Now: lockdowns within lockdowns.
Shelters are finding clients suffering from COVID-19. After getting them to hospitals, the shelters are locking down. Within a city that is already living under a lockdown order.
At Union Gospel Mission (UGM) in Pioneer Square, clients may leave but can’t come back. So they must decide where they’d be safer: confined to a shelter where someone without symptoms could still pass the disease on, or outdoors, or trying to find another shelter that’s taking new clients.
I’m no health expert, just a mathematician who grew up poor, chopping wood for a wood stove. I’m seeing the idea of confining homeless people in a shelter during a pandemic as a little bit odd. It seems to me if one person in the shelter is asymptomatic with coronavirus, you’ve got something like a lit wad of newsprint in a box full of kindling.
It’s not as bad as I first feared. I originally thought that the shelter’s staff were going to come and go as usual. Not so, according to clarification from UGM. Instead, the staff will consist of a crew who have all volunteered to stay on the premises 24/7 until the lockdown is lifted. So the only outside contact will be with people bringing supplies, and that is fairly manageable.
“Set it down outside the door, and go away!”
Still, the problem remains: The plague may already be in the castle. You Edgar Allen Poe fans out there know what I’m talking about.
Another way to deal with the danger of coronavirus racing through shelters is to do what King County has started to do — namely, pay to put the clients into motels and hotels. This not only isolates the homeless people from each other, but it also serves as economic assistance for the motels and hotels. Which otherwise are doing badly because almost no one is traveling these days. This is being done for 400 homeless people — less than a tenth of the county’s sheltered population, but it’s a good first step.
Speaking of good news, the word is that rats are playing in parks left almost devoid of people. Isn’t that great? Rats are happier now than they’ve ever been, and I’m happy for them.
Let’s stick this out long enough to make other, more popular animals happy. I’m thinking of such as deers, bears, coyotes and mountain goats.
I look forward to seeing bears in Westlake Park. I’m enjoying having time to think. For example, I’m thinking, what am I going to eat, if and when either the grocery stores all close or I no longer have money to buy food at them? It’s fun to speculate. Dandelions? Wood?
No worries, people. It will be at least four months before my food stockpile will have run out, and at least another month or two before I resort to cannibalism after having eaten all the string, cotton shirts, Q-Tip ends and natural wine corks lying around.
For sanity’s sake, I take frequent breaks from obsessing about survival. Last night while in bed, I worked out an algorithm for calculating the day of the week for any date between March 1, 1900, and Feb. 28, 2100. It wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. This is not my first experience with prolonged social isolation. In fact, this algorithm is version 4. All you need to know is this one is twice as good as version 3. I’m not bragging. I’m only reporting the facts.
Until the internet shuts down, there will be endless amusement. My latest earworm is the Gold Digger’s Song, AKA “We’re In The Money!” Get the HD version on the You Tube. I’m also listening to a lot of the Statler Brothers’ “Flowers On The Wall.” “Playin’ solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one” — brilliant.
As of this writing, 10 million people in the U.S. have applied for unemployment benefits. There are probably another 5 million who haven’t been able to make a claim for unemployment yet because the system is overloaded. By the time you read this, at least five days from now, the number of unemployed Americans per capita will likely exceed the peak number per capita during the Great Depression. They’ll initially be granted 26 weeks of benefits.
By the end of October, more 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles will be completed than ever before in the entire history of humankind.
Don’t fear the future. Embrace the opportunities it brings.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read more in the Apr. 8-14, 2020 issue.