It is heartbreak to know that there is not enough shelter.
It is heartbreak to not have access to beds for people who are sleeping on wet sidewalks.
It is heartbreak to not be able to help everybody.
It is heartbreak to move somebody out of a house because they haven’t beaten addiction but letting them stay jeopardizes the sobriety of everybody else.
It is devastating to not have access to treatment beds for people who are ready and willing to leave the drugs and alcohol behind but need support and assistance.
It is angry making to know that some clients are favored over others by service providers. That some get better service when everybody deserves a pillow and a bed, and a toilet with a bathroom door that locks.
It is scary when you help someone and they disappear.
Making a police report and praying that you can call the police and tell them that you have found your person safe and sound is more stress than you planned for when you applied for this job.
The “I just want to help people” reason for doing this is not enough of a reason to stay. Some people should “help” by being crossing guards.
You never saw of this stress coming when you joined service agency.
Helping people who are the most in need of assistance; that’s a delicate balance between respecting them and letting them be as independent as possible while also seeing what their true needs are that they cannot meet on my their own.
Working as a team to design the best possible approach to help as many people as possible can be exercise in strategy. It can be civil war. It needs to be a compromise. Plans need to change at the drop of a dime, and everybody on the team needs to pivot in the new direction.
I change up my weekend plans so that I can squeeze work in the middle of my family time. Because if I do not then I cannot sleep.
It is inviting my kids to help look at potential properties and clean cupboards so people she will never meet have somewhere nice to eat.
I email my boss at midnight.
Working in the field of homeless services – it’s harder than being a parent.
It is giving a hundred and twenty clients a tiny piece of my heart all at the same time. It is worrying about each individual and trying to find the best individually tailored solution for them but I can craft with the resources available to me.
It is driving around the neighborhood, looking down alleys, walking through shady stores, talking to drug dealers and people whose business requires them to exploit the same vulnerable people that you are trying to rescue.
That is teaching everyone that they can rescue themselves.
It is wondering how many times I can tell people that they are Gladys Knight and I am their Pip before I am required to pay royalties for that phrase.
It is doing hours of administrative tasks and meetings and logs and emails in between phone calls to line staff to check up on them, their stress level, get opinions, and ask about clients.
It is heartbreak, it is all-consuming. It is wonderful to have something to pour my soul into and find immeasurable Joy and watching someone change their lives, and knowing that they have found dignity and that I have had a tiny part in that.
It is being forgotten in the sea of “help” the client runs into.
It is being surprised at McDonalds or Costco or any public place when I am remembered-fondly.
Since I have started working in the homeless sector, the population has bloomed. It is growing beyond capacity for the County of Los Angeles. I don’t know how to help change that trend.