Shelter from the Storm


Folks who have heard beautiful sounds of saxophone music on our downtown streets over the last few years will recognize Glenn. He’s an older gentleman who busks as his main form of income.
“Glenn!” I shouted. “Glenn! Glenn, where are you planning to spend the storm?”

“I don’t know—the parking deck maybe?”

I stared at him in horror. The shelters were filling up and it was a drive to get to them. With no phone to get information, no transportation and no family, how exactly do you convince someone on a morning as beautiful as September 12, 2018, that in 36 hours it would look like the gates of hell opened?

“Glenn, they are talking about 140-mile-an-hour winds; you cannot be out in that!” I stammered.

“Yeah, well, if the post office will come through, I can get a check and get an apartment,” he trailed off.

It wasn’t going to happen in two days.

“When did you say it was going to rain?”

“Tomorrow,” I said. “This is serious.”

Everything I worried about for the last three days stopped in front of me. All my problems were of privilege. I had options and resources. Here I was, worried about moving my car to the parking deck—the very parking deck Glenn was planning to sit in during a potential Cat 4 hurricane.

“OK, well, I don’t know…” Glenn trailed off and waved a hand at me.

I couldn’t force him to go somewhere he didn’t want to be (free will and all). I wanted so much, at that moment, to scoop him up and bring him home. But he had to go play some music and make some money because it was a working day.

I was almost in tears by the time we returned home. I called the main phone number for the Wilmington PD to ask if there was a plan to help get people, specifically homeless people, to shelters during the storm.

“I mean, they don’t have transportation, the buses won’t be running, and of anyone who needs shelter, it is this group…” I babbled into the phone, trying to sound like a sane and reasonable person.

The response I got was, “No, there was no plan to move the homeless to shelters.” More so, the police would not go out on calls after the hurricane officially made landfall.  In addition, like my scenario with Glenn, they could not force anyone to seek shelter who did not want it.

“Doesn’t the National Guard evacuate people who are trapped?” I hollered at the phone after we hung up. “So do you have to be trapped to get help instead of never having had the resources for a roof in the first place?”

After a glass of water, I admitted I wasn’t renting a bus and going around to pick up people and transport them to shelters—or bring them home with me. Perhaps my sanctimonious outrage needed to be checked. What was I really doing?

Randy Evans, on the other hand, answered the call to action. Evans founded Walking Tall Wilmington, which works “to build interpersonal relationships with individuals experiencing poverty through giving full access, so that they may experience community through safe, and sacred spaces of healing.” Evans had 35 adults in his own home—a small home at that—to ensure their safety during Hurricane Florence.