Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Yesterday during our women and family services meeting one our pro bono counselors came in the meet with us. She discussed how dealing with a mob of people (because that is essentially what we are dealing with) takes a toll emotionally and physically on us. Some days I think that manual labor would be less exhausting than dealing with these challenging (and charming) women. Each of the women's resources advocates has physical and mental quirks. I grind my teeth and clench my jaw. Other women can't sleep, have nightmares, have back and stomach problems, chronic headaches, and the list goes on. Our numbers are just unmanageable.
However, yesterday we learned some coping measures. In the midst of the chaos, we are merely reactive. We respond like machines to what is in front of us. To the women we have no identity other than someone that gives them bus tokens and food. We are trying to anchor ourselves in the present, and realize that we are more than our jobs. We need to have a sense of self, and if we do, and we convey that, the women will respect us.
Some days, well most days, upper management does not have a clue what goes on in emergency services. There is such a disconnect between their idealistic view of what we should do, and what actually happens. This population is not easy to work with. But there are genuinely great people in the midst of the chaos, that do inspire me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Reflections on Domestic Violence

We see quite a few women who are victims of domestic violence, who are already in safe houses, need to be placed there or are survivors of DV.
Today a new client came to the shelter who had just left her abusive husband. She did not want to go into a safe house. She insisted that she would be safe on her own. We wanted to do more intensive case managment, but she would not have it. She slipped out before we could catch her. She is in the midst of a cycle of abuse, and who knows how long it will be before she tries to leave again. Our stats say that a woman will leave an average of 9-11 times before she leaves for good.
However, much like the cases of homelessness and chemical dependency, a person cannot change unless they want to change. We need to respect where this particular woman is at this time. And that is just one of the hardest things to watch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

the journey continues

I am settling into a routine that includes seeing abject poverty and homelessness and dependency every day and knowing that I cannot help everyone. I have several observations about the population that I am working with:
First, a sense of helplessness and dependency is very pervasive. Today for instance, a woman was looking up job opportunities and phone numbers were not included on the webpage. She was complaining about this, and I told her to look in the phone book. She said that she did not want to, and I replied that I did not want to either. Eventually, she ended up finding the numbers on her own.
Next, irresponsibility is rampant. We received a grant for bus passes, and so distributed them to several hundred women. It is curious to note how many women have lost them in the week that they have had them. Now they want more. Also, we see alot of women who wait to find food or diapers or something else until they are out of whatever item. Then they become desperate, suddenly their problem should urgently become our problem. One of our mottos at work is "We are not responsible for your poor planning. We can't fix your life."
Finally, people lack information. People are not aware of life skills, family planning, poor choices...the list goes on. It is amazing how much we take for granted. The number of life skills that my family taught me is so amazing, and I cannot imagine not having had that skill base.

I find myself attempting to emulate Grace in my life. I have to be patient, more patient that I have ever been before. I have to continually give these women the benefit of the doubt, day after day. I have to listen to their stories without judging. I have to encourage them to take responsibility and initiative, while still being caring. There is a tight line to walk between being firm and being unkind. All I know is that I cannot do it without prayer.