By Akosua Albritton

January 19, 2016, 8:28 am

 
Print/Download PDF
The Shelter in the Armory

The Shelter in the Armory

Joy is surprised she lasted the six-month probationary period.  She thought about frequently arriving to work late after doing three months to get fired but, it went against her grain to pull that off.  Apparently, other people noted the time on their calendars because things change. 

The middle of January marks Joy completing her six-month probationary period. There is no cupcake or invitation to lunch. Something much better: friendliness.  One Residential Aide went from ignoring her to saying Hello and smiling.  After many instances of the greeting, Joy asks her about it.  The lady responds, “Whatever do you mean?”  Joy doesn’t press because it could be just a coincidence.  The lady had told her months ago about how the main office can roar at her for all things not correct.  This lady handles time and payroll for the shelter staff.

The security guards are their usual cordial.  Jack the Custodian has a wider smile for her.  Doing six months must be a feat here.  Joy remembers the Case Manager who spoke Spanish so well that she thought he was Panamanian.  One day earlier in the fall,  she overheard Juliet talking on the phone as she approached Juliet’s big wooden desk in the back of the Social Service office.  The Social Service Director queried the person on the other end when he would return to work: “It’s been  nine days since you’ve been to work…”  Joy turned around and walked paces out of earshot from the conversation.  Another Case Manager later explains that the other one had gone AWOL.  Juliet needs to know whether she should make a call from her standby list.  Juliet doesn’t like seats to stay empty.  The clients have to be served.

Office Swivel Chair

Office Swivel Chair

One slim lady who is into metaphysics lost her job for getting stuck in Boston one Monday morning.  Another lady leaves the job on her own.  She starts strong.  She mingles with the clients during her cigarette breaks out in the front of the building.  Between puffs she tells them, “I can be your best ally or worst nightmare”.  She later requests to be switched from case management to Relief Shift Supervisor which Juliet approves.  This is the12-hour shift for the weekends.  Stan the Operations Director gives her a thorough training, letting her shadow him many evenings.  The lady just could not hack either job.  One afternoon, Juliet and another Relief Shift Supervisor are standing beside the woman who is slumped in a chair in the lounge.  That is her last day.

There is an older man who had a paternal approach to his younger cases.  One client calls him Pop to his credit.  This Case Manager is organized but slow in picking up the CARES system.  He is let go.  Weeks later, he returns to the shelter to pick up his check and hand in his ID card.  The word is he secured a supervisory position at another human service agency.  Good for him: he is an ex-con who spent time in the pen getting his degrees.  He has a Ph.D.

Even Flo Davis turns over a new leaf due to the six-month benchmark.  Flo now greets her when she walks into the office and says her name when asking questions, so Joy knows she is a part of the conversation. Joy accepts the change but there is a strong “but” in her mind. “Flo enjoys being Queen Bee too much to permanently embrace me.” True, Flo works the fraternization game too long and too well for a new and diligent co-worker to rock her boat.

Getting Your Own Keys chronicles the professional odyssey of Joy Duggins, a resourceful and encouraging service provider in a Central Brooklyn men’s homeless shelter.  It gives a peek into NYC homeless services procedures and much workplace drama.  http://gettingyourownkeys.blogspot.com/
What’s the goal of providing temporary emergency shelter?  Getting Your Own Keys

Want to write for us? We're looking for interns and experienced writers! Go here for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.