• Brian D. Hinson

Homeless Passengers in the Uber

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Twice this past weekend I Ubered homeless people.

The first I picked up at a Murphy’s gas station. He was waiting by the dumpster in the back when I arrived. I saw we were headed to the shelter on Candelaria, and he started to explain. He gets off work at 2:30 and the shelter doesn’t open its doors until five. Not only that, but in an agreement with the neighborhood, no one is allowed to show up on foot. A bike is fine, but walking is not. Since he doesn’t own a bike, he called an Uber. Also, he wants to arrive right when they open so he can get a shower without much hassle. When we reached the parking lot, two people were already there, despite the rule about no loitering.

The second guy was also a gas station employee, this one from Maverik. He told me he was getting lots of overtime and had decided to splurge on a Motel Six for the night. I waited for him to secure his room, idling outside the office. He came back smiling to retrieve his bag from the back seat, saying he would tip me on the app. I told him it was cool, not necessary. He tipped me $5.

Here comes the disgusted rant. The minimum wage in Albuquerque is $9.35, a dollar less if some benefits are provided. Here’s two guys working full-time but unable to have a real apartment. These guys might take home $1,100/mo in a town where the average studio apartment is $560/month. Let’s say you could find something in the ghetto for $400. See how difficult it is to keep fed and in transport to your job and save up for first month’s rent plus security deposit?

A quick check on the Albuquerque’s low-income housing website told me that three of the options are closed to applications, the third is open, but of course, priority is given to applicants with children.

We live in the wealthiest nation on the planet and it’s damn near impossible for someone working on minimum wage to afford a place to live. This is an outrage. The United States has people worth billions that are taxed less than the working class. Some aren’t taxed at all. And our tax money goes to the coffers of the war profiteers, with little left over to benefit the vast majority of the populace, while we have working people busting their asses to stay off the streets. It’s bullshit.

A final note, a night scene that broke my heart. It was near two in the morning and I passed by a homeless guy in a wheelchair. He was bundled up in a parka with blankets in his lap. His dog was beside him, a blanket strapped about him in a makeshift coat. It was already below freezing and it was supposed to dip to about 20 degrees.

It’s bullshit.

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