Interview 1 of Willie
The rules to stay at St. Herman’s are: No sex, carry a sheet of paper with you verifying what you’ve done and where you’ve been, when you sign out in the morning, you have to tell them where you’re going to go to work and you have to get the paper signed by your boss. You have to write down what you did that day and get it signed for verification, if you forget the sheet of paper, or forget to get it signed, you can’t come back that night. (Every thing you do there requires a signature.) The night before, you have to sign a book to get breakfast the next day. At breakfast, you have to sign for lunch or dinner. When you first come in, you have to sign papers releasing them from any liability if you get sick from the food, hurt on the premises, or if your belongings are stolen.
They wake you up at 5:30 in the morning. They take your pillow and blanket away from you right then and there. You have to leave right after breakfast unless you’re going to work around their property that day. They even limit you to 1 teaspoon of sugar for your oatmeal. They claim sugar is too expensive to give you any more than that.
I really hated staying there. I really felt isolated and intimidated. If I could change their program, I would ease up the sign-in, sign-out, sign-this, sign-that rules and make their staff be more pleasant. They really don’t have to be so strict or so rude.
Interview 2 Mike
I’ve stayed at St. Herman’s quite a bit. I know a lot of guys complain about it (St. Herman’s) but it’s really not that bad. These guys fail to realize that St. Herman’s is a monastery, not a shelter. They don’t owe anyone anything. They don’t get funding from the government, they run on donations. The guys that don’t like the rules there shouldn’t stay there.
The rules that I can think of are: You have to be in by four. You have to attend lectures and religious services every night. You have to sign out and tell them where you’re going and get back by the time they give you. They don’t let you stay out all day if you have a 10:00 doctor’s appointment. They expect you to get a paper signed by the doctor showing what time you were there ‘ til. That way they screen out the guys who drink or do drugs. Those guys never get back on time or have the paper signed so they can’t come back in. I guess they (monks at St. Herman’s) want to spend their resources on the people who are really trying to get off the streets. They don’t want to be a flop house for druggies and alcoholics. If they suspect you’re high, they kick you out.
A lot of the guys resent the fact that they wake you up at 5:30 and collect the pillows and blankets when they wake you. It’s really not that bad, you got to realize in exchange you get three squares, clean clothes and a roof over your head. I really don’t mind staying there and helping out during the day. They do everything by hand. They don’t have mops, so you have to get on your hands and knees with a rag to scrub the floors. Some of the guys refuse to get on their hands and knees to clean. They think they’re too good for that. I asked one guy how many times he got on his knees to find the rock he dropped and he really got mad at me. You just have to live a clean life to stay there. If you do you won’t have any problems.
The only thing I would change about St. Herman’s is I would post the rules on a big sign. They have the rules on a regular sheet of paper and they tell you what the rules are, but, I think it would be better if they had a large sign.
Editor’s Note: Mike is a young man interviewed at the West side Catholic Center. St. Herman’s was given three weeks to respond to the comments mentioned above. They chose not to respond.
Copyright for the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland, Ohio Issue 26 April 1998