By Akosua Albritton

January 10, 2016, 10:11 am

 
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After a Big Snow Storm

After a Big Snow Storm

Snow and winter are not two of Joy’s favorite things.  She does have the hang of her job, though.  In fact, she looks forward to setting up in the rec area this snowy morning…..

As the bus nears her stop to get to work, Joy looks at her cellphone to see it is 9:00 AM.  If she power walks, she can get in the building before 9:15 AM.  There are still ice mounds on the street from a snow storm two weekends ago.  Doing her power walk and preparing for her work day, she smiles at a memory of Harry Brown and Captain Harris offering to help her over an ice patch.  There was water and ice to deal with.  She appreciated the help because she thought she could cross alone but it was a slippery proposition.

Inside the building and signing the first attendance book, she thinks about the educational video she’ll show in the rec area. She likes the education workshop slots.  This means she shows either Nature, American Masters, NOVA, American Experience, or other THIRTEEN fair. If an episode deals with an issue of the 60s, 70s, or 80s, the older men will sit around her to comment on what they are seeing.  It is good to hear them compete over who knows more.

With her usual papers, pens, and education and training folder on top of the media cart, Joy is about ready to wheel it out of the room and down the hall.  She notices Ms. Owens isn’t at her desk.  Then, she remembers Owens is taking more vacation days before the year is gone because unused vacation days get lost come January 1. 

Owens does a mighty job of moving many men out of the shelter in three months.  Men that had been here 3, 5, 6, and 7 years are now living in supported housing.  The particular MRT option she has requires applicants to have gone to the emergency room a certain number of times.  Unfortunately, the emergency room is the primary care physician for many people; so meeting that requirement is a snap. 

Ms. Owens has more life at work since the program started.  She stopped reading the newspaper–stopped trying to do Joy’s work.  Owens was looking for internships to get the young clients to apply for, although Joy’s growing education and training folder already lists those opportunities.  The issue is that while Joy ensured she had her job description the first day of work, Ms. Owen’s–5 years at the job–still doesn’t have hers and won’t ask for it.  “Such is life…such is the working of the human mind,” reflects Joy.

The rec area set-up routine consists of moving a table from the cafeteria section to the front; cleaning the table with a household cleaner, laying down her folder in the middle, and Client Interaction Update, Workshop Attendance sheet, and other forms vertically on the table.  The last effort is placing four chairs in front of the table to face her. Different men greet her as she does this.  One younger man makes his weekly request for a referral to the barber shop.  She negotiates the barber referral for a date to go to  the Workforce One Career Center.  He agrees.  Joy and his Case Manager will follow up later with him by debriefing him about that appointment.

Seated at his usual table and chair several yards to her right sits Jeff Stone.  Jeff Stone is one of  two dozen white men there.  The clients call him Ben Franklin because his hair is past his shoulders.  Two unusual things about Stone is his strong body odor that pervades the room and his avoidance to bathe.  He uses hand sanitizer throughout the day but the rest of his body and clothes go unattended.  In fact, he wears the same clothes for months at a time.  It is no surprise that he is left to himself or the men may yell at him to bathe.

TJ has Joy's Back

TJ has Joy’s Back

With the screen down and an episode of Frontline running,  TJ walks over to the table to keep Joy company.  Ever since Joy found the Crip Supreme-turned-Community-Building Evangelist, he looks out for her.  Some folks think TJ is crazy but Joy witnessed TJ catch the foot of a man who tried to kick him from behind without turning his head.  Sure sometimes he may ride his bike with a bandana on his face.  TJ says he does that in reaction to police brutality.  “Sounds more like playing with fire to me.  I guess men assert their manhood in many ways“, she mumbles to herself. 

Todd Jones approaches the table to sign the attendance sheet.  Seeing him has Joy remember the fiasco with the Thanksgiving dinner at a church and Christmas dinner at a local college.   Todd receives SSI due to a congenital heart condition.  This money is enough for him to live on his own. He has told her of his plan to save and be out of the shelter by next March.

Good morning, Mr. Todd.  I’m sorry about how things worked out with the Christmas dinner.  I did send the list of 15 residents to the contact at the college and called to ensure he received it.  You and four other men told me how the list wasn’t followed…how the van driver didn’t let you and the other 14 get in the van first.”

Ms. Albritton, it’s okay.  I know you took our names and put the list up for additional people.  It’s not your fault.  People started pushing to get in the van.  I couldn’t deal with the tussling.”

Thanks for understanding but I don’t like to be connected with crazy plans.  You know, arranging for outside dinners isn’t my area. I was given a task that someone else started.  I really don’t like disappointing people and will find a way to get out of picking up the ball on certain tasks.”

I hear you.  It’s okay.

 

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

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