I was at work late last night when Ed, who is a manager at the connected Arby’s, along with another man walked up to me. I didn’t know who the other man was, just an older guy, I would have guessed in his sixties. He was wearing work boots, heavy, black jeans, a sweater, a green jacket, and a beanie cap. Ed said, “Hey, Donnie, Phillip is looking for a place to stay tonight.” I was midway through my hotels on Chandler Boulevard monologue before I even knew it. As I ended with the “There is also a Sheraton at the casino across the freeway, but it is a bit expensive.” part, the look of abject horror on Ed’s face, as well as the smile on Phillip’s face told me that I was going the wrong direction with it. “Oh,” I said, “You are just looking for a warm bed for the night?”
“Yeah,” Phillip said as he handed me his I.D. (which I didn’t ask for or require, but he insisted I take), “I just got a ride in from Houston. I’m on my way back to Washington, but there aren’t many trucks running on account of the holiday.”
“Let me see what I can find.” I said to him as I offered him a seat near the payphones.
I don’t live anywhere near where I work, and in I don’t know the first thing about local homeless shelters, but I wanted to find the guy a place to stay. I called the local police department, assuming they would probably know since they are frequently called to escort vagrants from local businesses. Unfortunately, the local police department was for the Gila River Reservation, and they could only give me the number of the Chandler Police Department, who also couldn’t help, but were able to give me the number of the Phoenix police department. After a half a dozen phone calls, I was able to get the numbers of three area shelters. Since it was Christmas, though, each of the shelters informed me that they were already full. The last man I spoke with told me that a local church had opened its doors to shelter the “overflow” from the other shelters and gave me their number. The church was willing to take him in. Great. Except that the church was a good twenty miles away, through the heart of Phoenix. They also gave me the number of an emergency shuttle service to try, but said that it was unlikely they would give him a ride, since it wasn’t an emergency. I called their number but was only able to leave a message, and wasn’t too sure I was even going to get called back so late on Christmas Eve.
After I hung up the phone, I made my way to where Phillip was sitting. I told him that I had found him a place to stay, but that I was still in the process of finding him a way to get there. I offered him a cup of coffee and something to eat. He declined the food, but did get a cup of coffee. I told him he could sit in the restaurant while I found out about his ride, and went back to the phone. I called back the church, but this time I asked for driving directions. If I couldn’t find someone else to take him there, I was going to take him myself after I got off of work. He began to give me directions, then stopped and asked for my phone number. He said he would call me right back.
When he called back, he said that “since it was Christmas Eve” he had called the shuttle service himself and arranged for them to drive Phillip to the church. He then said, “You certainly seem to understand the spirit of Christmas.” I laughed. All I did was make a few phone calls to help a guy find a warm place sleep, and I would have done that regardless of the date on the calendar.