Women on the verge…

For the past eight months, I have been fortunate to work at a part-time job with limited benefits. I say fortunate because of the lack of job availability or options. Thanks to a church member’s recommendation, I was able to secure the job.

Unemployment was an albatross for a long time. My earnings went from a high-five figured salary to zero, to another five-figure salary but this time way down the numeric line. Bookkeeper, Administrator, Special Ed teacher, are titles of the past garnered from a Master’s from a prestigious university and a Master of Science from a not so prestigious college. My current title is, “File Clerk”.

I now work as a file clerk in a homeless women’s’ shelter.

I now work as a file clerk in a mental health homeless women’s’ shelter.

I now work as a file clerk in a mental health homeless women’s’ shelter surrounded by housing projects in a not so desirable part of town.

The search for full-time work with a different title continues, as the part-time work brings in a steady source of income. Some money is definitely better than no money.

The shelter.

The women at the shelter are a mix of ages, races and multitudes of mental health diagnosis-from depression to psychotic. Clients (the women) have endured domestic violence, sexual abuse, incarceration, abandonment, etc., compounded by untreated mental illness. This combination has left many unable to function within society.

The shelter culture, as my director states, is reminiscent of high school cliques. Jocks, nerds, beauty queens, popular, class clowns, stoners are present in the cafeteria only on an adult female level. There are those with seniority (years at the shelter) who are matrons, sought of the welcome committee who console those newly admitted to the shelter.

Yes, a client is admitted, usually from a referring agency, no walk-ins. Once admitted, a bed and room are assigned. The shelter provides three full meals, shower facilities, laundry as well as toiletries. Free medical checkups, psychiatric services and counseling are also provided and a requirement towards securing housing. Check out from the rooms is 10:00am and check in/sign in begins at 5pm. Some clients spend the entire day sitting in the cafeteria, which, also functions as a recreation room. The clients engage in card games, music, conversations, socializing, fights, verbal and some physical, takes place on a daily basis.

The goal of the shelter is to place the clients in permanent shared or single dwelling housing within special housing facilities. The shelter is a stepping-stone for the clients. A place to pause, get back on track, take personal responsibility and gain understanding of their mental illness which leads to self-care.

I spend twenty-one hours a week in this shelter working amongst the clients who visit the clinic for medical, psychiatric and counseling appointments.  I listen to their plights, offer encouragement and direct them through proper channels to obtain services. Remaining distant and aloof is not an option. It is impossible not to care no matter how difficult a client is or can be.