Why you may hear screaming from my side of the desk – flashback to my GAIN days

The job market has not improved to any degree that includes my unskilled and uneducated clients. Private, for-profit, vocational “Schools” are lurking buzzards trying to feed off my slower and more vulnerable decision makers.  It has been a long time since someone has come in and told me that I made a difference in their lives and they are better off for having sat on the other side of my desk.

It has all been rather quiet over here on HomelessinLA. I tend to blog from my desk at work via the all mighty smartphone. These days it is a Droid 2. But, my breaks are being absorbed by frantic trotting to the convenience store next door for supplemental caffeine – and it is difficult to type on my phone when the actual sun (OMG, who let me out of my florescent habitat?!?)  is glaring off the screen.

I have been busy because I literally have HUNDREDS of cases to manage right now. Not that I manage them. These are mommies and daddies who are managing their own lives and making their own choices – hopefully, off the menu I can offer to them. My workload is split between homeless families on welfare and pregnant and parenting teens on cash aid. Sometimes I feel like my actual work is either fast talking ala used car salesman or trying to look neutral until I shake hands and part with them in the lobby.

Earlier this week I sat with a teen mother and tried to talk her into looking at domestic violence shelters. This was a pointless and stupid waste of time because I could not find any shelters with open beds to take her and her child. The end result is that this young woman returned to the home of the man who had given her “only 5 or 6 bruises”. She said she would be safe because; if she was “in real danger, the police would not have let him out of jail”.

While I was with this mother, my co-worker was sitting with a father and trying to keep him occupied until the PET (Psychiatric Emergency Team) arrived. Oddly, even though the word “EMERGENCY” is in the name, it never takes fewer than 4 hours for them to arrive. Imagine – how do you keep a suicidal or homicidal adult distracted and busy until mental health professionals can evaluate, treat, and remove the individual to safer surroundings? By the time my mom and her dad were gone, we wanted to be the people in the ambulance.

Being a  GAIN worker is a juggling act and you can never successfully hold 1. your own agenda, 2. your own opinions, 3. what the client wants, and 4. your sanity in your hands at any given time in any combined configuration. It also means having boundaries made of vinyl coated iron.

I am having a crisis where I am not feeling like I am doing much good and wondering if someone else could sit at my desk and organize this and do it better.  My lovely Excel chart beckons me and we compare (the computer and my I) what I think I did with each family, and what the computer agrees that I did. Were appointment letters sent? Did I call to remind parents to come in or fax me documents?  Is there a really fantastic and compelling reason that I made a seemingly preposterous choice (that may or may not bring about the end of life as we know it?!).

Some days I want to stay home and hide in my bed just knowing what I will be facing once I get into Burbank.

On the bright side, Sindye left her washable markers with me and I discovered that I can write and erase on my desk. This has been a cool tool to leave notes like “Tell me why you can”, and “Trust me” written in the client’s view.

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