Archive for July, 2008

One of my clients read the following paragraph to me today as a kind of follow-up to our discussion of his plans for the future and dealing with a vastly abbreviated lifespan.  There is much I could say about the man and his condition, but I think the paragraph speaks for itself.  Per my client, it is from page 417 of the Alcoholics Anonymous handbook.

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.  When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s* world by mistake.  Until I could accept alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.  Unless I accept life on life’s terms, I cannot be happy.  I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

Obviously, based on the source, this passage is intended for recovering alcoholics, but this particular client is using it to come to terms with a much weightier issue.  I pinned this up over my desk, finding it impossible to remain untouched.

*The Center for Respite Care is a secular organization.  This passage reflects the belief of one client we serve, but not our organization as a whole.  We remain committed to openness towards all beliefs, thoughts, and ideas and welcome staff, clients, volunteers, and friends of all backgrounds.


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Driving to the Center for Respite Care this morning was interesting.  A large thunderstorm knocked down trees and powerlines in certain parts of Cincinnati last night (including our neighborhood, Avondale) and when I finally made it through several busy intersections without traffic lights, past cones, and around Duke Energy trucks, I knew today would be no ordinary day.  We truly take our electricity for granted.

Homeless people don’t take electricity for granted because, obviously, they usually have extremely limited access to it.  However, energy concerns continue to effect homeless men and women long after their immediate housing concerns are resolved.  Why?  Because outstanding utility bills can prevent them from securing permanent housing.  While there are agencies that will help with outstanding bills, they are not able to help everyone. 

Depending on the depth of security checks a landlord performs, outstanding utility bills can have the same effect as a bad credit rating or eviction history.  Furthermore, anyone who has such a bill cannot have a utility in their name until it is paid off.  The best short-term fix is to find an apartment that has utilities included.  Even this inclusion, of course, won’t prevent a landlord from turning down these applicants.

Returning to society is something of a choice at first, but it also takes hard work, determination, and time to overcome all the obstacles and consequences of a life that has lead to homelessness.  Health issues can be improved and sometimes even resolved, but there are so many tiny details of living in society that can take months and even years to resolve.  Can you think of others?

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I don’t like the word “just” when used to mean “simply.”  It’s far too often misused to imply a simplicity that doesn’t exist.  Think of all the times someone has said “can’t you just. . .” or “well, they’re just. . .”  Those are rarely statements we want to hear.  Our clients aren’t “just homeless,” they’re human.  There’s no “just” about it.

In any case, I promised an update about our walking program and I’m pleased to report it’s going okay so far.  No pulled muscles so far and fresh air in the morning feels fantastic!  Some of the clients have been hard to pull out of bed (just kidding), but those who participate each day are already noticing a difference.  We encourage the clients to attend as their medical concerns allow.  The Center for Respite Care is, after all, not just a homeless shelter, but a medical facility as well. 

There’s another benefit as well and it’s one I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.  Walking gives us a chance to just be with our clients and get to know them a bit better outside of medical and social needs.  It helps remind them too that they’re more than homeless.  They’re people with pasts and futures and they have a lot to offer.  Today, for example, I got some free advice on maintaining my car.

So, while walking may seem like a small step towards recovery, it’s also a chance for us to connect with our clients in a new way.

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