The day has come after months of hard work, ostracism, and some good times: Joy is moving up!
Joy loves Tuesdays and Fridays because she has the morning to herself. She may take a tub bath, prepare pancakes, or make an extra big lunch to take to work. Definitely on Tuesdays and Fridays, she job hunts. Since her first few weeks at the shelter, she has been on a quest to work with teens:
Hmmm, the shelter residents seem so thirsty for the information I share with them. Some say this is the first time they’ve heard the job hunting techniques that I explain or what the videos demonstrate. Men with criminal records say they weren’t aware of the letter of explanation. It’s good that I’m not the same ol’ same ol’ for them. But…I ought to be explaining this to the youth so they avoid this lifestyle.
After dressing, eating, packing her lunch bag and sending out feelers to a couple of youth development agencies, Joy looks at the clock to see she has enough time to be on time at work. While waiting for the bus, she lifts her face to the sun:
“I wonder when I’m going to start as a Case Manager? I’m really ready to move into that room.”
The bus ride takes her through a few Central Brooklyn neighborhoods: Crown Heights, Northern Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant and ends in Williamsburg near Woodhull Hospital. She gets off at her usual stop and begins trotting down the street to ensure she gets there before noon. What greets her at the steps of the armory are three young clients sitting on the steps. One of them is smoking marijuana. They are violating two rules: 1) No sitting or lounging in front of the building and 2) No illicit drug use on the premises. Joy is on the war path:
“Will you stop smoking that marijuana! And you’re so bold to smoke it right in front of the building!”
The three young men laugh but make no move to throw the cigarette away or get up to move some place else.
“Don’t you know that the neighborhood people don’t want this homeless shelter here? All we need is for one person to come near here to take a picture of you. Do you have another place to stay? Answer me?
The one in the middle is most vocal. The other two are laughing:
Marijuana is a plant. Nothin’ wrong with smoking it. Besides, I go to work in a couple of hours. Nothin’ wrong with relaxin’ before goin’ to work.
Joy knows her limits and goes into the building to sign in and advise the security officers about the three clients sitting in the front. She walks into the Shift Supervisor’s Office to find Juliette talking to Helen. She waits for a pause in their conversation to ask them to look at the monitor which hangs above the door.
“Do you see the outside camera? Those three young guys sitting on the steps are smoking marijuana. I told the one in the middle to stop and I told all of them to think about this shelter closing due to a neighborhood resident complaining about the shelter. I asked them: Do you have another place to stay if this shelter shuts down?“
Helen leaves the room after watching the monitor several seconds. She’s on her way to get a security officer to come with her outside to break up the “smoking session”. Juliette continues to study the monitor and slowly shakes her head:
It’s a wonder what our clients think to do. You say you spoke to them?
Yes, I did.
Then you must complete a Client Incident Report. Be as detailed as possible, giving their names. Hand the report to me rather than put it in my box. You know their Case Managers should get copies of the report?
Yes, Juliette. I will work on the report now.
Juliette leaves the office and Joy walks into the inner office to sit at her desk to write what she observed and experienced. She writes quickly because she has a workshop to do in 45 minutes.
Joy completes the form and then puts her forms and vocational services folders on top of the audiovisual cart. She rolls the cart out of the office and down the hall. She parks the cart outside of the Social Services office so that she can make copies of the Incident Report and hand the original to Juliette.
Out in the hallway, she wheels the cart inside the rec area to run her workshop. That day, she gets seven men to sit with her to discuss the value of networking events. After the workshop, she wheels the cart back to her office. Besides making copies of the workshop attendance sheet, workshop hand-out and a Client Interaction Update form, Joy logs into the Internet to visit her favorite job boards to print the week’s job notices. Juliette comes into the office:
Joy, will you please come with me to Big Cheez’s office now?
Joy thinks Big Cheez wants to discuss the marijuana smoking incident, so she brings a notepad and a copy of the incident report with her and follows Juliette to Big Cheez’s office.
Juliette seats herself at a small table against a wall in the Program Director’s office and Joy sits across from the Program Director at his desk.
Joy, you know you’re supposed to start working as a Case Manager. Why did you run a workshop today?
No one told me my line went through on the budget?
I told you before you couldn’t start until July 1st when the new contract starts.
Oh! That’s true. Joy looks at Juliette who keeps a serious face and back at Big Cheez.
You’re a Case Manager now. Pack up your things and move into the Social Service Department. You can leave this office now.
Joy leaves Big Cheez and Juliette to do as instructed. Without any further words than “Good Afternoon, how was your morning” to her office mates in the back office, she goes through the process of emptying out drawers and her desktop. She places the items on her chair and rolls it down the hall to the Social Service office. She finds a desk with a PC with access to the Internet and a working printer which is in front of the DOCR’s desk. She moves items off the chair and onto the desk. She does this procedure four times. Her last trip out of her old space, Flo Davis pretends that nothing new is happening. For Joy, being in the big, high ceiling Social Service Office is like a breath of fresh air. Soon a buzz goes through the building: clients are talking about Joy becoming a Case Manager. They wonder what she’ll be like.
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
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of BK Reader.