Michael Wiggins put his body on the front lines last week when bulldozers arrived to tear up Camp 83. This week, he’s bringing you the real story from inside Baltimore’s HRC shelter. Wiggins was in the shelter this morning when a man was stabbed to death for bumping into another man’s feet.
As he told reporters at the eviction last week, Wiggins was released from the Federal Bureau of Prisons out onto the street. He had to fend for himself but managed to secure a large scholarship for All-State Career School. He has been successful in the program, but encountered unexpected hardship in Baltimore’s shelter system. Why, he asks, does HRC (the City’s primary shelter) stack the deck against homeless people who are working or attending school during the day?
Wiggins says that shelter policy makes it almost impossible for him to get a regular bed while he’s attending school during the week. “Head count” for beds at HRC takes place between 11:30AM and 12:00 noon. He gets out of school at 1:00PM and must therefore wait around until 7:30 for another chance at a bed. Even then, he might be redirected to the Davis St. “overflow” shelter, where he might not get to sleep until 10:00PM. Then, he’d be on a dirty mat on the floor, packed in with a 100 other men, and turned out at 4:30AM with no breakfast. These conditions obviously make it difficult for him to do well at school the next day.
People like me who go work, or school—we can’t get a bed. If I came here, I could work for eight ours, but when I got off, I wouldn’t have nowhere to stay. But the guy who stayed here all day, he’d get a bed forever. Me, I wouldn’t get a bed because I went to work. So I end up in an empty warehouse with dirt on the floor.
Wiggins finds that the City has prioritized hiding homeless people over helping them:
The City is hiding the homeless by making them sit down inside of here from 4:00 to 12:00, when they get counted. Then they’re still sitting here at 3:00 and they go right upstairs to the same bed. I asked a staff member: why don’t these people get jobs? Why don’t people with jobs get a bed? They said talk to the supervisor. The supervisor said: “Nobody wants these homeless people to be walking around all in their face. They don’t want them to be seen. So it’s easier to keep them down here waiting for a bed.”
So, he has begun to document the crowded and ridiculous situation that results when you keep several hundred people indoors, shuttling between chairs and beds with with few opportunities for progress.
Watch a whole series of shelter videos taken by “Bulldozer Mike”.
Here’s the story on the stabbing this morning:
The victim was a light-skinned dude messin’ with a girl, [redacted]. The killer was a brown-skin dude. Light-skinned dude stepped on his feet and that started an argument about kicking feet. Brown-skin dude said, we gonna fight outside. So, they started out of the room, got outside where there are no cameras… and the killer stabbed him, then cut his throat. Light-skinned dude turned to run, got inside, and fell down right in front of the desk. The killer left the property and just started walking down the street. The police put 1 and 1 together and picked the guy up.
Wiggings insists that violence like this results directly from shelter conditions. “How can you not kick somebody’s feet? It’s impossible not to kick somebody’s feet, the way they all crammed up in here.”
The City is sweeping dirt under the rug and hoping the hump doesn’t get so big the public can see it. It’s like a jail cell in here due to conditions; after a while, residents go at each others’ throats like animals… that’s why we end up having murders. That’s why a man had his throat slit, murdered, in a place where he came for comfort and protection.
To the people that’s inside of here, that’s just a normal occurrence… just normal living conditions for them.
Miss Gabby Knighton told me that procedures are about to change for those who work. But the guys in here say they’ve been saying that for years.
WOTS veteran Tony Simmons has corroborated the stabbing story and added some details. Simmons and others had already been expelled to the overflow shelter and made their way over to HRC, where they can be let inside at 5:30. Simmons says that the first group of people was being searched and let in when the fight broke out.
Simmons believes that the victim was named “Dana” and that they were a client at Health Care for the Homeless. He says the HRC building was locked down for several hours and that no one could get anything to eat. You can tell this is a big deal, he says, because they called in all the supervisors: Gabby Knighton, Kate Briddell, Linda Trotter, and others.