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Shelter
by Bobby Burns
University of Arizona Press, 1998
Cloth: 978-0-8165-1861-6 | eISBN: 978-0-8165-3647-4 | Paper: 978-0-8165-1862-3
Library of Congress Classification HV4506.T83B87 1998
Dewey Decimal Classification 362.5092

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Bobby Burns arrived in Tucson, Arizona, with a few dollars in his pocket and no place to live. Without family, without a job, he had nowhere to go but a homeless shelter. How did a college graduate find himself so close to life on the streets? In a voice that is startling for its simplicity and utter honesty, Burns tells the story of how he slipped into homelessness, how he learned what it means to live in a place where nobody will notice if you disappear, and how he emerged to tell his story. Bobby's diary of 41 days without a home brings readers into the world of a homeless shelter.

Shelter is filled with the sights and sounds of homelessness. Shelter life is patterned by meals provided by church volunteers, lines for soap and clean towels, the repeated meticulous washing of hands by an obsessive-compulsive resident, the rare pleasure of a fried chicken dinner, the illicit smell of marijuana within the shelter. Burns witnesses the residents' struggles with drugs, alcohol, and disability, and he wonders daily whether he will have the courage to emerge from this life. Bobby's diary expresses the full range of emotions of a homeless person: anger, self-pity, pride, humility, shame, depression, and optimism. These are not contradictions; taken together they represent the real feelings provoked by homelessness.

But with rare inner courage, Bobby stokes the fires of hope within himself, marking the days in his journal to keep himself from sliding deeper into a spiral of despair. Bobby confronts his own stereotypes about the homeless and learns firsthand what it means to struggle daily for survival and for dignity. He learns greater courage and he learns greater kindness. He is given food and a bed for 41 days, but he finds shelter on his own, deep within himself.

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