Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Plan #B

It is actually important to have a plan #B. Too often I have seen people encounter disappointment then, make some really bad decisions in reaction. It has been 2 business days since competition for a job I very much wanted, closed. I am beginning to suspect I will not be given the position. This is sad on many levels...
Do I have the qualification? YES, in triplicate. Am I willing to accept the entry level wage being offered? YES, for me this job is about who I would be working with. The position is temporary...perfect for Angels of the Road, I was only planning to work til spring anyway. The job is part-time... given my standard of living over the past year I can be comfortable with very little income. This position suits me fine and more importantly... I suit this position perfectly. The great disappointment for me will be not having an opportunity to work in this environment ...with this crew of people. They represent the very best the shelter industry has to offer. As did many of the people I worked with at the DI.... some like myself, have moved to other projects and other agencies. I honestly do not know where Angels of the Road will ultimately lead me, I am confident however it will be where the Creator wants me to be. That is of coarse what faith is all about. So I guess that is my plan #B... to trust that if I don't get this job it is because I am supposed to be somewhere else, doing something else this winter.
One's faith no matter the discipline (Christian, Buddhist, Humanist etc etc) should keep you grounded and true to your authentic self... knowing that no matter what unfolds as long as you don't (fold) everything will turn out o.k. in the end. I have met so many people who claim to find Christianity in rehab and/or prison but can't follow 10 little commandments once they hit the streets again. Every religion has a version of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" Christianity is good but it is not the answer for everyone... find a spiritual truth the echos from your own heart. When you can stand solidly in your relationship with God ,the universe and your fellow man (gender neutral) you will have found the right expression of faith for yourself. Then you will always have a plan #B just have faith (trust).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bring Back Execution!

Today I read the following quote in the Ottawa Citizen. "It's not a lack of resources. It's not an absence of will. It's a glaring failure of execution." This statement was made regarding Canada's health care system but it holds true for the shelter industry and probably education as well (though I can't speak to that personally). I can tell you as citizens and tax payers, we want to see our tax dollars used effectively. As social workers, we want to see our clients move out of the system and back into healthy, independent (tax paying) lives. As clients living in shelters, we want guidance and support specific to our needs, so we can make the aforementioned move.
Much of what I am saying today will ring familiar, scattered about in previous blogs. They do bear repeating and today they will be brought together in one (I hope) cohesive statement.
The shelter system was born to feed and protect (usually from the elements) street people. It did this well, and still does. Over the past few decades homelessness has changed. Our demographic now includes economic homeless and medicals (for more detail see The Good, The Bad & The Homeless under the Essays and Observations tab. As these new demographics began to appear in the shelter populations, agencies added a variety of supports intended to meet their needs. The shelter industry has been reactive, and most of what we do is trial and error. Grounded in the published results of various attempts at research by 3rd parties... We proceed on the information available trying to make the best use of the resources we have. If we are to increase successful outcomes for our clients, the shelter industry needs to become proactive. In fact as taxpaying citizens we need to be proactive...start pressing government at all levels to create affordable home-ownership initiatives. How by partnerships with Habitat for Humanity... Co-operative housing projects... and/or geared to income mortgages. Governments make BAD landlords, and subsidized housing is usually over priced and under maintained. If you are asking why should I (taxpayers) care about this...take a quick look at the essay "Money Talks" which outlines the economic benefits of affordable housing $1.5 Billion dollars of disposable income pouring back into Canada's economy every month. Increasing business incomes and the returned taxes from those gains. Let's get the poor out of the shelters, so as social workers we can actually help the people who need us.
So how can shelters become proactive... first it involves diversification of facilities. Rapidly assessing each client, then moving them directly into a facility appropriate to their needs. Each facility will have protocols, specific to the needs of that client group. Because such a model would reduce further damage and enhance personal growth out of the current situation, we could anticipate a greater incidence of successful outcomes. We have the resources... we have the will... let's change our execution. Such a change won't make the world a perfect place... but it would become a little better than where we are now.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

