Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sophie Cat is sick?

I'm very worried about the Sophie Cat.  She is not herself today at all.  She's lethargic, far more so than usual, for starters.  And she's not meowing or purring like herself.  She didn't come out from under the couch when I got home and I freaked out cause I thought she was missing.  Turned out she was in the best hiding spot ever, and she wouldn't come out till I lifted her out, and even then, she didn't complain.  She's not eating right either, or drinking.  

Bestest bud and I called the vet, the advice was that I should try and force feed her and if she wouldn't take anything, then I should bring her in.  Well, after a great deal of effort I did manage to get her to eat a sizeable amount of wet food mixed with water, so she's had some food and water now and is on the couch.  she tried to crawl back under, but I wanted her where I could keep an eye on her.  So, she's in her bed covered with a blanket (which she NEVER tolerates) just lying there.  I'm watching her breath, and hoping she's just having an off day, and that my changing schedule along with our trip to the vet for a weigh in and the pet store yesterday traumatized her and she just needs to recover.  

Of course, I'm picked up an evening shift tonight, which I need, but it means I can't stay home with her.  Bestest bud will come and check on her, while I'm at work, but still.  Sigh.  I am quite worried about her!  

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sophie Cat and the Blizard

Somehow, the pictures uploaded backwards, but if you look from the bottom up, you can see the snow drift against my window get higher and higher and higher until Sophie Cat could no longer see over it! She wasn't pleased. 


I said earlier this week that I was feeling this need to purge myself of bad stories as my job was coming to an end.  Well, Saturday night was the last night of my fulltime job, and I spun in circles on the pavement outside.  I was exhausted, and had one of my epic 18 hour sleeps when I got home.  This was good, because it put me back on a sleep/wake schedule that matches up with the majority of people, but the dreams, the dreams were horrible. 

While I worked at the shelter, I rarely dreamed about it.  Every now and again I would ahve this recuring nightmare about the drunk tank, but although it was always the same, it didn't happen too often.  Last night I dreamed about the horrible things.  I dreamed that I was the one sleeping in a bus shelter, I dreamed that I was the one sleeping in a shelter, I dreamed that I was the one picking bed bugs off the beds at the other shelter.  It was awful.  It was like now that it was over, now that I wasn't really working there anymore I was finally free to dream about it.  Label me NOT impressed! 

I'm hoping tonight goes better.  I had a semi active yet VERY stressfree day, so I'm hoping sleeping goes well.  I'm not even going to write about anything sad or frustrating or anything in the hopes of having a good sleep.  I'm going to read fluff before I go to bed.  Hopefully, this was just a one time occurance! 

Friday, March 27, 2009

it shouldn't have to happen...but what to do?

One of the things that has puzzled me in my job is knowing that there are many homeless who don't sleep in shelters, and yet not knowing where they are sleeping.  As I've gotten to know more and more people I've been able to gain insight into this, and some of the stories simply blow me away.  While some of those who sleep in the "great outdoors" do so by choice, others have simply burnt all their bridges, this is a story about one who burnt his bridges time and time again, and also, a story of survival.  

Devon was one of those kids who never quite fit in.  Like so many others in the homeless community, he comes from a broken home and his addictions began at an early age.  Inside Devon there is A LOT of rage.  He's angry about his circumstances, and while he tends to be in control of his impulses while sober, when he drinks, he's a very scary individual.  Devon managed to make his way to a permanent restriction from our services, and had to spend a very cold winter living outside and trying to keep from dying.  

During the summer Devon would find spots by the river or hidden away in back alleys.  As long as he could stay off the radar, he was able to go about his life in relative piece.  When winter came however, it was too cold to sleep in the open.  Devon, like many others before him, and I'm sure many to come, moved into new accomadations...dumpsters. Packed full of garbage and rotting food, these metal conainters make a good place to curl up.  Unfortunately, the garbage bags can act like quick sand, dragging someone to the bottom where it's hard to get out in a hurry.  

One of the other tricks to staying, or at least feeling, warm in the winter is to drink large amounts of alcohol.  As the alcohol runs through the blood you feel warm making it easier to fall asleep and easier to bear the cold.  So, one night, as Devon slept drunkenly in a dumpster, he didn't wake up when the garbage truck came, instead, he woke up as he landed inside the garbage truck.  The details of how he survived are a bit of a mystery, but he did, and realized he needed to change his living arrangements.  

Devon moved from the hidden away dumpsters to a prominent heated bus shelter.  Here we covered him with blankets many a night on van patrol, waking him up to make sure he hadn't gone into an advanced state of hypothermia.  As Devon was brought to the drunk tank more and more often it became clear that the police, like us, felt sorry for him and wanted to protect him from freezing to death on the coldest nights of the year.  Despite the horrible things he had done in the past, staff advocated for him and Devon is now allowed to use our services, and to this point, he's shown a lot of respect and thanks.  

