21 April 2008

An unwanted house guest

Hospitals are unusual places. They are public facilities, open access, with folks coming and going at all hours. It's easy enough to blend in with the crowd. Our institution is big enough to justify having our own security corps -- quite a sizable one, in fact. They spend a lot of time in the ER, with our various intoxicated or disturbed patients, as well as just patrolling the grounds in general.

Sometimes they make an unexpected discovery. The other day they learned that the armoire in the surgical waiting lounge had been placed in front of a largish recess in the wall, and a local homeless guy had been living there. He had just wandered in one day, unchallenged, and with the resourcefulness of someone who has spent part of his life living on the street, he poked around and found this little hidey-hole, which he made his home.

For three months.

Security happened to notice him sitting in the lounge late one night, watching TV, as if in his own living room, and he looked suspicious enough for them to question him. Once caught, the guy gave up the ghost and showed them his little nest, which was very well equipped with pillows, blankets, and all his personal gear. He had been showering in one of the bathrooms, and had stolen cafeteria food cached in various hiding places on several different inpatient units.

While it's easy enough to blame lax security for this sort of thing, I think it's unfair in this sort of setting. Rather, I prefer to admire the ingenuity and chutzpah of the homeless guy. Seriously, to go from living under a bridge to living in the hospital itself? It's the life of riley: safe, warm, comfortable, with food, bath, and TV -- it must have felt like the Four Seasons to him. And to pull it off for so long. Just awesome.

Security must have been impressed with the guy, as well. They evicted him, but instead of frog-marching him off hospital property and pressing trespass charges, they actually gave him a ride to the local mission and checked him in there.

Though maybe they just wanted to make double sure he didn't come right back to the hospital.


  1. This has been going on at airports, too. I read an article recently about homeless people at Heathrow Airport who wear floral shirts and fanny packs to blend in with the travelers. You have to hand it to them for resourcefulness.

  2. I'm quite impressed. And to think I can't find a comfortable spot in my own bed sometimes...I feel rather ashamed.

  3. ...Awesome.

  4. He was just sitting there watching TV like he was in his own living room! That's priceless. :)

  5. That's hilarious!

    We actually had the same thing happen with a homeless guy living in the special "emergency parking" lot that's right underneath the ED. Everyone knew about it but they let him winter there. Unfortunately, when the cops (do you guys have a real police force? we do -- part of a settlement after some crazy dude shot and killed people in the ED a few years back) came to evict him, he became violent. They tried to taze him but he was so padded with newspaper that it just bounced right off him.

    It was pretty awesome watching it via camera from the safety of the security booth.

  6. My mom had this happen at her hospital, but it was in one of the waiting rooms outside of the ICU's. It was actually a gypsy couple that lived there for a couple months, stealing left over food. They had an intricately crafted sob story about their sister who had been there for months, and they would turn on the water works when challenged. No one questioned them any further or checked if there was even a patient there by the name they were using. They even became friendly with some of the housekeeping staff, until one day they were caught taking food by security.

  7. If you act like you are have business at a place like the hospital and airports most of the time no one will question you. If it was me though, I would have a furtive look that might give me away within minutes.

  8. what a fantastic story! I wonder how many homeless folks live at our hospital.............gotta admire their tenacity.


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