off the bus

To paraphrase Blanche Dubois..."I have come to rely on the kindness of strangers". Thanks to the good people at the United Church, I was able to cover the rest of the price of a bus ticket to leave Halifax. Now I am in a new situation... in very many ways. Because of the financial crisis, Angels of the Road is taking a sabbatical while I go back to paid employment. Not a minute too soon for my sanity also, I might add. I find that I am suffering from burnout, something which never happened in the 4 years I was at the DI... even during holidays and days off I would often drop by to spend time with my client friends. Now all I want is some peace and quiet. I have been in this shelter a little more then one day and I have started retreating to my room.
I definitely need to step over to the other side of the fence again for a while. I look at this time-out as a good chance for an interim check-up to see if what I have learned has any practical application to my work in the shelter industry. Has this experience made me a better social worker? I'll keep you posted on that LOL.
What is really exciting for me, is that Ottawa is the first time I have been completely open about my location. At every shelter and drop-in I visit, I talk with staff about my previous experiences in the field and on the road; as well as my present intentions to work in Ottawa this winter. Until the cold weather sets in the chances of landing work are slight, so I will probably have to work at McDonald's or Timmy's between now and then. You are probably thinking, "why not try another town?", but really this time of year is slow in our industry everywhere.
What brought me to Ottawa, was a job-posting by a local agency who's director is someone I greatly admire. I won't elaborate just yet, I don't want to jinx it LOL. But after visiting there a few times this week, I can tell you I already like the staff and clients in that place. Hope it works out...keep your fingers crossed.
If you haven't read it yet, we have a comment on the post "All that and Alligators too" which ran in July. Consider it an open question ... all suggestions are welcome ;-)
Anyway must get off the computer so wishing you all a joyous day.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Both ways now..

Now that the end of this stay is in sight I am a bit more relaxed and can examine the experience with some objectivity. I'm looking forward to my new location where I am persuing some possible job opportunities. I will settle down there for awhile...get a place and save some money to finance the rest of the trip. Good Lord willin' and the criks don't rise...as my granny used to say. As always my plans are merely intentions...it is up to the universe (God) what will actually happen.
As with all my stops, there are a few people here whom I will miss very much. The first person I met when I arrived at this shelter was Heather. A petite middleaged lady with an indominable spirit, quick wit and much patience for all the foolishness and drama of this place. Her I will definitely miss. Then there is Jessica...a slender redheaded girl with an artist's soul. Something of a flowerchild, I can't help but think she would be happier in the Kootaneys or Vancouver's DTES. Also I will miss the young girls; Madison, Bianca,& Melissa...they are all sweet, fun people. God forbid they should be in this life so long as to become like so many others.
And then there is my new friend Carol, I will miss our talks and time just spent in her company...but thankfully she and I will stay in touch... our time together is not done.
I have met some good people and learned some valuable lessons about homelessness and about myself. But I am still very glad to be moving forward. Everything passes, the bad and the good. So wait out the bad and take whatever lessons the experience may offer and embrace the good and charish the memory when it is gone. Have a joyous day my friends. ttyl

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2nd shortest blog in history.

The shortest blog was when I broke my internet stick... but I only have a few minutes so this will be pretty short and sweet too. As you all may know I have launched another "fund raising" campaign. Mini Dream Catchers buy 2 get 1 free and no charge for shipping. Makes a unique stocking stuffer...anyway just wanted to let you know that is going well, 8 more sales and we will have the travel expenses covered. Thx to you who have ordered and if you haven't yet order here.
This journey is all about learning and here I have learned a very valuable lesson. I have learn how easily you can lose your personal integrity... if you are not vigilant at all times. If you are familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs you know that moral needs are superseded by spiritual, social, and survival needs in that order. In this place my survival needs are met, but because my social environment is in many ways hostile it has had the effect of eroding my view of who I am. It would be far too easy to treat people the way they treat me (and everyone else). I have to remind myself constantly of the golden rule. As I told my young friend last week, "We have only two purposes in this life,to learn what we can and to teach what we know". We learn by experience and we teach by example. I hope I can always meet the day with honour, humour and humanity and be a good example. I will have to ponder for a while on what I have learned here and how we can use that information to help the system evolve and cause less damage to a person's integrity.
Have a joyous day... and take a minute to be grateful for the experiences that you have and example that you are in your life and your world.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

can't see the forest...

