By Akosua Albritton

February 29, 2016, 11:28 am

 
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Men's Shelter

Men’s Shelter

Being the Vocational Program Coordinator means Joy contributes to the number of men that move out of the shelter by writing resumes that help get the employed.  These resumes also give some men new found pride in the work they’ve done.

Being responsible for writing resumes put Joy in the position of learning important things about a substantial portion of the shelter residents. The men are pleased with her work because, for some, it is the first time they see themselves on paper.  Their resumes have them see the legitimacy of their lives.  Take John: he receives SSI and works off the books from time to time to maintain a residence.  He gets happy when he learns dog-walking is a profession. 

Ms. Joy, there are websites for dog-walking?!” 

“Yes, one of them is Cares.com.  You can also post flyers around  if you want to go back to that line of work.  Many people don’t have time to give their dogs a good work out.”

Then John’s smile gets wider when he learns the name for the employee that takes boxes off trucks and stows them on metal shelves: warehouse receiver.

The man called “Ben Franklin” is quite interesting beyond his long hair and extremely strong body odor.  “Ben Franklin” holds a Bachelor’s degree from a CUNY college. He drove limousines for a few years but a series of misfortunes due to chronic indecision coupled with his father’s death, has “Ben” living in the shelter, waiting for 5 o’clock for the television to be turned on.  Another client sporadically engages Ben in conversation from a distance.

Tools of the Admin Trade

Tools of the Admin Trade

The first person to come to Joy to get his resume done is Tony Shepherd. He is a communications tower technician.  This is the professional that installs and services radio and cellular towers.  Joy has Shepherd painstakingly detail every task he does for the job and then, has him select the most challenging ones for inclusion in the resume.  Tony Shepherd has been in this line of work for over ten years.  The drawback is the industry’s move to making the job per diem. 

“Mr. Shepherd, I see there’s a professional association for installers.  Are you a member?”

“No, I’m not.”

“What’s stopping you?  It would look great on your resume and it may be a way to find out about job openings.”

“Don’t get me wrong; I like the work and being outdoors.  It’s the per diem status.  I went from employee to per diem.  No more health insurance and other benefits.”

“Will you think about joining the association?  Here’s the website address.”

“Okay.”

Tony Shepherd is an amiable man.  He seems to find people’s good side and stays there.  He is very encouraging.  For example,  Tony Shepherd associates with  Big Tony Cardone.  Big Tony Cardone is a large, middle-aged man with many health compromises. He spends most of his time sitting in a wheelchair.  Sitting in the wheelchair has him putting on more weight and further debilitating his body.  Since the two Tonys made acquaintances, Big Tony started walking and is losing weight.

It is actually a threesome: the two Tonys and another amiable young man in his 20s, Larry Rowe. This trio will eventually break up–all for good reasons.  Larry Rowe moves into newly renovated special housing unit. Rowe is proud because not only is he leaving within three months of getting to the shelter, he has a job at a restaurant.  Tony Shepherd leaves early winter due to wanting to withdraw money from his savings.  His Case Manager did not explain an important stipulation of the savings plan: withdrawal can be done only at time of leaving the shelter.  Shepherd sees the Case Manager’s mistake as a blessing.  He initially wants a small amount of money–and raises Hell for it–but getting all of it and having to leave permanently is the definite tipping point.  January makes four months since Rowe left and two months for Shepherd. About resume writing:  Joy wrote Larry Rowe’s resume before he left.  His skills set: media arts.

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.
 
What’s the goal of providing temporary emergency shelter?  Getting Your Own Keys

 


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