March 3rd, 2019
“Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
Got shadows painting our faces
Traces of romance in our heads”
from The Brand New Heavies
Being homeless sucks. A lot.
I got to learn all about it on Thursday and Friday of last week. The girl we love got out of jail on Wednesday. She was only in there for three days, but that was long enough for there to be some serious repercussions. One of negative effects was the fact that she no longer had a home.
On Thursday afternoon the young woman had to move out of the sober living house. That was painful for everyone involved. The community of women at the sober living house have a zero tolerance for relapses. That makes sense. If a person is going to live there, they need to stay sober. While the girl was dragging out all her belongings and I was loading them into my car, several of the other residents of the house spoke to her. Most of the other women are much older than our loved one. According to the girl, all of these people were compassionate and sympathetic. They all know what the struggle is like, and they understand how hard it is to keep clean. The women there encouraged our girl to reapply for residency in thirty days. So, they want her to come back. That’s good news.
The bad news is that we had to figure out temporary housing for thirty days. Per the girl’s probation officer, the new residence had to be in Kenosha County. That limits the options significantly. Kenosha County is semi-rural, and good, inexpensive housing is hard to come by. The probation officer gave the young woman 72 hours to get a new address. The pressure was on.
We worked on the housing problem on Friday. We started out by looking at a cheap motel that the girl had found online. The Beach Aire Motel is right on Lake Michigan. It has a nice view. That’s a plus. The minus is that it is not close to anything else at all. It is a mile walk to the nearest bus stop. There are no stores anywhere nearby. A person without a car, like our young woman, would have problems. We arrived too early at the motel to get a chance of looking at a room. So, we moved on.
The next stop was the Shalom Center in Kenosha. The center is the only homeless shelter in the city. According to the folks at the shelter, our girl showed up one hour too late. They were all out of beds. Overall, the people at the center were kind and helpful. They gave us a list of other possible places to stay. They also told the young woman to call the shelter every day to see if there was an opening. The population at the center is transient, and it is not unusual for a bed to become suddenly available.
We tried the Plaza Inn. That is in downtown Kenosha, and it is a location near to bus stops and places of business. Unfortunately, this hotel was also full up. The gentleman who spoke with us told the girl to fill out an application, and to check back in a month. We appreciated the offer, but it really didn’t do us any good.
The girl looked on her list and found another cheap motel. It was the Oasis Inn.
I asked her the address.
“It’s on 120th Avenue.”
“That’s way out by the freeway. Do you know how to get there?”
“Can you look it up on your phone?”
The motel is on the frontage road next to I-94. The only thing nearby is the Mars Cheese Castle. Kenosha is close to the Illinois border, so there are a number of restaurants and stores in the vicinity that specialize in selling Wisconsin cheese. The flatlanders from Illinois love to buy cheese. I don’t know why. They just do. So, the Mars Cheese Castle (which actually looks like a castle) is a major tourist trap along the freeway heading north. Except for the cheese castle, there are only farm fields and woods in the area.
We got to the motel to find that the office was closed for lunch. It wasn’t closed very long. An older lady came up to us and let us into the office. She talked to the girl.
“So, you want a room at the weekly rate?” The woman spoke with a heavy Slavic accent.
The girl answered, “Yes.”
The woman went on, “I only take in people who are working. Do you know why?”
The young woman replied, “No.”
The lady continued, “Because people who stay here must have money to pay. If they don’t work, where do they get this money? Maybe drugs. Maybe prostitution. I want to sleep at night. I don’t want the police to be pounding on the door. You know?”
The girl nodded.
The woman gave the girl a form to fill out.
I asked the woman, “You have an accent. Where is it from?”
She eyed me suspiciously. “Eastern Europe. Why do you ask?”
“My wife is from Germany.”
The old woman relaxed a bit. “Yeah, I am from Croatia originally, but I am a Serb. Things were better when all those little countries were together as Yugoslavia.”
“The war did nobody any good”, I said.
She agreed. “Of course not! All that killing, for what? I think it was all for money.”
The Serbian woman gave the girl a key. We went to check out her room.
It was small. A queen size bed filled almost the whole thing. There was a little refrigerator, a microwave, and a television. The place had WiFi. It looked clean, but cramped. The bathroom was tiny, but adequate.
Later we moved in the girl’s belongings. The room was suddenly even more cramped. My wife went to bring the girl her meds the next day. Karin told me on her return,
“That place is a dump!”
Perhaps. It’s a matter of perspective. It’s still a place to stay, and the price is right. It will probably be a very temporary residence. I am sure that very few people make the Oasis their long term address. I am also sure that most of the occupants would much rather be living some place else. I doubt that many of them have much choice in the matter.
So, for the time being, this young woman is enjoying her stay at the Oasis.