Monday, October 24

Shelter nights

I have a job. I am a counselor on the night shift at the Downtown Emergency Services Center's main shelter. The title is more impressive than the work. My responsibilities and duties are not so different from what I did at the House of Charity in Spokane where my title was Front Desk Worker as I provide basic services like handing out towels and toothbrushes. The significant difference is that maybe ten clients are awake at any one time at night. It makes for a lot of dead time once the preparations for breakfast are complete. But that's alright. I'll never take an hour of two clients coming off their highs, another two squaring off over whether one meant to bump the other's chair or not and yet another faking a seizure over an hour where a single client asks once for a cup of water and the rest mind their own business.

One regret I have about my time with the House of Charity is that I never made the effort to write about it until I had left it. I think this was due, in part, to an exaggerated concern of protecting client confidentiality and privacy and also to so many other things occupying my attention in my final two years of university. Now, however, I would like to take the time to reflect on my work with the homeless. I certainly have time as I spend my days off sitting alone in my living room while everyone I know is sleeping and all the places I would like to visit are closed, so you can look forward to this in the future.

For now, allow me to share my favorite things from this past month: one client said I looked like Asher Roth, another compared me to a young Clint Eastwood, I met again a client I had worked with in Spokane and who now had a part-time job and was looking healthier, and a client asked whether I was "undercover staff" because I was not wearing my ID badge.

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