When I first started working at the shelter I serve, I would hear horror stories about notoriously difficult clients and how challenging they were. I must admit I found some of the stories to be amusing. The humor took a grim turn when the stories were now about the company some of the families we serve kept. One such story was about how one of our client’s associates tried to kick in our office door or how a bullet created the inch and a quarter circular dent in our office’s front door from a situation stemming from a client. The absurdity of the whole situation was reduced to humor to me. It was not funny to me in the way say a Bernie Mac joke would be to me, but more so funny in an “I can’t believe this shit is real” kind of way. A few weeks of hearing these stories I had to evacuate from my office fleeing with my co-workers because while out on lunch some Bloods gang members who congregate on the corner of the street our office is located threatened to shoot us. To this day I cannot tell you why they arbitrarily threatened us. Now shit is not so funny anymore and I begin to see just how volatile my job can be. While at work I deal with the depression of mostly single mothers who are in temporary housing and have to be subjected to weekly “unit inspections,” where I go into their apartments and check for things like cracks in the floor, holes in the wall, a TV bigger than 19 inches or visitors. All of the aforementioned should not be in their apartments except it is not their apartments. Technically these apartments belong to DHS, the Department of Homeless Services! Imagine the psychological toll this has on families.
Now imagine what I go through nearly every day as I have to break the devastating news that for the 10th consecutive time I still have no permanent housing options available to offer which prolongs their stay in the shelter to almost indefinite status for my clients. Just imagine if you will how the day to day interactions of these families and how they operate amongst themselves, the rage and lashing out on one another, and how they translate that pain onto folks not in their household. Can you imagine it? Pure chaos! This is how depression creeps in when you feel hopeless and not without salvation from your struggles. Client’s of mine lash out at me and snap at me for seemingly no apparent reason, but I know why. I have to remain calm and choke back tears as a mother who has: cancer, PTSD, depression, and was a domestic violence survivor breaks down in my office because health issues combined with food insecurity and the mental strain of not living in a permanent housing situation has become what she thinks is too much to bear. Now imagine yourself telling her “she will be alright” scared as hell that those words may come back to haunt you!
READ Pt. 2 HERE