The man at the reception desk waved Bubba and Sheriff Restless straight through to the small conference room. Rich had, of course, been inside Town Hall on many previous occasions, but Bubba had never been beyond the public areas. The corridor was lined with pictures of previous incumbents of the Mayoralty, although Mayor Eggland's picture had yet to join them. Early portraits were paintings; later ones photographs. They reached the designated room, Committee Room One, and knocked. The Mayor called them in.
"Hi Bubba, Rich. Glad you could make it. Take a seat," said the Mayor, indicating a selection of empty chairs around a conference table made of polished wood, darkened from the years. "The Judge and I were just reading some hilarious things on the GayScape message board. You know Rich, there are some real weirdoes in this town."
All eyes turned and stared at the semi-retired pilot, who turned beetroot red. Judge Richard Bondi broke first, dissolving into a fit of laughter, which set both the Mayor and his Sheriff off too.
"Very funny, Eggy. Just remember you might need my vote next time," retorted Bubba, now laughing too. "Can we get started before you guys embarrass anyone else?"
"Sure," began Eggy, sounding appropriately serious.
"We absolutely need a safe haven for the boys that are finding their way here since that article got published!" said the judge. "It is unacceptable that boys manage to get here and then have to sleep on park benches or under some bridge. One was found trying to bathe in a ditch beside the town road one night a couple of weeks ago!"
"Well yeah, it's beginning to impose some stress on our foster families, too. And some of these boys come here with terrible stories. That’s going to require competent professional help, way more than our families can handle, however deeply we love the kids that manage to reach us..." Rich Restless added. "But how could we handle this? Don't ask me to put them behind bars. It would be tantamount to considering misery as a crime."
The mayor spoke up next. "Ahab and John got in touch over the weekend about this shelter project which we half-jokingly talked about a long time ago, and I know that others have been talking about it too. I decided that we need to get something moving about it. This is probably going to be run outside the auspices of my administration - indeed that is what I hope - but I have the clout to get some things set in motion at least. Unfortunately neither Ahab nor John could be here this afternoon and, in a few minutes, you'll see why we had to meet now."
"Well Eggy," continued Bubba, "I think my position on the shelter should be quite clear. I’m for it. In fact, I’ve been speaking to some other people about it also. I'm guessing that Richard and Rich are here as senior members of your unofficial cabinet. So have we become the first members of the shelter project committee?"
The Mayor nodded his head in confirmation, and began outlining some of the various options he saw for the shelter, and what he thought might be the bureaucratic and regulatory obstacles to the project. Rich and Richard both switched off at this point, having scant regard for rules and regulations. The mayor finished by announcing that he had invited a specialist to come and discuss the project.
At about the same time Martin was getting hopelessly confused. The Canadian had picked up a car from the airport at the nearby city after flying in from Montreal and followed the signs out towards Baysville as instructed, but the distances seemed huge compared to the figures on the map. "Damn the Americans and their inability to go metric," he muttered to himself, concentrating as he tried to resurrect rusty English from the recesses of his mind.
He had hoped to be able to check in at the hotel straight away upon his arrival, but was running so late thanks to delays that he decided to head straight for the meeting. He had planned on taking a vacation some day in Boysville, so had leaped at the chance to combine it with a bit of work. He parked in front of the designated building and headed inside, not even remembering to collect his briefcase.
The four men inside the Committee Room had taken a brief recess to stretch their legs when there was another knock on the door.
"Come in!" called Mayor Eggland. The visitor stepped in while an aide quickly whispered in the Mayor's ear. "Everyone, this is Martin Christian, and I have asked him to see what he can do to help with this shelter." All round introductions followed.
Eggy quickly recapped the situation for Martin's benefit. "You see, Martin, we expect a small flood of boys coming into town, trying to escape the abuse society puts on them because they happen to be gay. With that reporter's article I mentioned to you it could reach biblical proportions. We are trying to find a solution and, well, we are thinking about a refuge of sorts..."
