October 22, 2009
Today I was feeling a little blue, it could be a touch of the depression that comes on every now and again when I am immersed in the homeless population. Also the hits have been low on the website this month, which also leaves me feeling a bit abandoned LOL. Today, however my twitter friends jumped in to help spread word about the new fundraiser, such support always restores my faith. This has helped boost my mood considerably. Also, my project here is showing me some frustrating truths of homelessness, which I'll discuss at some point in the future.
One of the staffers notice my mood, she asked if I was ok and put her arm around my shoulder and patted me on the back. I realized, in all the months I have been living in shelters, NO staff has ever touched me. For some staff no contact is a boundary issue,for some it is a litigation issue and for others simply a safety issue. I am not going to criticize any one's choices in this matter. One should ALWAYS do what feels right for you, not just at work but in all things trust your instincts.
But I would like to share my experience that change the way I related to my clients. It was early one morning in spring of 2007... as I stood beside a table before breakfast service on the second floor of the D.I., a client from SunAlta walked by. As he passed I reach out, grab his hand and gave it a little squeeze when I said good morning. Dan seemed totally shocked, he said, "Human contact, I can't remember the last time someone just touched me". With that I threw my arms around him and said..."you never have to long for human contact as long as I'm around." He hugged me back and that was the end of that.
When I returned to work that night, things had changed, as I handed out the bed tickets half a dozen guys ask for a hug and got one. It quickly became known that I was available to dispense hugs as required. Male, female, young or old, one only had to ask. There were only two men I would not have hugged (because they had a crush on me) fortunately they never asked. It became very apparent to me how important human contact is to every human being. There is an abundance of research to support this, most of it done with infants. I still enjoy sharing hugs with my many homeless friends at the D.I. and on the road.