In talking to Devon, it's hard to imagine him as a horrible monster.  To me, he is kind and gentle.  I think perhaps the dumpster was a life changing experience for him.  While he hasn't stopped drinking, I haven't seen him in a drunken rage in ages, and he's connecting with the people around him in the community and with the staff at the shelter.  They say everyone has to hit a rock bottom before they change, I wonder if this will be his rock bottom, even though he hasn't decided to abstain.  Maybe he's already started making the changes needed for survival... 

Thursday, March 26, 2009


When I interviewed for my job at the work placement team (yay for new job) I really did NOT think I had done well.  I knew I had gotten some of the questions bang on, some of them half on, and only completely made up one answer (oh how I wished I'd actually done some research).  There was one question though, a very serious questions that I grinned and started laughing at...I thought it was definitely worth sharing, although I do realize that it is kind of morbid, and it shows me just how calloused my job has made me.  

So, the interviewer asked me to desribe a time when I'd intervened with someone who was suicidal.  Now, she wanted a professional answer of course, so I could use anything to do with my sister and her multiple issues (which reminds me of another post I want to make) but in my head I was thinking that I've dealt with enough suicidal people to think of something!  And that's when I started laughing, see this is what came to mind.  

A while back, I wrote about a man who tried to strangle himself in the drunk tank.  In this case, he was extremely drunk and high on an unknown substance(s).  Talking, as it often does in cases of intoxication, did me no good and right infront of me he took he shirt, wrapped it around his neck and began to pull tighter, and tighter and tighter.  I ran for a coworker and by the time we got back he was unconcious.  We opened the door and untied the knot.  When he realized he wasn't dead, he went nuts and it took six police officers to carry him out and take him to the hospital to get checked.  

But that's just one story, if it was just that, maybe I wouldn't have laughed.  When the police who apprehended him came back the officer looked at me and said "weren't you here last week when we took someone out who tried to kill themselves" and I had to ask "which one/which time".  Because it happens SO often.  I mean, people are really creative.  I've dealt with more then one hanging, more the one strangulation, attempted wrist/throat slashing, and of course, the good old bang head into wall until you pass out.  One of those ones fought the cops for a good long time begging them to just let him kill himself.  This was all I could think about.  All the lives I've potential saved with "suicide intervention", and I laughed, because I knew this was not at all what they were asking for, but it was all I could think of.  

Finally, I smiled, and said something like "I spend a lot of time with intoxicated people and their situations can be kind of exreme, let me tell you about a time I dealt with someone sober..." I based my answer on a client experience, but in truth, I just walked through the steps of a suicide intervention and ended with a likely outcome.  One of the reason I want this job, is so that I can have those experiences.  Right now, if someone's suicidal, once their sober, we pawn them off on the crisis team, we don't have the time to deal with them, I'm too busy watching out for the one in the cell beside them ripping his mat into ropes or watchign 71 other people in the shelter making sure they don't kill each other after a percieved sock theft.  

Suicide is not a laughing matter... just one of the reasons I got a new job.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

another sad story

In a way, I feel like I'm trying to purge myself of some of the stories, some of the events, some of the experiences I've had at the shelter before I move on.  I feel like there's so much that's still unsaid, so many people, so many lives.  What's sticking in my mind right now seems to be the sad stories, hopefully as I distance myself a little, I'll be able to focus more on the happy ones, because there are so many of those too.  

One of the things we do at night is drive around in our van.  We hand out condoms, drive people home, give out blankets, look for people passed out places and help prevent people from freezing to death.  Naturally, I see a lot of pretty horrible things.  One of the things that can be hard is handing out condoms to the girls (and transgendered, and males) working the street.  Two girls struck me especially this week.  

As we pulled up to the two girls on the corner, it struck me just how young they looked.  It also struck me that they must be new, because they didn't have that burned out hollow look in their eyes, they still looked like girls.  When I offered them condoms, they were so enthusiastic, "do you have any dark ones" the first girl asked?  Those are my favourite.  And so, we went through the condom bag together.  The girls were so engaging, conversing with us as they poked around for their favourite colours.  When we left them, they were giggling about being able to trade around so they had just the right combination of colours.  

It just blew my mind.  Picking the right coloured condoms for their John's should NOT be what girls this age are thinking about.  Awkard first sexual experiences with boyfriends, maybe, but not this.  How long before it's not fun anymore.  How long before it catches up with them.  Or maybe it has, maybe this is their way of coping.  Either way, it's terribly sad.  And yet, I'll miss it.  I'm going to miss being out there, talking to them, becoming more familiar with them, driving them home, and taking them into the van when they're crying, abandoned in a parking lot with nothing.  That shouldn't have to be anyone's life.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the night of 18 turnaways

As a write this, the Sophie cat is high on cat nip... I'm such a drug pusher, lol.  It's a lot easier to laugh at her antics though, and encourage her to "use" then it is to deal with the human consequences of drug and alochol abuse and addiction.  A perhaps little known fact is that there is that the number of people seeking shelter changes every day and there is a definite pattern to it all.  We turn away far, far more people on the weekend then we do during the week.  More homeless on the weekend?  Not exactly, a lot of it comes down to alcohol... 

