The Free Press, Mankato, MN

No Direction Home

December 8, 2013

No Direction Home: Day 1: One night in the life of the Salvation Army shelter

Some men stay a few days, some stay all winter


He's said he's never been convicted of a felony, never had a drug or alcohol addiction problem.

“It's been five and a half months since I've had a place of my own,” he said.


Like Miller, West hails from Texas. And like Vickers, his personality matches his home state: big.

Although he was in a relationship with a man in Texas, he left to start a relationship with a man in Mankato. This venture had the blessing of the guy back in Texas, an arrangement West said is accepted in the gay community given the long history of oppression gays have experienced in Texas (where he said being gay used to be a crime).

West said that, after living with the Mankato man for a while, the relationship went sour. One domestic incident ended with a police car at the house and cooler heads prevailing. The next, however, did not. West said he assaulted the man with a coffee mug, an assault that ended with him in a jail cell and that chat-room guy gone missing.

When he got out of jail and his court case was resolved, West was without a place to stay. And he couldn't go back to Texas because that would violate the terms of his probation.

“Mankato is stuck with me,” he said.

Like so many others, he made do by sleeping wherever he could — “downtown mall, secret passages,” he said. He spent some nights behind Schwickert's but eventually gave that spot up to another homeless man whom he said needed the spot more than he did.

His most creative place, however, was at the movie theater inside the Mankato Place mall. He found the projection room door ajar one night and took up residence inside. He was actually living there already while his court case went through the system and is still hoping to get back in there to grab some stuff he left in the projectionist's room.

Before coming to the shelter, he said, he'd gone four nights without sleep.

“We all have complicated situations,” he said.


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