"Hey, that would be terrific! I've worked on the board of directors for a shelter for HIV-positive drug addicts. I had also intended to open a shelter for gay youth back home, but the city and the province where I live were sure I was trying to 'corrupt' kids into becoming gay. The project never got off the ground."
"What exactly did you do at the shelter you mentioned?"
"You mean apart from managing the place? I was a director of clinic."
"What does that mean? A doctor?"
"Well, yes, in a sense. You see, there are MDs and PhDs; I have a Ph.D. in neuropsychology. That is a specialized type of psychologist that handles the development of drugs for psychiatric and psychological use, and, also, works in clinical settings to diagnose and treat psychological problems. The clinic included psychologists, specialists in drug addiction treatment, and MDs that handled medication issues. There were also social workers and ex-drug addicts acting as crisis managers."
"Wow, that must have been complicated to manage!"
"Not that much...Team-work is fundamental to succeed, and I have a flair to see who can handle this case or that case. Once it was set up, it ran itself."
"Why did you leave that place? Must have paid the bills?"
"It did not satisfy my objectives. It was turning more and more into a small prison, and less and less into a place that fostered positive growth and change. And there was an increasing surge of anti gay sentiments. Second, it targeted adults. It did nothing to help young boys and adolescents. And finally, the dam broke the day I presented my gay youth shelter project. It came to push and shove, and I got accused of corrupting the youths by encouraging 'antisocial' behaviours, namely, gayness. That day I resigned, picked my ass up, and left. I have found it hard to hold a job down ever since because of the way I was portrayed in the public eye. When I saw Monsieur Eggland's informal request for idea papers for this shelter project of yours, I jumped at the chance. I have heard of Baysville before and was planning on coming here anyway, for at least a long-term visit. If this means I can stay, then that’s even better."
"What kind of a place do you have in mind?" the group asked.
"Well, I can draw a sketch of it now, and then I'll give you rough estimates of the costs of building and operating the centre..."
"Ok, go for it!"
Taking a pencil from his front pocket, and a large sheet of paper offered by the mayor, Martin proceeded to draw three rough sketches, each presenting a plan view of a building, one level at a time.
"The proposal is to lodge fifty youths, two in a room, in a building which would comprise all facilities required to sustain and occupy them, including remedial schooling, psychotherapy, and simple medical care.
"The building is original first in its overall design: it is circular, with an inner courtyard that could either stay open or be covered by a transparent geodesic dome of Plexiglas, allowing year around use as a garden. From the courtyard, one would see the circular balcony of the second floor and the ground (or first floor). This would allow for a calm walk around the entire circumference of the courtyard.
"Let us first consider the rooms, located on the second floor. Each room would lodge two residents, and include beds, desks with drawers and wardrobes in a college dormitory style. The innermost wall of each room would be made of sliding glass doors leading directly to an enclosed balcony. On the other end of the room would be the door leading to the outer corridor, and, either to the left or the right of each room, there would be a bathroom to be shared with the adjacent room.”
"The outer corridor would have large bay windows overlooking the inner garden area, and, when it came to be level with the roof of the lobby, sliding doors allowing access to a sun deck."
"That looks like an oversized part of my anatomy," the Judge said.
"You're an obsessed bugger!" exclaimed Rich Restless.
"At least it does not look like a stadium I know of: in the shape of a toilet bowl!" Bubba stated.
"You've been to Montreal?" asked Martin, with a smile.
After some laughter, Martin resumed his explanations.
"The first - ground - floor is of a more complex design, but follows the same principle as for the rooms above. In fact, it’s the same design, except that some dividing walls have been removed to allow for bigger rooms, and it is not possible to walk around the outer corridor the whole circle, as is possible for the second floor.
"If you look carefully at the division of this floor, you will first notice a lobby, where security will verify entry to the building, and store any luggage or personal goods visitors may be carrying. The lobby will also be used to display productions of the residents: sculptures, paintings, drawings, or photographs.”
