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Gimme Shelter

After three and a half years spending my nights sleeping in the infamous shed, I am again not certain where I will be sleeping from night to night.

After three and a half years of spending 85 percent of my nights sleeping in the infamous shed, I am again not certain where I will be sleeping from night to night. A couple Fridays ago, I returned to Pikesville to find demolition dumpsters in front of and next to the shed, the door battered and broken (but my lock and chain securely holding the doorframe and a big chunk of the door itself together) and open to the elements and passersby.

I had been expecting this to happen after bumping into one of the people who had bought the office building as I was leaving the lot last winter. After explaining that I was homeless and living in the abandoned storage shed behind the parking lot, he blessed my presence as a deterrent to vandalism and people smoking crack inside, and told me the building was coming down in the spring and that I was welcome to stay. The demolition crew came by, gutted the office building in less than a week, and then nothing else occurred all winter, spring, and summer. Though I thought I heard a realtor showing the building and extolling its virtues one afternoon.

Then, on a recent Thursday morning, I was awakened at 7:30 A.M. by a noise I thought was the landscape crew that occasionally comes by to cut the little bit of grass and trim the bushes. When I exited the shed after dressing and packing, I was surprised to find out that it was jackhammers and an air compressor inside the cinder block office building. I slipped away without being noticed and tried to look for my contact info for the building owner, because he said he’d give me a heads-up before they demolished the shed, but could not find it. (And I’m pretty sure that it would have been moot anyway, because I think the group he was a part of had run out of money and sold the building). When I returned that evening things looked normal, so I went in and lay down. The following morning, as I was locking the shed to leave for the day, one of the Latino workers came out and saw me. I nodded hello and he looked at me curiously and slowly nodded back, and I took off to the Giant to answer an urgent call of nature. And returned to what I described above.

The good news was that it seems that, as soon as they realized that someone was actually inhabiting the place, they stopped and left all my possessions alone. With sleeping bags and blankets rolled up neatly, a few shirts on hangers on the old light fixture, and my shoes and boots lined up in a row, plus the cardboard water channels in the rafters, it was obvious that this was someone’s home, raggedy-ass as it was. There was no type of heating or cooling, plumbing, or electric service, (except for my jury-rigged 50-foot extension cord set-up last fall and winter, but that’s another story); the roof leaked all along the lower two-thirds of the shed; and the walls and roof were deteriorating at a rate to compete with the disentegration of my discs and joints.

But it was a place I could leave my stuff and feel reasonably sure it would be there when I got back. A place that I could lock from the inside and sleep safely. A refuge on those days when my mental and emotional illnesses got the best of me and going out and facing people was not an option. And for the much-too-short period I had electricity, I could be in touch with the world through radio, TV, and the internet, without having to get up and drag everything onto the buses and trains and back every day if I wanted to. At times, too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, but with the accumulated baggage of three and a half years, it usually could be dealt with.

That Friday night, I ended up with 10 garbage bags, an Army duffel bag, and my two daily carries of a large sports duffel and a refrigerated Giant bag of ”stuff”: sleeping bags, blankets, clothes, shoes, books, papers, magazines, my battery-operated fan and lantern and assorted tools, utensils, cups, etc. I tried calling and texting some folks in and around Pikesville but got no answers. I eventually contacted my daughter and made arrangements to stash it all in the attic of the home they are moving into. My son-in-law came by on Saturday to pick most of it up and haul it back with him. Not the best solution, but workable. I just have to try to guess the weather changes in advance so I can get up to Hampstead to get clothing.

So now I’m back to carrying bedding around with me in addition to my other two bags of necessities, food, or things I have no place to leave. But more than that, I’m dealing with not having a steady place to sleep and the oncoming cold weather. I have been doing my usual late night “plugging in” behind the Pikesville library, utilizing their Wi-Fi and an outlet, (my laptop has a dying battery with about a seven-minute charge life), and watching TV, etc. sometimes until dawn, then napping on a bench somewhere. I have also laid my sleeping bag down on some cardboard on the pavement on the side of the library facing the parking lot, because the county police like to sit there in pairs and alone to do paperwork, on lunch breaks and the like. It’s safe but exposed, having only the overhang of the roof of a two-story building. Any precipitation that is NOT vertical and that site is no good! I am looking, but have not had a chance to seriously explore the nooks and crannies in the area yet. I am also hoping that if I can get my shit together enough this week to get back to Social Security Administration, Department of Social Services, and Health Care for the Homeless, I can get things back on track and become eligible for some of the housing programs—and last and very, very, very least is the shelters. But it has to be the proverbial cold day in hell and I’ve gotta be hurting real bad for that to happen.

Dave blogs about life on the street at

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