A day job is even rougher when you don't have a homeby Sanden Totten, Minnesota Public Radio
Clients at the Dorothy Day homeless shelter say they often hear people telling them to get a job. But the truth is, many of them have jobs. The person ringing you up at Wal-Mart or working in your yard could be homeless. And for some of them, holding down a job while living at a shelter can create it's own set of challenges.
St. Paul, Minn. — Getting up for work is never easy -- especially after a night at Dorothy Day. A night filled with snoring, talking and other distractions. But for Bob, work is a ticket to something better. So he wakes up and takes off at 5:30 every morning.
"I get up. I keep the faith," says Bob. "It's gonna be better one day. It ain't going to stay this way, ya know?"
Bob's about to hop on his motorcycle parked behind the shelter. Then, he's off to his job at an auto body shop. He works 40 hours a week, plus overtime. He says it's hard work and a night at Dorothy Day doesn't make it any easier.
"My body's a little sore from sleeping on the hard floor," he says. "But it's something for now. Something's better than nothing."
Bob is one of the 28 percent of homeless adults in Minnesota with a job. In fact, he's one of the 12 percent with a full-time job. For most of them, work is a way out. It's a chance to recover what you lost and get on your feet again. Bob is saving every penny he earns to get him out of the shelter.
"Maybe by July or mid-July, I'll have my own place. This is just a stepping stone. It's not forever," Bob chuckles hopefully. "Things will get better if you just keep pushing forward."
Ricky's also homeless. He works in the summer for a company that installs sprinkler systems. He says it's a taxing job, but just having something to do during the day makes a difference.
"That's one thing about work," Ricky explains. "If you're working you are not out there doing the dumb things like everybody else is doing. Like drinking and getting in trouble. Or fighting or whatever they do."
Ricky's been living at Dorothy Day for four years. He says working while being homeless puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the free services offered at places like Dorothy Day and the Listening House, a nearby drop in center for the homeless.
"I'm out working. I can't get to the resources. Like the clothing room at the Listening House. They get socks, they get underwear, they get shaving products. And I can't get that because I work."
He says he can buy those things on the weekend, but he'd rather spend his money on a hotel room for a few nights or some drinks at a bar. He is glad to have some pocket money, but what if you ask him if he has a bigger plan?
"No. I don't. I'm gonna live my life," Ricky declares. "I don't know exactly what I'm going to do. I've got to talk to my boss and hopefully I can get some money put away. It's not going to be enough that I can go nuts with."
Ricky says he may be at Dorothy Day for a while yet. Working helps him stay out of trouble, but for now, it's more about getting by than getting out. And that's the point. A job may seem like the ticket out of homelessness, but it's not a guarantee. Getting work is just the first step. To get out, you need to keep pushing forward.