It happens like this.  While there is a definitely a poorer area in my city, there are social housing developments spread out in various areas of the city.  All of these are accessible by bus...during the day, but at night, when the buses stop running, it's a lot harder to get there.  It seems, that more people drink on the weekends.  I'm sure this is true anywhere.  While the bars and hotels on the strip are full of business everyday, on the weekends they're just nuts.  And here's the thing, the bars close after the buses stop running.  SO when last call comes and everyone's leaving, suddenly there seem to be a whole lot of people who simply have no way to get home and many of them seem to wind up on the steps of the shelter.  

When we get someone come to the door who hasn't stayed with us in a long time or stays with us only sporadically we ask them some questions, for starters, "where do you live?"  Most people tend to say "nowhere", but then comes the question, well, where did you stay last night, last week, last month, because you didn't stay here.  Most of us hate doing this, but really, we're not a crash spot for people too drunk to remember to go home... we just can't be that.  We don't have the room or the funding... 

But it's hard.  I can easily turn away 15+ people, and generally they're far too intoxicated for the sober shelters.  This is one of the things which shows me just how real addiction is.  When you're so drunk that you just have no way to get home and you're down to the point of sleeping in the shelter or on the street.  When do you say to yourself "wow, I slept in a bus shelter last night, this is out of control".  People get so mad at us too, because we're supposed to be the shelter and what good are we if all we do is turn people away.  It's hard for people to see the big picture when they're caught up in addiction, there's a sense of intitlement and a need for immediate gratification.  

None of us are sure exactly what to do about this... as I've posted about many times, when does having the shelter just become enabling, when does it allow people to continue on destructive life style paths and live of the system, who gets to judge that anyway? I hate having to judge who is more and less deserving of shelter, we're supposed to do it by "level of vulnerability" but it's not like we have a formula.  It's true though, I'll squish in a regular who I know is completely falling part far sooner then I'll squish in a younger intoxicated male who doesn't stay with us... but maybe it should be the other way, we are an "emergency" shelter after all.

none of the answers are easy, not even the process is... 

Monday, March 23, 2009


hey quick note directed at one reader whose blog has locked me out... Torina, if you see this, I went to comment on your blog and it informed me I wasn't invited :(  I'd love to be invited, but if not, i understand why you would want to keep things more private.  it wouldn't even let me see your profile to see your email, but feel free to comment or send me an email at    awakeanddreamingone     at   gmail   dot   com   

dumped on the door step

The other night a taxi stopped in front of the shelter.  This isn't all that unusual as people are always calling to get picked up from the drunk tank.  In this case though, the taxi was dropping someone off... I guessed almost immediatly what had happened, and I was right on the mark. 

We have a relationship with the downtown hospitals.  They'll call us and we'll send someone out in the van to pick up clients and drive them home or to the shelter.  They understand, for the most part, that we fill up, and with the exception of the brand new staff, understand that the shelter does not have any reserved beds even if a patient has given us as their address.  We will work with the hospital to try and find that person a place to go, and if worst comes to worst, they'll let the client spend the rest of the night in their waiting room and we'll pick them up in the morning in time for coffee.  It's not an ideal arrangement, but it works for the most part.  

Unfortunately, because of the way the hospital is divided, our shelter actually falls in the catchment zone for one of the suburban hospitals...how, I don't know, but it does.  This means, that when an ambulance picks up one of our clients from the shelter or surronding area, they generally wind up almost on the edge of the city, outside of our driving boundaries, and if the buses have stopped running for the night, with no way to get back downtown.  This particular hospital has somewhat of a relationship with us, simply by default, but not in the same way as the others.  And so, when that cab pulled up, I just knew it was going to be a person dump.  

And so, an old lady wound up on my steps, in the winter, with no jacket, no way to get anywhere, and our shelter was full.  Even though I'd turned away numerous people that night, I let her in, because really, what was I to do, the cab had driven away, and she wasn't one of our regulars who I knew could be "street smart".  It turned out, she had a house, but didn't have keys and so had no way to get in.  The hospital had given her a cab voucher to get to us, and assumed that we'd take care of the situation for them...how nice of them.  

I was pissed off.  SO, I did something I rarely do, I called up the hospital, and politely, gave them a piece of my mind...I think may have scared the poor girl in the ER, not something I'm proud of.  See the thing is, I can totally empathize with them.  This woman is a frequent flier, and there was nothing medically wrong with her.  Brought in by ambulance, she presented without her jacket and keys.  The hospital would have given her cab fare home, but despite repeated calls to her land lord, she had no way to get inside, and they were unable to reach anyone else for her to stay with.  They then sent her to the homeless shelter, thinking we could give her a place and help her out in the morning.  She also contributed to the situation by lying and saying she was a regular of ours when in truth, she was brand new and had no idea what she was getting herself into.  

I explained to the hospital that we need them to PHONE first before sending us something.  That maybe together we could work out a plan.  I explained that we fill up quickly at night and so unless they call first there is no gaurantee that a person is going to get in.  I talked to two different people, and I think I got my point across.  What I really wanted to say though was "dumping people on the doorstep of a shelter is NOT okay".  I really felt for this woman even though her lifestyle is likely what caused this situation in the first place.  And despite being medically cleared, she really did not look healthy.  

The thing is, hospitals are not homeless shelters.  They aren't set up to house clients because they have no place else to go.  The emergency room is not set up, nor should it have to be, to deal with people like this woman who present over and over and over and over and over.  I'm not sure what the answer is though.  Obviously we need some sort of a different system.  Personally, I think perhaps a lock smith might be a good assest to our emergency system.  I can't tell you how many people we house when they get locked out for the night.  Makes me double check my spare set of house keys everytime.  

Sunday, March 22, 2009

thank you

 Thank you guys all for your support.  It really does mean a lot to me.  I think I'm a bit calmed down now, I'm trying to see the big picture, to look at this from the outside instead of from my heart.  Watching Sophie cat drink water with her paw (dip and lick, dip and lick) always brings a smile to my face, as did watching her decide she didn't actually want to eat my strawberries!  

I'm going to get through this.  It's going to be fine.  To give it slightly more context, the accusations against me, basically have to do with words said to clients in a volatile situation and whether they were unprofessional, offensive, inappropriate etc... They have these words tape recorded, or at least some of them.  Management has thus far only heard their side of the story.  I'm not saying a word without my union rep (and to think, I used to be annoyed by the union).  For them to send all accused home from work last night would have been next to impossible.  Half the staff would have been gone and the shelter would have had to close.  I somehow doubt that would have gone over well!  

I keep reminding myself that the absolute worst thing that can happen is that they fire me.  It's okay if they fire me.  I have another job.  I haven't signed my letter of hire yet, but from what I understand from my union rep it would be absolutely not okay for the shelter to say anything to my new job.  I know I didn't do anything nearly unethical enough to lose the R off my RSW.  I need to trust that in myself and stop second guessing myself.  I have already learned from what has happened, and had learned from it before this whole thing surfaced.  Likely, what will happen is that I will get a verbal reprimand and a letter in my file, if I'm found "guilty" of whatever it is I'm accused of, which I'm not sure of.  All I've been told is that I'm "under investigation" and I've been told to "behave professionally".  

I will keep you guys updated.  It'll be interspersed with other posts that I've already got written and set to publish, so if you're wondering how it's bouncing back and forths from stories about death and prositution (thankfully not in the same story) to updates about my investigation, my sanity and my new job, that's why.  

you guys rock.  as do my friends.  I sobbed to bestest bud on the way home from choir (note to self, driving and crying isn't the best idea), and best friend and I have plans to talk.  I even mentioned it to my pastor and well, a lot of my church friends.  I was pretty upset and mad when I got to church (oh how I did not want to be there...it's good for me though, all I would have done at home is cry).  So, somehow or another I'll be okay.  I seem to be falling apart at the seams a bit, but I'll find the right needle and thread so that God and I can begin piecing me back together.  

not what I expected

I arrived at work tonight to find one of our managers waiting for a coworker and I.  Into the office we were dragged.  I am now under "formal investigation" for an incident which occured two nights ago, a third coworker is as well.  This is being taken "extremely seriously" I really can't discuss it here, but of course, I'll plead my innocence.  On the other side of things, I do see how I could have done things differently, and if I was to do it again, I would have tried a different approach... I still think this is over kill though.  The clients accusing us, video taped us on their cell phones...without our consent.  

We were not advised of our right not to say anything without a union rep present... thankfully our third coworker was and let us know that.  Our executive director will be contacting us as he's spearheading the investigation.  I did speak to one of our union reps this morning.  She told me not to say a word without one of them present.  This is serious.  I can't believe this is happening.  I'm not the kind of person who gets into trouble, and definitely not trouble like this.  

I managed to survive the night, although one client might have seen a couple tears run down my cheek, this after my supervisor told my coworker and I off for something else...he was drunk at least and probably won't remember. 

I had a panic attack when I walked through my door though.  I can't even remember the last time I had a panic attack.  But I picked up the Sophie cat and got through it, I calmed myself down pretty quickly.  I just really, really, really hope this doesn't screw up my registration as a social worker, I don't think it can screw up my new job, unless I lose registration, which I require.  This seriously cannot be that serious though, because nothing really happened!  I wish I could talk about it, but I really, really can't.  Just in case.  

I keep telling myself it doesn't matter, that I'm leaving, that if I can't stay on the casual list so be it.  It's just this horrible feeling sitting on me, telling me that I'm in trouble, just when things were looking up.  

just an all around sad story

This is a story about death.  This is a story about everyday life.  This is a story about the poor and the middle class.  This is a story about people struggling to get by.  This is the story of inequality, unfairness and injustice.  This is truth.  

Everyday in our society people work towards earning money to acquire things.  The nature of the earning and things varies, but in Canada at least, it's neccessary.  Even those who have no official earnings, the kind declared to the government, are generally working to gain income, small though it might be.  While many people think of the homeless as being beggars, theives and panhandlers, there is an entire underground trade system, a black market, which trades not just in weapons and drugs (as many people believe) but in the items of everyday life.  

The poorest area of my city is void of the big box stores one finds in the suburbs.  Most of the stores are tiny corners stores, almost all which are run by imigrant families.  In order for these stores to exist they have to charge more for their items and put in long hard hours just to eek out a living.  Unfortunately, some of these stores turn to less honest ways of gaining money preying on those even less fortunate then them.  

One store in particular, was famous for this, they were known on the street as being willing to buy just about anything from a person in exchange for money, mouthwash or hairspray (to drink).  When we gave out brand new winter jackets this Christmas we found out quickly the owner was buying them from the homeless and reselling them for a higher price... once we started cutting the tags off this petered out, but it continues to happen with a variety of other things.  Because it's not a pawn shop, the police don't run the same checks for stolen property and it's less regulated... and besides, it all happens under the table anyway.  

For whatever reason, the owner of this particular store couldn't handle life anymore, and so, he hung himself, in the back of his store, in the middle of the work day.  My clients were there when his wife found him, my clients cut him down, my clients comforted his wife, my clients called for help, and my clients were there when there was nothing left that could be done.  And it hit them hard.  Staff from one of the other organizations in the area came and did CPR while they waited for the ambulance.  They got a whole debrief session.  The clients who cut the rope, got nothing.  

One of my clients hasn't been the same since then.  Sober for almost three months he's started drinking again, and is now using injectable drugs.  He's in horrible shape.  He talks about the wife of the owner, how she just cried, and cried, and cried.  He was planning to draw her a picture, I don't know if he ever did though... why are there no services for him?  Why is it that staff are more important then clients.  And for the clients, this wasn't just some stranger, this man was a part of their community, someone they knew and interacted with on a daily basis.  Do people assume that these clients have seen so much that it just doesn't effect them anymore?  Because that's just not true... Why is it that we forget about the clients in the midst of a crisis?  

I've had a few conversations with the clients about this.  But my time and resources are so limited.  It's hard to have a deep conversation about death in the middle of a shelter full of people while the phones ring, the intoxicated scream and people are constantly interupting.  I've mentioned it to my boss... but still... just a sad story all around.  

Saturday, March 21, 2009

getting out and doing things...update on my "care plan"

This past two weeks I've been focusing on getting out and doing things.  It's been hard, but worth it.  I've managed to spend time with most of my good friends (although best friend and I have played quite a bit of telephone tag...maybe I'll use my daytime minutes today and give her a call).  I even managed to go out with a brand new friend, something that can be incredibly hard for me.  I'm rather pleased with myself.  

Something which I think has been of incredible value to me is recognizing that even though I'm trying to get out and see people, I can't see everyone, and I can't do something every day.  As I'm sure many of you have figured out, I can be kind of an all or nothing person (interestingly, mostly in my personal life, not in my professional life).  For example, since I haven't been sleeping well, I've been trying not to push myself to do too much on a day I haven't slept.  Tuesday I went to a recorder group practice for church (oh yes, I'm in a recorder ensemble) but then left before Bible study.  I skipped choir practice, but went to the church potluck and annual meeting.  Picking and choosing, so I don't get overwhelmed.  

My sleep and my anxiety are still not exactly where I'd like them to be, and my house is messier then usual, BUT I did all the filing I'd been building up for the past four years.  Of course, that was just cause I couldn't find my BSW which I needed for my new job, but, it got done, which is a huge thing for me.  I had to bail on something with bestest bud yesterday which I felt really bad about, but I just couldn't do it, I just haven't been sleeping enough, and not at the right times.  But, one step at a time, one day at a time.  I can do this... 

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (I just hope it isn't a train).  

Friday, March 20, 2009

the end of it all

I didn't post about looking/applying for a new job because I didn't want to have to write about failure.  I just find it easier not to tell people about my job prospects so I don't have to answer awkward questions later.  Of couse, these means I surprised a lot of people with my new job including you, my loyal readers... and my boss.  

I have to say, telling my boss I was going to use him as a reference wasn't exactly easy.  Especially when he wanted to know why I was leaving.  Of course, I could have declined to coment, but that just isn't my style.  So I told him... "I'm sick of being being bullied and I'm sick of locking people up".  He definitely latched onto the bullying thing.  He wanted to know why I hadn't come and talked to him further about the enforcer.  Why hadn't I said anything.  Why hadn't I just asked to change shifts etc...  My reasons, were kind of lame, and it got me thinking...and over thinking (of course). 

The truth is, in some ways, I am running away.  I'm running away from the enforcer instead of dealing with him like an adult.  It just seems so much easier.  Of course part of me believes nothing can change anyway, which is definitely part of it.  But, in so many other ways, I'm just moving on the way I always intended to.  I have ALWAYS been up front with my boss that I only intended to stay at the shelter for a year.  And while I'm a month short of a year, it just seemed like the right time, for a lot of reasons.  I got turned down, again, for a case management position at the shelter, and after that I just kind of felt like I was going nowhere there, that to stay and earn the seniority to move up to that position would just take me far too long, and after that, there was nothing.  

So what is my new job?  My title, is "Mental Health Counselor", but to tell you the truth, I'm not 100% positive exactly what I'll be doing.  I have a general idea though. Bascially, it's a work placement team for people entering/re-entering the workforce with mental illness.  People have to be somewhat stable to enter, so it's not people in the midst of horrible psychosis or anything.  So probably the most stable people I've ever worked with...  I get to be part of a multi-disiplinary team (yaaaaay) and so there are other people who concentrate more on the actual finding of employment and resumes and stuff (which is good, cause I know nothing about that).  It's a small caseload, which is good, and we spend a lot of time with each individual person.  AND I'll be working with SOCIAL WORKERS!!!  Including 2 people I went to school with, who I actually liked, but don't have any weird personal history with (although, I was a bit of a loud know it all in school, so who knows...)

I'm going for lunch with the team on April 1st, but I don't start my job till the 6th.  I like the place already.  The team leader was totally awesome about wanting to give me time to switch my body from working nights to working days and actually suggested a later starting date then I did.  I'll probably pick up a couple shifts at the shelter just so I can have SOME income during that time, but I wont' do any nights.  It'll actually help me get my schedule in order if I have to be up for something.  

In anycase, I'm excited.  I have a punch of other things to write about too (I've been making a list, lol) so you might actually get daily posts for the next week!  And then, then I'll have a whole new job to write about, new thoughts, new impressions, new staff, new clients, new everything!  To say the least, I'm excited!  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

happy happy happy happy

Still Dreaming

123 Anywhere Lane

Cold Weather, CAN

A1A 1A1



The Homeless Shelter

321 Nowhere Grove

Cold Weather, CAN

B2B 2B2


Dear Boss,


Please accept this letter as my official communication regarding the termination of my full time employment at the homeless shelter.  As you are aware I have been offered a position as a Mental Health Counselor with the Somewhere Else Work Placement Team; I have accepted that position.  In anticipation of the beginning of that position, I would appreciate if my full time hours could be ended at the conclusion of this schedule. 


This letter is also a declaration of my intention to stay employed by the Homeless Shelter as a casual crisis worker.  I value the experiences I have gained and the relationships I have built with the clients here and look forward to continuing at the organization.  I will provide a calendar of my availability as required. 




Still Dreaming BSW/RSW

Saturday, March 14, 2009

standing up for yourself

Something I've been trying to encourage my clients to do lately is to speak out.  It seems like every day I'm hearing another story of injustice, and the abuse of my clients.  It bugs me, and while I can, and do, speak out about it, I think they need to as well.  I think not only is it more powerful coming from them, but I also think it can be very empowering.  

The thing is though, the group of people I work with tend to feel very powerless.  The most common thing I hear when I suggest "saying something" is "they won't believe me" and/or "no one will believe me".  And the thing is, they might just be right, infact, I can almost guarantee it.  However, I don't believe it always has to be this way.  

One of my clients this week came in with a black eye and a swollen hand.  When asked what happened, he said the police picked him up at a bar fight, and instead of charging him or hauling him off to the drunk tank they took him to a field at the edge of the city, beat him, and left him.  It's hard for us to believe stories like that.  The police are authority figures and this man is a homeless drug user.  However, I know this man, and he's very open about getting into fights.  He fully admits to the bar fight.  He states he was defending an old man the security guard through into the street, and this is the kind of man who would do that.  I don't see why he would make up the story about the police when he'll admit any other time that it was just a fight.  Anyway, he won't report it because they police involved would "just make it worse and beat him harder" and no one would listen anyway.  

Another client was groped by a security guard in a department store.  He tried to get her into a bathroom and called her many things I don't want to publish.  The usual things one says to females.  Her male partner (who also abuses her) "rescued" her and now wants to beat the security guard up.  He won't, because he fears reprecussions due to the guards status as an authority figure, but neither of them will report it because they feel no one will listen.  

I've been trying to help these people, and others see the bigger picture.  They're right, no one might listen.  Not the first time.  But what happens if every one this is happening to starts coming forward.  It might not make a difference, but it might, and then at least people could begin to feel like they are standing up for themselves.  As I've pointed out to them, nothing might change if you report it, but if 25 of you report it, over time, things may begin to change.  

I don't think we'll ever stop police from taking things into their own hands, men from assaulting women, and authority figures from abusing their power, at least not in my lifetime, but I think that standing up for truth and for justice can make a big difference.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

why phillip can't talk

Phillip, and his friends, reminded me of a very important lesson, one that we social workers learn right from the beginning.  Client's are the experts in their own lives, and don't make assumptions.  

Phillip has never been "right".  The general assumption was the Phillip had sniffed a little too much solvent, causing him to lose fine motor control, and drank a lot too much mouth wash and possibly hair spray (and yes, people drink hairspray...bleck).  Phillip is very childlike in his speech, his actions and his understanding of things.  We thought that maybe he was born with a disability, possible FASD or something else.  

One day though, I was talking to one of his friends about his ongoing struggle with sniffing.  A coworker piped in "yeah, you don't want to end up like Phillip".  The friend turned back to me and said "Phillip used to be fine, he walked and talked like the rest of us, then, his girlfriend left him and he tried to hang himself... it didn't work, and he came through it like this".  

In the end, it really doesn't matter now why Phillip is the way he is.  What matters now is helping him live with this and supporting him where he is at.  In some way though, it fills in that missing piece of the puzzle, it answers that fabulous question "why".  

Monday, March 9, 2009

James goes to the hospital

It's funny, some of the homeless WAY overuse the medical system, constantly presenting to emergency services and emergency rooms.  There are others though, like James who don't get medical care until it's almost too late.  Because James' drinking is a little more controled then some of the others, he doesn't wind up passed out in the street quite as much and so he doesn't have the (sometimes daily) frequent medical care of others in his cohort.  So, when James got pnemonia, it wasn't till he was passed on in a pool of his own vomit in the back of the shelter that he started his contact with the medical system.  

The paramedics, were horrible.  I seriously, have so much respect for them, they do a crazy job, but each time they insult one of my clients or talk about them like they're stupid and just a burden on society I get more and more angry.  There's some good ones, and the first responder fire fighters are usually awesome, but the paramedics... wow, they're getting to me!  Anyway, they treated him like crap even though he was super cooperative and friendly with them.  There was no rudeness on his part, just some smiling (he loves to grin) and he did his best.  

There's a funny part to this story though.  I was talking to one of this client's good friends at the shelter and asked how he was doing.  Turns out though, somehow, none of this client's friends knew what had happened to him, infact, they were all quite worried as he'd just disappeared into thin air.  So, I made an oops with client confidentiality, assuming they knew he'd been hospitalized, but I think it'll be okay.  

Anyway, the client I was talking to was super relieved and decided he'd get the whole gang together to go visit their friend in the hospital.  These particular clients are the very, very chronically homeless.  They're the ones you see passed on in doorways and on sidewalks.  They're the ones who haven't bathed in years.  One of them wears a hood all the time, dresses all in black and has ear buds, which I discovered in one of his less intoxicated moments are to keep the voices out.  They're almost always intoxicated to some degree and well, if you didn't know them, they'd look pretty scary.  

What I laugh at, is the poor staff at the hospital as these guys come through the door.  If you or I was to visit a friend it would be one thing, but these guys are something else.  I'm so glad they're going though.  It shows the strength of the community.  Hopefully these guys don't pull a fast one though... our clients have been known to bring drinks and get their friends drunk while visiting!  When you're wearing 8 layers of clothing (you only think I'm exagerating), it's pretty easy to get stuff in.  

Sunday, March 8, 2009

darkness and light

There's something powerful about darkness.  Darkness can provide a cover for dangerous or forbidden things.  Darkness can provide a blanket.  Darkness can be scary.  People do things in the darkness they won't do in the light.  Darkness can be overwhelming.  

After my dark and depressing post yesterday, I decided to see some sunshine today and tomorrow, even if it screws up my sleep schedule a bit.  I need to be awake during the day for once.  And the truth is, for whatever reason, I do feel better having spent sometime in the light.  

To touch on a comment by the wonderful cb I realize that what I'm facing right now isn't just normal winter blues.  I may sometimes want to deny it, or a rationalize it, but I know that it's not "normal".  Looking at myself as if I was a client again, because that often helps me figure things out, let's do an assessment. 

I'm a 22 year old female with a history of anxiety, depressive episodes, mild-moderate self harm (in my later teenaged years), and a family history of depression/anxiety.  
I work the night shift and so my circadian rythms are totally screwy which has also screwed with my period a bit.  It also means, I don't see the sun a lot. 
I have a history of having trouble when the seasons change.  
I have little family contact/support, but some, and probably more if I asked. 
I have a huge support network with my church, if I reached out to them
I have a stressful job, but good coworkers who for the most part support me
History of contact with the mental health system is 2 years of therapy during year 2 and 3 of my degree. 
Stable of 150mg of Effexor for past 2 years.  Have available clonazepam prn for anxiety, zopiclone prn for sleeping, but I rarely take them.  
No past history of suicide attempts, no current thoughts/plans of suicide. 

So, was I to provide "advice" (oh yes, that dreaded word) to my client (or well, if I was to help them discover ways they could help themselves), things that might come up include:

Reaching out my support systems (half check, i emailed bestest bud, and set up a get together with another friend)
Changing my meds (no check, I'm not interested, but, maybe I'll try and take more clonazepam and/or zopiclone instead of letting things get REALLY bad first)
Changing shifts (I'm working on it!)
Writing more (working on it, it's helped in the past!)
Self Care (I will be going back to yoga, buying some raw food, hanging out with friends and reading fiction)

And that, is the current care plan for the dreamer.  Because you know something?  I can get through this! And seriously, I'm feeling better today, just making some plans, and talking to a few people and getting OUT of my house.  awesome.  

it's almost spring

I can't believe I haven't posted in a week.  Things are not going well in dreamerville, and writing just seems like too much, that and I just haven't seemed to find anything I really want to write about, I know I'll feel better if I write, and yet I can't.  I once said I'd never make this blog "emo" and depressing like, but it's a blog about social work, and social work has it's moments.  While I don't have the stats right at hand, I know that social work is an extremely challenging profession in terms of burnout and emotional stress.  Beyond that, many people are drawn to the helping professions because of difficult experiences in their own lives which of course come along for the ride.  

My strep throat seems to be making a resurgance despite the antibiotics, I'm worried that once they're gone in three days it will come back with a vengance, requiring another doctor trip and another round of antibiotics, stronger ones, which will likely make me sick.  On top of the strep, I got a super bad cold, or perhaps a flu.  The kind where you just cry because your sinus and your eyes and your everything is running.  So I sat in the car place waiting for my oil change and car check up crying.  I'm sure I looked absolutely stunning.  I called in sick again that night.  

My roof is leaking.  Nothing like coming home from work to discover your bed is wet because you didn't move the furniture because the roof wasn't leaking when you left.  Fortunately the roofer called proactively, he's determined to fix it for me, but still... wet bed, not fun.  So, I decided to try and share my somewhat broken futon with the Sophie cat.  Her "day bed" is on one end, in the sunshine, so I put my head at the other end... and wound up getting my foot bit when I invaded her space... 

Work has been challenging.  I saved another guy last night...maybe.  Same coworker as before and I busted into this guys cell in the drunk tank after he made his shirt into a rope, knotted it, and tightened it till he passed out.  After he got some more air he became super violent, like beyond violent and I had to BEG my coworker to close the door, I don't know what he was trying to do.  Anyway, it took six police officers to wrestle him into cuffs and shackles, there were only four, and they were losing till two more showed up on the scene.  After he got checked at the hospital they brought him back, more sober, he said he just wanted out and he was "pretty hammered".  Just watch him not remember this by morning.  

I need a new job.  It's scary though.  My job right now is a permanent position.  Most openings, the few there are, are for term positions.  I know that's how you start, but the idea of so little  permancy scares me.  And, I only just got benifits March 1st.  Not as big a deal in Canada, but still...I like clean teeth.  The things is though, I don't want to work in the drunk tank anymore.  I'm tired of locking people up.  Really sick of it.  I'm tired of being threatened constantly and the constant berating and abuse.  I like my shelter clients, I like them a lot.  If I could just work with them, I'd be happier, but you rotate areas at work, and so I can't just work shelter and detox.  I also really want a social work position.  I want to use more of my skills on a regular basis.  Right now a lot of my conversations go like this "I can't let you out, go to sleep".  That, and, "I need your cell, you have to get out now, it's busy tonight... GET UP".  

I'm having nightmares, especially the past couple days.  Just really bad ones.  I have a recurring one about the drunk tank, but I've had that for ages.  Now I'm just having so many.  Yesterday's was so bad I wound up just getting up, and then I went to work tired.  

I suppose I'm a bit lonely too.  But that's mostly my own doing, and definitely at least partly to do with working nights.  Best friend is have a country a way, bestest bud is in third year university and it's march, and she has a boyfriend.  There are people around, I just never seem to make the effort.  I'll have to start.  Mostly, my life seems to consist of feeling tired, dragging myself up or staying up at weird times to go to church or church meetings and working... oh, and my daily cup of coffee... i love it.  That's how I knew I was really sick, when I didn't go out and get my coffee.  I think working a day job would be good for me.  Maybe I just need to see more sunshine!  I need to go to yoga too, the exercise and breathing and sweating and high heartrate really, really help.  I've been too sick though, last time I had strep I went back to yoga a bit too soon and thought I was going to pass out right in the middle of class.  

So onward I go.  There's one job I might just apply for I found in the classifieds today, and I do have an interview on Tuesday.  I'd really love to find a job before the enforcer comes back from holidays at the end of the month.  I had a horrible nightmare about him a few nights ago.  

posts about my clients will follow... as soon as I can work up the energy... 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Strep Throat...again (sigh)

Sorry for the lack of posts since vacation.  As I'm sure you can tell by the title of this, I've been sick.  I went to the doctor after church yesterday, because for the second time in three months, I've got strep throat.  Ick.  That chemical in the picture is pencillian, which I'm taking, again, to try and get over this.  So far it seems to be working.  

I'm feeling better emotionally since I last posted, which likely has something to do with the fact that I'm feeling better physically (or the fact that the enforcer is on vacation for the entire month).  I'm still not up to blogging though (and yet as always, I have so much to say).  

I hope you are all surviving winter as well (at least those of us in the Northern Hemisphere that is).