I am often asked how I could possibly love my job working at a day shelter for men who are homeless as much as I do, and if you have read some of my previous blog posts, then you already know that there is much hope, joy, and love to be found among “our guys” on a daily basis, along with the heartaches and sorrows. Yesterday was a day of contrasts, as it began with one of the case managers and me having to meet with a man who was in the process of losing his housing and ended with me being privy to one of the most joyful moments one of guys experiences-the moment they get their own place to live.
After a difficult morning, I was more than ready for my hour-long shift working on the main floor in the day shelter, as I just wanted to lose myself in conversation and laughter with the guys while doing the daily tasks of laundry, straightening up, posting the mail, etc. It is out of those informal moments that relationships are built, stories are told, secrets are shared, and lives are changed, and those moments mean the most to me. What happened toward the end of my shift salvaged the rough day and caused happy tears to be shed and shared.
As I stood at near the front desk, an older gentleman was paged to the guest telephone. I was sorting the mail when I heard him gasp, and I worried that he had received some bad news. As soon as he hung up the telephone, my worries melted, as he had a smile that lit up his entire face and eyes filled with tears of joy, and he turned to me and exclaimed with wonderment and excitement, “I got my key!” Translation: His case manager had called to inform him that the apartment that he had been approved for had passed inspection, and he could pick up the key to move into his new home. It was a life changing moment.
When he shared his wonderful news with me, I returned his smile and happy tears, and we hugged one another. I congratulated him, and I fought back even more tears, as he said, “I am so happy. I never have to sleep in a shelter again. I have a home of my own again.” For our guys, having a home means more than having their name on a lease. It means the freedom to come and go as they please, to eat what they want when they want, to spend as much time in the shower as they so choose, to not have to schlep all of their belongings on their back from place to place, to wake up and go to sleep when they want to, and many other things that most of us take for granted. It also means the security of being able to lock their door and to control who enters their home. With this new-found freedom comes new-found responsibilities, such as following the rules set forth by both the landlord and the permanent supportive housing program, paying a portion of the rent, maintaining a clean and safe environment, and being a good neighbor, but with the support of the case managers, they stand a better chance of surviving and thriving once again. Watching the transformation from homelessness to housing is nothing short of miraculous.
As this gentleman made his way back to his seat, he shared the good news with some of the other men, and it was touching to see him receive sincere congratulations, hugs, high fives, and slaps on the back from his peers. To be able to witness how one telephone call changed one person’s life in an instant is one of the many great honors and privileges of my work at the day shelter, and it brings me to tears, even now, as I recall that special moment that changed his life and affected mine. Home sweet home indeed!
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story