Friday, October 3, 2008

dear person at the door

Dear Person at the Door,

The shelter is full, I apologize for that, I wish I didn't have to turn you away, but I do. Getting mad at me will not change the fact that we are full, I refuse to let you make your housing crisis into my crisis. Asking me "where am I supposed to sleep then", will also not magically open up more beds in the shelter here or anywhere else. If you wish to sleep inside our building you'll need to get there before eight pm, we've been filling up earlier and earlier each night.

You're from out of town you say? I'm sorry to hear that, but it still doesn't change the fact that we don't have any more space. My question to you, is why you came to the city knowing that you had no place to stay. You came for medical treatment you say? You missed your flight back you say? That does not change the fact that there are no mats left in the shelter.

Your offer to sleep on the floor shows me your desperation, but it does not affect the outcome of the situation. I still cannot let you in. We are required to keep the aisle ways clear. Many people have seizures or other medical problems and the paramedics have to be able to roll their stretcher in and have clear access to the person.

No matter how much you scream, how much you swear, and how much you bang on the window, I cannot let you in. I will not tell you that it breaks my heart to see you standing there in the pouring rain, because if it did, I couldn't do my job. I know I seem cold, rude, and distant, but this is what enables me to keep going each night and provide services to so many. I will tell you however, that I do care, and if there was something I could do, I would do it.

I encourage you to see our staff in the morning, one of them can sit down with you and help you make a plan to find more suitable and stable housing, or to get back home. If it's your addiction that's keeping you on the street, I encourage you to seek detox, to take some time to get clean and make plans. It's getting cold out, I don't want to see you freeze to death, and I'm sure you don't either.

Although I cannot help you tonight, other then to tell you the other shelters are full as well, I really do care about your suffering. I will continue to do my job, as well as to advocate for change on a larger scale. As I pursue social justice, I will continue to highlight your plight and fight for legislation and programs which will be of benefit to you.

The fact remains though, that tonight, in this moment, I cannot give you a place to stay. And it sucks. But it's what I have to do.


The girl behind the window.


Caroline said...

Knowing that you cannot help everybody, for a whole raft of reasons does not make it feel one jot better...

Mallikarjuna said...

I like your blog friend 9902239492

lcsw mom said...

Wait, did you have the same guy I did? I hear you and feel your pain! It's a weird phenomena isn't it that folks come into a new city with absolutely zero plans. I've never quite understood that level of unplannedeness. Hang in there!

Simeon said...

It's such a difficult position to be in. Has there been an increase in the number of people turning up because of the economic problems?

Anonymous said...

Boundaries, baby, boundaries. Enforcing them with people in need is heartbreaking, but still necessary, as you illustrated so well here.

Lisa Johnson said...

I kind of picture that this is how the inn keeper who had to turn away Mary and Joseph felt...he wasn't trying to be mean, he was just doing business as usual. This was a very touching post! I graduated in social work and really appreciate all that social workers do. :D

Still Dreaming said...

that's totally how I see it too! In fact, my first post about the shelter full is titled "no room at the inn"