I started writing this last night but I was too depressed to finish it.
Yesterday was Homeless Memorial Day, and frankly it sucked like a vacuum on a late night infomercial. But then every-time it got untenable something wonderful happened.
It brought home the realization that even if Congress does pass a health care bill, homelessness will still be a health risk that is not covered in any plan.
8:32 – I wander in late to work.
8: 43 – first phone call of the day. This call was especially sucky because my grandfather died last Friday after complications from brain tumor surgery.
Former domestic violence client “Molly” found housing in Chatsworth (yay) was fired from her job due to being ill too often with headaches to work; and could not pay the rent on her new apartment.(boo) Last week she was told the cause of her headaches and weakness. Molly has a brain tumor. It won’t get better and it will be fatal. Fortunately it will be slow growing; Homelessness did not cause her illness – but she will likely die homeless. The kicker? Molly became homeless due to domestic violence and has a two year old child.
See, that sucked.
9:15 the Adopt a Family sponsor and I make contact. (yay) We make arraingements for me to collect gifts for the family she has because , well really, I don’t know why I have to be the person who delivers the present, but I jump at the chance because I am cool like that!
I saw a few walk in clients and one person actually kept their appointment . . . I think I saw the clouds part and heard angels sing. No one keeps their apps with me.
12:15 pm 4 millionth call of the day (okay, it was only number 7) Another former client – “Paige” – a classic success story who worked herself and children off aid. Her job paid more than mine does once you add commission. Paige was laid off and can’t pay rent or bills, much less for holiday gifts. (boo) I referred her to her actual workers and gave her the name of every program I know of to help her pay those bills and directed her to call the power companies and ask for time or a payment plan.Nothing about that is deadly – just complicated and depressing.
(12:17 and 32 seconds – Sonya mentally decides that former clients can only call with good news from now on!)
2:00 pm, my blog – which is picked up by FaceBook as a post – garnered a comment from a friend asking how she can volunteer and be active in improving the lives of the homeless.
I blew 15 minutes and looked up homeless services and volunteer opportunities. There are some very neat programs around. I will post the list later. (yay)
3:20 pm, victem of Human Traffiking client comes in with the most adorable boy. 20 minutes into the interview I realize she won’t remain eligable for my program and connect her to Child Care resources and a big list of employment agencies in her area. I don’t know if they will keep her in the shelter or not. (too tired to care at this pont)
3:50 pm I am reading Twitter and reminded that it is Homeless Person Memorial Day and I take my break to think about all the homeless people I knew who are now dead younger than they might have died because of homelessness. Tommie, Pam, Donna, the three men I have found on the sidewalk who died in their sleep on skid row, the man I found who passed away in his emergency shelter room on Wall St in LA.
I notice that it is getting dark already – and that is why Homeless Persons Memorial Day is today. It is Winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.
I worry for the young mother and her 18 month old baby who can’t find a shelter bed and will sleep in the park tonight. I think about every boarded up and empty building I know of that could be a temporary shelter and every church and community center in the area that has light and heat and no one in it on frozen and windy nights like this and I try to think of ways to encourage more people to open doors and let people in out of the dark and cold. I wonder what I can do to make a bigger and better difference. Momentarily I think about no longer following the Homeless Issue people on Twitter any more.
4:15 pm I get a note from Kirsten who has been my friend since before I knew why boys were so cool. She and her adorable (can I call a grown man adorable?) husband have angelic girls. One of her girls wrote a letter to Santa and asked him to deliver sweaters to cold children. Kirsten and her mom went to work on collecting sweaters, undies and toys for “Santa” to deliver. They will deliver them to me this week and I get to Santa them out. That always cheers me up!
5:35 pm – plotting directions to sherman oaks to get the Adopt a Family Gifts.
6:15 – 7:30 I sit outside the Hampton Inn talking to the sponsor who is a remarkable woman working in children services. My back seat is once again filled with toys and I marvel that my red Scion looks soo much like a little sleigh.
8:00 pm, I am at LA Family housing and recognized by a former client. I play with her son and we walk into the shelter. It is the first time I have been there and I am struck by how clean and bright it is. The security guard is warm and welcoming and together we look over the roster of residents. I see a handful of my current and former clients on the sheet but not the family I am looking for. She is in the wind.
9:00 pm and I am home in the black frozen night. My daughter is at my parent’s home because it is Winter break for her and I don’t want my mother home alone while Dad is in San Jose planning his father’s memorial Mom has been in and out of the hospital all year – and was last released the day before grandpa died. So I am home in my little North Hollywood apartment alone and reading Twitter updates about the Homeless Persons Memorial vigil at the Glendale ArmoryWinter Shelter.
I give up. Tonight I am a little voice lost in the wind and all the small acts of personal kindness and outreach from my friends are beautiful, but I feel a little hopeless because Homelessness is a cause most of my friends, family and people I see just write off.
Homelessness is ugly and deadly and does not have an easy solution. It can be ended if all levels of community focus on it.
Educate our population and give them skills to be self-sufficient.
Stop shipping jobs overseas because it is a “world economy” and bring them back to the US Economy where our citizens can work them and earn money for housing.
Offer realistic “affordable” housing. I have a full-time job and can not afford “Affordable housing”.
Require those who receive help to participate in helping themselves.
Believe that homelessness is a curable social disease that we all are sick with. It has more to do with a person’s ability to afford housing and food than it does with their character.