The Billionaire Bum

By: Samantha Blair

Dish Washer – that was a possibility.

Bar Tender – that would mean immediate tips, but I wondered if I would need training. I could pull pints of beer, but I wasn’t too sure about all the crazy mixed drinks. Well, it was a place to start anyway.

Now for shelter – where would they put the listings for homeless shelters and temporary housing? Classifieds maybe? I searched the paper from cover to cover and found no information on shelters. How were you supposed to find these places? Through a church, maybe? I hadn’t been in a church since Jason’s wedding almost four years ago.

I left a small tip for the waitress and then headed back out into the rain, only mildly satisfied by my pancakes. The bar probably wouldn’t open until noon, so I’d have to wait to inquire about the bar-tending job. In the meantime, I was in need of a toothbrush and some deodorant. Who knew that it would take less than a day to feel this disgusting? Between the subway grime and the light rain, I was feeling dirty already, and I didn’t think that was the best way to go job hunting.

The RiteAid down the street proved helpful. I bought a toothbrush, travel toothpaste, travel deodorant, and a bar of soap. I paid for them and then carried my bag to the restroom in the back of the store. I locked the door and pulled my shirt over my head. Getting cleaned up in a public bathroom wasn’t ideal, but I thought it would do for now. I did feel a lot better knowing that at least my teeth were clean.

There were several churches between the RiteAid and the bar, so I thought I’d stop and ask for information on shelters and possibly soup kitchens. I couldn’t keep eating out, unless I found a source of income. My cash was dwindling quickly.

Just my luck, the first two churches appeared to be locked. Seriously? Who locked a church? Didn’t they have office staff that would be around during the day or something? The third church was also a Catholic school. This one had unlocked doors, but the administrative assistants that I came across were only associated with the school and could offer me no assistance with homeless ministries.

On the fourth try, I managed to find a back entrance that admitted me to a pastor’s office.

There was a woman sitting behind a cheap desk, her eyes focused intently on the bulky computer screen. After a moment, I cleared my throat, hoping that she would acknowledge me. She looked up quickly as if I had startled her.

“Can I help you?” she asked, never ceasing her typing.

“Uh, yeah,” I replied, “I was hoping that you might able to help me find some information on homeless shelters.”

“You’ll have to be a bit more specific.” She was looking at me like I was daft.

“I just wanted to know where the homeless shelters or soup kitchens might be located in the city and also their hours of operation if you have it.” Her eyes raked up and down my body as if considering why I would want such information. I knew that I wasn’t looking my best, but I hardly looked homeless.

“Do you want to make a donation?”

Good. That meant that I didn’t look like a bum, at least not to her.

“Well, possibly,” I said, which was mostly true. I would consider making a donation, if I could find a place that would help me get through the rest of the week with my pride intact. “But I wanted to see the places first. I prefer to take a personal interest in the charities that I support.”

“Mmhmmm,” she replied, “well, there is a battered woman’s shelter three blocks up on Shady Avenue.” That wasn’t going to help me, as they didn’t allow men. “And a men’s shelter over on 5th. They have a drug rehab, too.” That was more promising, although the thought of spending the night with drug addicts was less than appealing. “And I know there’s a soup kitchen at Grace Evangelical, but I think it’s only on Fridays. I’m not sure if someone would be there during the rest of the week. I’m afraid that’s all the information I have. If you want to make a donation though, I’m sure I could get it into the right hands for you.”

“No, thank you,” I said, “but I appreciate the information.” I left the office and wandered back into the rain. I would wait until the bar opened, apply for the job, and then head over to the men’s shelter. If all else failed, I could make a few friends amongst my “peers” in the shelter who might be able tell me where to find a decent free meal.

It was just after 10:30 am when I reached the bar that had posted the ad in the paper. Sure enough, there was a help wanted sign in the window as well. I knew that there was work available for those who weren’t lazy. Some people just need to get off their asses. The hours posted on the door claimed it would open at 11:00.

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