This morning I was alone in my room... disobeying one of the many inane, pointless and virtually unenforceable rules we are saddled with at my current shelter. This phenomenon is by no way unique to this location. I couldn't help but think that people who work in these places should spend a week or two living as residents in a similar facility. One cannot work with a particular set of clients closely after living among them. So perhaps such "resident practicums" could be added to the social work curriculum at universities...say in second year; that would allow for a one year interval before having to deal with familiar clients.
The things management imagine to be important are rare, insignificant and to a great extent self-adjusting. Yet things that grind and wear on every one's nerves are allowed to go unchecked. Causing short tempers and conflict among clients.
Someone once said a little knowledge is a dangerous thing...I find myself agreeing. Rules are in place to protect specific groups (mental health clients, or transgendered women) from potential indirect harm. Example we are not allowed to change clothes in our dorms, apparently this could trigger PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) or just offend the very sensitive among us. The simple courtesy of knocking before entering would spare a sensitive individual from accidentally seeing another person naked. As for PTSD there is no way of knowing what a persons trigger will be until it has been set off. If we had not studied PTSD, or feminist studies on gender bias... maybe we would focus on the more mundane problems of group living. Many issues of abuse, could be averted by basic considerations for others needs, good manners, picking up after oneself, sharing and common civility. These are things we all learned in kindergarten. They are basic and NECESSARY skills for functioning in society. If our clients are ever going to successfully reintegrate we should take every opportunity to remind them of these skills and require their practice.
That's my little rant for today... must off I have lunch duties. Take care and have a joyous day.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tea & Sympathy

When I am on the road (as much as is humanly possible) I avoid fast food chains and patronize local independents. Recently I found a local coffee shop where I can pick-up a free wi-fi signal. The coffee shop doesn't offer wireless, the open signal is coming from a neighbouring brewery, but as yet no one has turfed me off line (touch wood). I have a good idea where I can get my hands on a replacement internet key but I can't proceed with that until I move to my next location. I am less than a week away from leaving here and I will be in the new place for a few months...I hope. That depends on whether or not I find a job there.
I know it is hard to imagine but living homeless is NOT free, basic needs run me about $100 to $150 a month. The panhandler is possibly but not DEFINITELY funding an addiction. In some cities you pay $10 a night for your bed, or $2 -$4 per meal. Some places have limited access to soup kitchens (free meals). The last place I was in had 2 kitchens serving lunch only, you could go to one or the other. Nothing on weekends or holidays. So a homeless person there, gets 5 meals (soup & sandwich) per week. Not having any home mean one has no place to store groceries for an extended period of time, what you buy must be eaten within a day or two. No bulk buying...so even eating from the supermarket is relatively expensive. Then we have universal basics like cigarettes, bus fare, acetaminophen, antacids etc etc. This is what it cost just to be a stationary homeless person. I have the additional costs of travel and electronics. I have gone through my savings and my retirement funds, so now I must save up a little money to fund the rest of the journey.
Like most people, before I began this journey of homelessness, I thought living in a shelter was free and that everything our clients needed was provided. As always these agencies are doing the best they can with what they have to work with. But if I had to rely on donated clothes, (given my size) I would be running around naked... and that is something NOBODY wants to see. LOL. Fortunately, I can scrape together a few dollars to visit the thrift store as require. So if you see a plus sized lady panhandling...for all of our sakes toss her a loonie.
This discussion is in fact the A.D.D. run-off of my visit to this particular coffee house. A cup of coffe here is $1.90 with one refill...that is is pretty standard in this part of the country. Last week they had an apple pie on display so I ordered a slice to go with my coffee...OVER $8 with taxes holy crap...clearly I can't afford to eat anything at this place. The pie was good but not $8 worth of good. Anyway this morning I had my coffee at the drop-in so I ordered tea... almost $4.... guess coffee has become my beverage of choice LOL. Anyway rumour has it the library will issue free access once a week or so to their internet...so I should still be able to keep in touch one day a week.
Amazing news...the website is averaging over 20 hits (new visitors) per day. Last year we were lucky to see 5 hits in a day. It is nice to know so many people are interested in learning about homelessness...or are just curious about what that crazy lady is doing this week LOL. Have a joyous day and I'll talk to you all again soon.