Shelter Report: Heading Home?

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Glen is headed back to Scotland where he hasn’t lived for 35 years. During many of those years in the U.S., he’s been a steelworker, hanging rebar in skyscrapers. Though he can speak some Gaelic, his speech is as American as can be.

Like a fair number of homeless people who come into the day center, he spins stories in which he stars, playing a guy with an smart attitude and a clever tongue. 

Today, for example, the two free climbers who summited El Kapitan were in the news and Glen and another guy got talking about the strength and feel the climbers had in their hands and fingers.

Glen said feel was essential to his job working high steel, too, and he always worked bare-handed. At some point, OSHA required gloves and an inspector showed up ready to write up a citation.

“I slid down the wire with my gloves—they were all oily and torn up—and the guy says I have to wear them when I work or he’d ticket me. I said, go ahead, write me up. Just put on these gloves while you do it. What? the guy says. Try doing your job wearing these things. Now you see why I don’t. I need to feel my fingers.”

Glen is leaving for Scotland in October because he’s being deported. The reason, he says, is because he’s had two felonies in the past five years. He went to court on a range of charges for retrieving a bicycle stolen from him, didn’t accept a plea deal and got the charges dismissed after a jury trial.

According to him, the arrest is what matters, not the conviction, and he’s spent many thousands on appeal. Right now, he has to report to the local ICE office once a week, and if he fails to make his appointment, he’ll be hauled in to the Denver ICE detention facility until his deportation date.

I accept that many of the tales I hear from our homeless guests may be embellished or presented in ways that favor the teller. But I’ve also met a lot of people who tell stories that don’t make them look good at all. They’ve been buffeted and ignored enough times that they don’t see any advantage to lying or making up alibis.

They’re resigned to their fate. But sometimes that resignation brings peace.

Glen seems relatively cheerful now that he’s exhausted his options. He says he has relatives in Scotland. The grass is green. The sky is blue. You catch fish in the streams the same way. He’ll take his bank account and convert it to pounds. And when he’s old enough, he’ll collect a pension and social security his employment earned for him in the United States of America.