The day is awaiting.’
And so I arise.
I make my latte, take Beaumont out and settle at my desk as he settles on the floor beside me. Outside, the light from the walking bridge I can see from my window shimmers on the surface of the river flowing beneath it. the room behind me is reflected in the glass. The blanket of night that engulfs the world is broken by dark leaves on the trees that line the water’s edge. They stir gently in the early morning stillness, their dark silhouettes etched upon the surface of the shimmering water flowing in the night like a delicate filigree of lace. The headlights of a car moves through the darkness, crossing over the bridge that spans the river further to the south. The sky is dark.
I am wrapped in the warm cocoon of our home. A candle burns on my desk. A floor lamp casts a halo of light around me. Soft piano music plays. I am safe. I am warm. I am content.
At the family emergency homeless shelter where I work, morning has begun. Wake-up call is long past. Staff are turning on the hallway lights and families are stirring. Children grumble about the darkness of the morning, begging to sleep just a little bit longer. There are soft whispers, crying, a burst of laughter, the sound of a book falling to the floor from where it slipped off someone’s bed. Parents stretch and crawl out from beneath their covers, one rush to gather their things and reach the showers before someone else, the other rushes to get their children ready for the day. They prod and chide their children, telling them to ‘wake up. Hurry up. Get dressed. Get moving. And don’t forget to brush your teeth.
Morning has broken.
A new day has begun.
For many of the families who found safety at the shelter last night, the day will be a continuation of the last. Endless rounds of speaking to their case manager, connecting with other agencies and support workers, seeking housing, jobs, supports of every kind..
And waiting. Lots of waiting. for someone. Something. Nothing. Just waiting.
They’ll feel tired. Depressed. Like they want to give up. But they can’t. Their children are counting on them to find their way out of this mess called ‘homeless’ back to the place where they belong. Home.
At some point, possibly, a worker will ask them for a piece of paper they will realize they’ve forgotten, or lost, or simply misplaced in the turmoil of homelessness. And the process of filling in whatever form they were filling in will have to stop, and wait, for the right piece of paper to be found.
At some point, possibly, they’ll open a door that leads to another and then another only to find, that first door was the wrong one. They don’t quality or fit the criteria of that program. And they’ll return to their starting point and begin again. Waiting.
it is a daunting task this trying to end homelessness for your family, even with the support of case managers and other workers. It is daunting.
Not because it’s impossible. It’s not. There is help to be had. Supports to be gained. Homes to be found. People willing to guide you through the paperwork and tasks.
What’s daunting is waiting and the sheer overwhelming sense that pervades every pore of your body when your entire life has felt like one continuous struggle to not just get ahead, but to get your head even a tiny bit above the ‘poverty line’. To get enough food, education, health care, child care, money to support your family.
Dreams are lost in the darkness when the dreamer cannot fall asleep with the peace of mind necessary to calm troubled spirits and anxious thoughts. Dreaming doesn’t happen when the dreamer knows the roof above their head is insecure, there isn’t enough food in the cupboard to stretch beyond the next morning or enough money under their pillow to meet the number of days remaining in the month.
Dreamers don’t sleep soundly in the midst of poverty grinding away at every fibre of their body stretched out in a bed they never knew how to make more comfortable for their family. Not because they didn’t want to, but rather, because they’ve never known the comfort of having enough to dream about what true comfort could feel like.
Morning has broken.
I am grateful for the quiet of my morning. The peacefulness that surrounds me. The slow quiet awakening of my day.
And I am grateful that on this morning, just like every morning of the year, there are those who are willing to walk with the children and parents who awaken in the early morning darkness of a shelter and help them turn on the lights so they can find their way home.