Life on the Streets - An Interview with Robyn Robel

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photoThere are many folks I look forward to hosting in our shelter—Robyn is undoubtedly one of them. If she’s not in, I ask about her, and when she is, I make sure she’s comfortable and at home. She’s a tiny woman with a loud laugh and a great sense of humor—a guest I’m truly going to miss. In brief, Robyn is a St. Louis native who, at her age, struggles to find work. The streets are not where she wants to be, but right now she’s stuck.

Past Career / Work Experience

Bartending

Dream Job 

Without hesitation Robyn states that she’s already worked her dream job, which is bartending. She’s a people person—customer service is her thing. She fears she is getting too old, however, and people don’t want that anymore.

Favorite City Spot

Kiener Plaza. It’s a nice place.

Life on the streets

Here on the streets, everyone is in the same boat.  “You wouldn’t want it done to you so why would you want it done to someone else,” Robyn says and lets out a big sigh, “Sometimes its harder than having a real job.”

She continues on by explaining her worries, which include where to sleep and where to eat, especially during inclement weather. Resources are scare and although some exist, you can’t get from point A to point B, especially if you are without transportation. Another thing is that there’s not a lot to do in the City and on the weekends there is nowhere to go [usual services such as the Bridge at Centenary are closed]. A lot of folks end up at Union Station.

So where do you sleep?

Lately, Larry Rice [New Life Evangelistic Center]. If you want to leave you’re locked out. They take your cigarettes too.

And is it safe?

So far, so good, but, you need to know how to treat people too.

What should people know about homelessness?

The homeless need more than just food and clothing. Regular folks take for granted toilet paper and hygiene products. And not all homeless people are on drugs or alcohol. There are a lot of smart people out here. Sometimes people get in a bad relationship or lose their jobs, companies merge.

As far as getting a job goes, it seems most are by word of mouth and a lot don’t want to hire you when you’re homeless. They say you need reliable transportation. But you know, buses do run pretty good. People need to treat the homeless like humans and not like animals.

Another thing a lot of people don’t think about is that there isn’t anywhere to put your stuff. You can’t go to a job interview carrying all of your clothes around.

What do you see as a solution to homelessness?

One solution Robyn sees is creating jobs for the homeless, “Try to give people chances even if it is only part-time. Let them get their foot in the door,” she says. “It’s not that people don’t want to work, the jobs just aren’t there.”

And although job creation would help, she doesn’t know how to solve homelessness. Some people don’t want to be off the streets. Some people like it because there aren’t any worries, particularly the young ones, although some old, too.

How did you find out about the AmeriCorps St. Louis Shelter?

Larry Rice.

And what about Winter Outreach?

No experience with Winter Outreach yet. She did stay at the St. Teresa and Bridget shelter once though and loved it. She also enjoys the emergency shelter at 12th and Park.

Plans for the future?

She would like to get a job. It’s hard to find one though. The library won’t let her get a card because she can’t provide a permanent address.

All right, three wishes?

A job, an apartment and a car.

How can people help? 

People can help by providing jobs and transportation. Let us show you what we got! In addition, access to showers, it is nice to be able to groom.

Final thoughts?

"I appreciate that you guys take care of us," she says.

Learn more about our shelter here  

-Chelsea Bodamer; CST Year 18 & 19