Mike peers from beneath the sackcloth he uses as a blanket, watching coldly as the other shelter residents ready themselves for sleep. The room is lined with beds and smells of body odor and unwashed clothes. Near the entrance, several men are laughing at another man’s banal, explicit clowning. But Mike is not in the mood for nonsense. Restless and desperate, he wonders how much longer he can maintain.
It has been four weeks since he was released from prison, after serving four years for a child abuse charge. While in prison he came to terms with his problem, realizing he was addicted not only to his anger, but to the adrenaline rush it gives him. He vowed to himself when he was released that he would never go down that road again. He is prohibited from any contact with his son, and he understandingly complies. Required by his parole to attend anger management classes every week, he does so dutifully.
But the roadblocks for felony offenders in Colorado are wearing him down. He can’t secure employment beyond day labor because the ID card he was issued by the Department of Corrections is invalid for DMV or Social Security purposes. And his felony conviction has prohibited him from being accepted by every apartment he has applied for.
The only place that will accept him is the Salvation Army’s Crossroads homeless shelter, which is where many newly released prisoners end up. Entrance to the shelter is limited; residents are required to leave from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, rain or shine. Life in the shelter is not unlike prison. The other day, he watched as two former DOC inmates beat down another man in the smoking area out back and took all his money. A shelter volunteer, responsible for halting such activity, laughed as he watched and then did nothing. Very much like a prison guard.