"The security check done, the visitor is allowed to enter the reception hall, where people are to be met and introduced to the residents and the centre's personnel. The grand hall is open to the courtyard via sliding doors and can be used for any gatherings needing a rather large area.
"On one side there is a refectory, adjacent to the kitchen. You will note that the corridor cannot be accessed from the refectory: this allows for additional lighting, and, potentially, the establishment of a picnic area. As for the kitchen, it needs access to the exterior for deliveries of goods and garbage disposal.
"On the other side of the reception rooms are administration offices, the infirmary, as well as rooms for group and individual counseling and therapy.
"Care was given to the arrangement of the rooms around the circle so that noise nuisance between rooms would be kept to a minimum. For instance, the kitchen stockroom was placed between the kitchen and the music room, thus minimizing the noise from both. The same principle applies to the sports facilities, which were grouped together as far away as possible from noise-sensitive rooms such as study, library, and classrooms.
"Sports rooms include an indoor swimming pool and a fully equipped gymnasium. There is also a library, a study room, classrooms, and a games and media room.
"The courtyard is large enough to allow for a beautiful, relaxing garden containing benches, water fountains, and some sculptures done by the residents, where the very stressed youths coming there will be able to relax and regain a sense of security and calm. It can be accessed from any room on the first floor, and by two spiraling stairways from the upper floor."
"Wow.... that seems like quite a place! Can I move in? They are going to be better off there then I am at home!" said Rich.
"Sorry Sheriff, it’s all for the kids!" smiled Martin as he continued, "The basement is reserved for utilities, such as an industrial sized laundry, heating and air-conditioning, water filtering and recycling and stockrooms. Also found there are the archives and the security and surveillance system.”
"Let's talk security and privacy. Not that we plan to pry on the privacy of our young residents, but we do intend to keep them safe from intruders by recording all that occurs around the outside of the premises. The basement also has a wide corridor leading from the courtyard to the outside of the building, to allow for rapid evacuation of the building if necessary. There are also all the required emergency exits, smoke detectors and water sprays in the ceilings, and regulation fire alarms.”
"We hope that by offering to the youth that will land there a positive and supporting environment, they will be in better shape to recover from their stressful experiences before and during their journey to this place.”
"The needs of the residents will always come first. We want them to feel accepted for who they are. We hope that this attitude will have a powerful therapeutic effect, a healing influence on their self-image and self-esteem, and thus help them recover from any unwanted self-destructive behaviours such as drug or alcohol abuse.”
"We will encourage autonomy, self-respect, and a sense of responsibility by involving the residents in the day to day management of the centre, by inviting them to cook, clean up the premises, wash the linen, and even repair and maintenance of the building. We will also invite them to share in helping each other by sharing their experiences in peer support groups.
"Let's put some scales in this drawing. Here are the numbers I had in mind at the time."
"You mean to say you know this by heart? I can't believe it!" exclaimed the Mayor
"Well, when a project has kept you from sleeping for months on end, has become an obsession, the numbers come naturally! Here they are."
Martin then took the others through a long list of figures to add perspective to the sketch that they had before them. Finally, he looked up.
"That concludes the design and architectural aspect. Since everything is still on my spreadsheet, it's easy to increase size by changing basic diameter. It currently stands at a total diameter of nearly forty five metres."
The Australian judge interjected, answering the next question before it was posed. "Nearly 150 feet in American."
"That's huge!" said the mayor.
"You said the needs were going to be huge. Why not think big from the start?"
"What about costs, please?" asked Bubba, wondering just what he had let himself in for.
"The costs can be divided into two types: infrastructure and operational costs. Ok, these estimates are rough. Let's see. Given the scale of the building, an estimate of the construction costs is around US$3.5 million, and this does not include property costs or such things as landscaping of the courtyard and the outer premises. Costs of operations are in the order of about $50,000 a month, or approximately $1000 per resident per month. This covers all costs related to electricity, water, food, clothing, equipment, supplies, and staff salaries. This is a rough estimate based on cost of similar facilities such as Old Age homes.”
