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Street person with RBF

February 6, 2019
This is me. I have RBF. (Resting Bitch Face.) I’m actually friendly, most of the time.

February 6, 2019

Today when I got home from my three-hour shift hosting Billings street men and women, sleeping on yoga mats on the wooden floor of First Congregational Church, I put on my PJs and went back to bed.  Mixed up dreams.  Couldn’t quite fall far enough into sleep, but I got up at a little after ten to do my household chores.  

This morning at church a middle-age Native man was the first up, about 5:30.  He had a scowl.  Remembering my own “resting bitch face,” I asked him where he would go next.  He politely told me the Crisis Center would be open, so he could get warm again there.  So much for the “scowl.”  His face didn’t reflect what a polite person he was.  P. tells me my own “RBF” has improved since the time she photographed me at the Mexican restaurant sipping a margarita.  
Nine persons, and these all reminded me of friends I had when I was a fake hippie in the 60s, slept at the church last night.  Two of them brought no belongings.  A tenth person had exited the church in the night, not to return to the mat on the hardwood floor.
When I showed up at three a.m. me and a guy named Juan relieved two women who looked my age—perhaps 70 years old—and who also reminded me of my hippie friends from the 60s.
The night was uneventful.  I read about a third of a book about Edward Curtis, Indian photographer from the early 1900s.  I have mixed feelings about him.  I mean way mixed.  I think my friend Adrian Jawort was critical.  Others said Curtis was an artist who preserved Indigenous history.  Probably the truth is both views are valid, but I’ll put my money on the views expressed by Natives who know that Curtis doctored the photographs.  
Anyway, my shift seemed to pass relatively quickly.  Juan spent time looking at his phone, then he got a Bible off a shelf.
Juan and I chatted a bit at the beginning and ending of our shift together.  He looks friendly, charismatic.  I told him so, and I think he told me I’m full of shit, although my hearing is messed up from rock and roll concerts and the marine corps.  He smiled a lot and seemed eager to help homeless street people.
He originally came from Mexico City, then moved to the Yucatan, then to Oakland, California.  He married a woman who directed non-profits.  They moved to Santa Cruz, then to Billings.  He said his wife, originally from Billings, directs the CASA program here.  I think you’d like Juan.
You also might like some of the street people who stumbled out of the sleeping area into our part of the church before six to collect their belongings, get a pitiful little pastry in a plastic wrapper, drink some water, use the bathroom.  They each folded their blanket and rolled up their yoga mat.
Lisa Harmon, associate minister at the congregational church, showed up to help us close down the sleeping area and the area for the volunteer hosts.  She sprayed Virex from a plastic squirt bottle on the mats and said she takes all the blankets home to wash them for the next night.
Last night the temp was -7F; tonight it’s forecast to be -14, so I offered to show up again.
I had to get training, which I got Monday at the First Baptist Church from MarCee Neery, the director of the Billings Community Crisis Center.  Then I was on the email list from Lisa Harmon, who sent us the schedule for the night, showing who had already signed up for each shift.  I responded with my availability, then she sent out the final schedule.  
The street people we get for the “My Backyard” project have been vetted by MarCee and her staff at the Community Crisis Center.  Staff bring 5-10 people to the church in a van, people who, for one reason or another, were unable to stay at the Montana Rescue Mission, but are still considered reasonable people.  On the other hand, unreasonable people (mentally unstable, high on substances, whatever) remain at the Crisis Center, either for observation, or just to spend the night.  She didn’t say, but I suspect, the most unreasonable folks have to leave the Crisis Center, perhaps to go the psych unit at the Billings Clinic Hospital.
Each person who stays with us in the “My Backyard” project has to agree in writing to a list of expectations.  No profanity, no bothering each other, no sneaking out and sneaking back in.  
The idea is that sleeping on the floor of a church is better than a dangerous night of sub-freezing weather.
MarCee told us in training how to handle emergencies, how to help people who get despondent, in other words, how to act toward our fellow humans.  I appreciated her tips.  She was familiar with each individual street person and seemed to appreciate their personalities.

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One Comment
  1. Lisa Harmon permalink

    I am so grateful for my hippie, RBF friend whose heart is limitless. Love you friend.

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