SHELTER: One Man's Journey from Homelessness to Hope by Bobby Burns

SHELTER: One Man's Journey from Homelessness to Hope

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Filofax view of 41 days in a homeless shelter. Burns is a college graduate and the editor of an NAACP newsletter, as well as assistant director of an alcohol-recovery program in Tucson, Ariz. It was in that city that he stepped off the bus with some money in his pocket and a history of medical, drug, and alcohol problems. The shelter where he checked in had more than 100 men packed into metal bunk beds in the sleeping area; the bathroom boasted of two urinals and two toilets (without doors), plus six showers and six sinks to serve all these clients. Distressed by the crowded conditions, the odors, and the mix of ill and addicted men, Bums, a navy veteran, nevertheless caught on quickly to the shelter's routine: up at 5:30 A.M. to turn in laundry, breakfast at 6:00, a rush to the shelter bus for the trip downtown to apply for benefits, look for a job, see a counselor. Unless excepted for one reason or another, shelter residents had to be out of the building between 7:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. each weekday and back for dinner, unless the shelter was informed otherwise. This was the shape of Bums's days for the next six weeks, as recorded in the journal he kept. He seems to have recorded complete menus of what was served for dinner, as well as detailed notes on his evenings in the shelter. He eavesdropped on intake interviews, read, fretted about contagious diseases, and did his share of clean-up. The schedule and structure helped him to stay sober, although others smoked, did drugs, and drank, sometimes tipping the fragile equilibrium among the residents. Later, on his own, Bums began to drink again, but recovered and moved on to a productive life. Burns is to be commended for hanging tough and pulling through, but these recollections contribute little more than a menu-by-menu tableau of life in a shelter.

Pub Date: Oct. 16th, 1998
Page count: 140pp
Publisher: Univ. of Arizona