There are times when I have to take a step back and ask myself why I do what I do. There are times when I feel like what I do does not make a difference as far as the big picture is concerned. I say this because there is almost no change taking place in the way organizations handle and are for the people they claim to to doing so much for.
Yeah, I know there are those organizations who have testimonials from people they say they’ve helped, but having been one of those people I have to question just how much of that “testimonial” is truth and how much of it is “forced” I say this because I know plenty of people who have been homeless and tons more who are low income, living in low income housing who say things in order to get a gift card for food, referrals for service and all sorts of things. But when you get right down to it and are able to speak to them about what is really going on and how much these places truly help, without the pressure of having a representative from the organization present, more times then not, the story will change. Let’s just face it, just like AT&T will not place on their website or printed information how many times they screw customers over, neither will a homeless service organization or any other organization place it there either.
Yesterday afternoon I get a call from someone I do peer support for and right away from the tone of the persons voice I could tell they were upset. Just to confirm this, right away I asked and just as I thought, they were agitated by something that had just taken place.
After speaking with the person and trying to get them to relax and after they asked me to call to try to get a clear answer, I make a call to their case manager who does not answer their phone. So I call another line and get someone who is able to let the person know that I am calling. I was finally able to get the person on the line only to feel like I am being “stonewalled”
Skid Row is like the wild, wild west. Organizations play by their own set of rules and seem to have this “we you gonna tell” attitude about it. I would even say they have this “let’s just fake it until we get caught and they we’ll address it” This is where testimonials come in handy. If you get enough deprived, under cared for, neglected people to say things like “this place did wonders for me” then chances are complaints from people who say otherwise will go ignored.
Many times rules and regulations are set in place, not to help, but to discourage people. If you already have someone dealing with medical issues, housing issues, food and clothing issues or even transportation issues, then adding one more issue or as i like to call them “road blocks” will only cause them to give up and go away and in the end the organization has successfully achieved its unwritten mission.
I mean come on, if a doctor says their patient would greatly benefit from A, B or C, then why would someone stand in the way of the overall medical and mental welfare of someone they claim to be “helping” let me take this just a step further, how can you help someone when you have no clue of what the person is dealing with? How do you help someone when you have no respect, no compassion for the people you say you do so much for? In order words how can I be a heart surgeon and no nothing about the heart….I don’t even know where it is located or how it works.
Later that afternoon I get another call from someone else totally lost with the HIV maze and has no one to turn to. For 45 minutes I listen to this person break down and cry, tell me how they feel like giving up and ask me things like “what have I done wrong” or “why can’t this be fixed”
It frustrates the fuck out of me, because all I can really do is listen and do my best to comfort each person and encourage them to remain engaged. All I can do is allow them to be heard, vent, yell, scream and yes break down and cry, because case managers do not have time to do any of this…they don’t even have time to care.
It frustrates the fuck out of me because after they are calm, after they have been heard, after tears have dried, I then have to encourage them to go right back into the lions den, right back into harms way, right back to the very person, place or things that have caused this in the first place.
I wish that I could wave a stick in the air and tables could be reversed and the people who don’t seem to get the clear fact that there is a HUMAN LIFE at the other end…….let me take that back, I would I could wave a stick in the air and give them a full taste of the bullshit, red tape, office politics, games and drama that they play every single day, calling it work.
I wish I could wave a stick and give each and everyone one of you assholes what it is like to be ignored when you’re in need. Wave that stick and see to it that you eat from a trash can simply because I failed to do my fucking job and then act like it is your fault. Wave a stick and hold you hostage to pain and suffering simply because I do not give a flying fuck about you. Wave a stick and watch you suffer while I go home and forget you even exist.
It is bad enough in this country to be homeless and be fully engaged in doing all you can to change things and the people in line to help you only cause you more hardship, force you to be more broken.
God knows that people with HIV or AIDS deal with enough stigma and ignorance, but to then have the stigma and ignorance come from the very place in line to help you. The very place that you must turn to for help is a breeding ground for HIV and AIDS stigma and ignorance. PLEASE tell me how this is going to help anyone?
After my last phone call I sat on the sofa for one minute and then I smiled because I was thinking of people like Ms. Lopez who treated me with respect and kindness and I now sit in this apartment because she cared. I think of the clinic and amazing Dr. I now have and how HIV is no longer something that causes me such heartache and pain….because they care. I think of my friends who suit up and show up when I can’t even get my ends to look at each other let alone meet. When after 96 job interviews I am still unemployed and $220 per month does not cover even the most below living expense. I think of the people I know who do outstanding jobs for the people they serve and do so because they CARE.
I jumped on my bike and went for a ride. I had hoped to find Judy, but no luck and just as I was heading back home to Hollywood someone stopped me to say “HELLO”
My friend Sells who I met in the West Los Angeles cold weather shelter was smiling at me, looking like a new person, riding a bike with no back pack and many layers of clothes. He was smiling and happy. After over three years of homelessness and three years of begging for help, he found a place on his own. He is now in school and the cell phone I gave him through my cell phone outreach has now been replaced by an iphone that he purchased.
It is very sad that I, like many thousands of people have nothing nice to say about the old guard that has long been in charge of helping homeless people and people with disabilities. This is not to say that these places do not employ some outstanding people who do great work and truly care about the people they serve, but those people are too far and few in between. Those people end of leaving the field and what’s left is the garbage that hold seats of authority, making up silly pointless ass rules so they don’t have to lift a finger to help as many people as they could.
But it’s people like Sells and all the other amazing people whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, people who do care and go far and above what is required to help those in need where I gain my a portion of my strength and courage to “keep it pushing” and then there is my FAITH in God.
With God I am the majority and with God I can do all things.
In my prayers I do not ask God to give me the strength to claim the mountain of mess, I pray that he moves it out of the way.