Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Art Of Sleeping In Public

When I opened the mall Customer Service desk this morning there was a well-dressed African American woman in one of the armchairs at the seating area by the desk, with a baby stroller parked next to her. The stroller had a canopy and a sun cover, so the inside of the stroller was almost completely blocked. She looked just like a young mother out for a shopping trip. However, I knew appearances can be deceiving.
(I’d met this woman a couple of weeks ago, when she came up and asked to use our phone. She had the same stroller then and it took me a few minutes to realize there wasn't a baby in there; it held her things. After her phone call was finished we struck up a conversation, and she asked me where she could get something to eat, since she hadn't had anything since the day before. I told her a couple of places to try and she left.)
Today I arrived at 9:30, and it looked like she was getting comfortable in the chair. By 9:45 she was asleep, curled over to the left and head leaning against the back of the chair.  That was quite a feat, considering the chairs have low backs and aren't very conducive for sleeping.

 It was interesting to watch the reactions of people who walked by. Most of them ignored her, including several people from the management office and a security guard. One of the clerks from a nearby store came over and asked if I knew what the woman was doing there. I wondered if I should do anything, but in the end decided to just leave her be. Today was forecast to be another hot and humid day, with a forecast of about 100 degrees.  She wasn't bothering anything and I didn't know if she had any place else to go.

The woman woke up at 11:00, stretched, and pulled a bag of food out of the stroller. She looked over at me and waved, then ate. Afterwards she curled up in the chair again and went back  to sleep. For the next hour she rested fitfully, changing position a couple of times.   A steady stream of people walked by, but no one bothered her.

Finally she woke up again, got some more food out of the stroller, and had another snack. I left to use the restroom, and when I came back she was gone.


  1. Good for you for letting her sleep. I was once the legal guardian of a woman who'd been homeless for a number of years. She was with me one day when I had business to ddo downtown. I was surprised when she began telling me which businesses would let the homeless inside as well as the ones that would not. Made me feel bad. We live in a complicated world.

  2. poor lady, glad you let her rest, as she was doing it peacefully.

  3. I'm glad you let her rest too. This is so sad.

  4. Finding a place to safely sleep is the hardest thing for homeless people, and even more so for women. I'm glad you have a mall that allows her to be there. I am, though, surprised to hear that your tony town has homeless people. I am always a bit startled by your descriptions of your area. It's just so much different from where I am.

    1. The funny thing is that I've seen them roust other people who were sleeping there and sent them on their way. I attribute that to the fact that this woman was so well dressed that she fit in.