My work is heavily involved at the moment with homeless people and securing/providing funds for rent deposits, plus negotiation with landlords to try get them into at least a room in a multi-occupancy house.
Every story is usually a sad one, with some folk being more able to cope than others and keep clean or access support services available locally.
I am absolutely passionate about what we do, and with some clients I/we will work incredibly hard to help where we can. A former soldier only this week really touched my emotions, and after having to bend some rules a bit we've got him sleeping in his own room tonight with access to a shower, so the smell of rough-sleeping can finally be scrubbed away and he can start re-building his life again.
Anyway, with so much heartbreak/strong emotions etc being felt each working day, we as a team have to almost become numb to it and make light hearted comments to each other as if they are matter-of-fact. Examples, someone handing identification to be photo-copied, that is still soaked with the drunken urine that leaked into their pocket the night before. Letters of identification from lawyers with details of their recent court appearence for offensive weapons or heroin possession. The numerous heroin/crack deals we watch at the bus stop outside our office. Meeting clients in a car park (in my car) because the center of town is too dangerous for them such as a stab victim I met this morning. Having to spray the offices as soon as someone leaves because the smell of alcohol/dirt/urine is so strong it makes you want to feel sick - although I'm used to all smells now and worryingly it doesn't bother me anymore. I could go on, but the point I'm making is that much of it becomes almost "normal" to the point we joke about it - and if only to retain our own sanity.
One of the jokes this week was that there must be a perfume that sums up these "shattered dreams", something that masks the smell of cheap alcohol, cigarettes, urine, used condoms on the floor of a squat, and body odour after weeks without a wash. We found it, or rather one of the girls at the office photo-shopped it...
Before anyone cries "heartless" or anything like that, I absolutely and passionately care about every client who crosses my path each working day. We all do, but without the distraction of humour to soften the empathetic feelings we all feel, there is a strong risk of dwelling on a sad story and ending up depressed ourself. If you do any hard luck intensive people work for long enough, you have to detach yourself when the client has gone, and sometimes the worst humour is the funniest.
...I also spent 6 months of my life aged 16 sleeping rough on the streets, so I really can empathise or focus a laugh where necessary
0 blog comments below