"Refinements may be needed to take into account differences in cost of living, as well as special needs required by our young residents."
"That is a lot of money!" the Mayor said. "Our few taxpayers could definitely not cope with that budget, even if the building and start-up costs were entirely donated."
Martin exuded confidence as he smiled and said, "Those donations will surely come rolling in as soon as we invite them. Raising $3.5 million out of the gay community to help gay boys should be easily achievable."
"But $50,000 a month to run the place! That's $ 600,000 a year. Are you sure of your numbers?" exclaimed Bubba.
"Well, we can probably get money from Social Security and Children’s Social Services for some of the operation costs. Gifts in kind - food, supplies, even desks, beds, linen, paint, and other goods - can contribute considerably to reducing operating costs. And, as I mentioned earlier, I'm sure the residents will be more then willing to help in keeping the building operational. As the reputation of the centre grows, we can expect spontaneous gifts from a growing pool of donors and money from wills and bequests as well as charitable foundations. As a non-profit organization, we can also count on tax breaks. After all, it's not only the gay bashers that can count on Uncle Sam's generosity! And I'm sure a sale of our residents' productions on the art market will also help...gay youth are extremely talented, and seem to have an artistic streak that runs in the family.”
"The Hall could be used as a concert room for fundraisers, a pay-for-view museum for the visual arts, and an art gallery where works could be shown for sale. We could even hire a fund-raiser who would be paid entirely from what funds are raised. And as our residents leave, and go on to the outside world, I'm sure they would not forget us."
"Wow! Impressive presentation there...it sure gives us a lot to think about,” reflected the Mayor.
He continued, "How much time do you think you would need to make this into a detailed proposal, consistent with all State codes and regulations?"
"I will have to find an architect and an accountant, as well as an engineer to estimate materials costs. The thing is, I'm none of these!"
Richard spoke up again, "I don't know.... Do we have any architects here? I know Wolfie is a competent engineer, but well, accountants and me don't mix...."
"I'll get on to a friend of mine whose firm handled the books for the airline, or we can ask Luke Banks down at First National if he knows anyone," offered Bubba, "and we'll talk about financing when I get his report on the true costs of this and a definitive plan."
"But you haven't answered: how long before the proposal is prepared?" the Mayor asked.
"Give me a week or so to find the appropriate people, and I will get back to you with a firm date."
"We've been working for hours at this...Why not call it a day, gentlemen? It's getting late, and I have a case to hear first thing tomorrow morning. One last question: Martin, do you have a name for the centre?" asked Rich.
"Oh yes! The Matthew Shepard Shelter For All Youth. And each major room would have a name dedicated to prominent victims of gay bashing or hatred of gays, reminding or teaching those who live in and visit the centre of its purpose. Those people may have been victims of discrimination, but no one here will be! I had the name of Alan Turing in mind for the Grand Hall."
"Fine. This meeting is closed. Thank you for your time, gentlemen." Mayor Eggland stood up to leave, and watched as the rest filed out before he smiled, thanked his lucky stars he had such a great town to work in, and headed back into his office.
Martin reached his car just as Rich was gleefully slapping a parking ticket on the window. "I am sorry, officer," began the visitor.
"Oh, it's yours? Geez, I didn't think Canadians broke the law." He grinned.
"I wasn't aware... and I was late for our meeting."
"Look, we'll never get the fine from the rental company if you refuse to pay it, so catch me later and buy me a shot of Crown Royal. I'll overlook it this time."
"Thank you officer! Can you tell me how to get to the Puerhaven resort? I have a room reserved there."
Martin got into his car and followed the sheriff, getting his first really good look around Boysville. It was just the kind of place he could come to call home.
Matthew Shepard Shelter for All Youth, Second Floor:
First (ground) floor: