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.