Sunday, October 17, 2010

no place like home is someplace too

Being back in the mix means I'm back in the mix. It's frayed a bit now, half or at least a third of me is in the jungle but the rest of me is here and here is where I need to do what I can. I've got a new gig, temporarily running a smaller organization trying to bring more housing to those who need it.

So last week I went down into the creeks, the places where folks sleep who can't or don't want to go to a shelter, either because they are full (they are always full) or because they can't handle the rules, or because it's no place like home at all. A friend and I hiked down to a spot where we immediately stood out next to a group of 20 or so folks just packing up for the day. At first there was a lot of staring and then wondering why we weren't showing up like the church folk with socks and coffee. So after a few we start talking, an old timer leading the way. One by one they start to tell us why they aren't in a shelter and why this is all they've got and jiving aside the stories are theirs and ours and different and the same.

Drugs and drink and sick and violence and fear and filth and loneliness and hopelessness and humor and laughter and joy and strength and at the end of it all it's plain old poor. We hear their stories and then we tell them some of ours, that we are working on a project that will put keys in their hands. Not today and not soon enough but keys all the same.

They nod and they listen and invite us to sit. They tell us that sounds real good and how no one has come with lines like this and even if it's a good story why should they believe us and we agree with all of it, we admit the road is long but we have hope, and more than hope we have a plan.

It doesn't have to be like this I tell them and they nod their heads. We wind things up and get up to go when one of the guys reaches out and grabs my hand Don't forget about us he says. And I grab his hand right back and tell him we won't, that it might take us a bit but we'll be coming back. And as we climb the hill my friend and I are quiet, we've both done years in shelters and met thousands of folks and even after all this time and even some time away the problem is right here smacking me in the face. We can do better than this.

We will do better than this.



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20 comments:

Mrs. Chicken said...

If anyone can or will, it will be you.

You're the boxer, don't you know that? Everyone else has gone, but you remain, with your battle scars ... and your strength.

I miss you.

Pgoodness said...

I know you will.

Amber said...

Those people are lucky to have you. I know that you will give them something better.

de said...

Every dignified interaction is a positive one, I think, transferring hope and deflating cynicism.

Magpie said...

I hope you, we, make it happen.

Laurie said...

Your strength is awe inspiring.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

I remember reading Oliver Twist in school. The message then: its not like that any more. Its better. Nowadays the schools must point to some of the world's faraway shit pits and message, "At least we're not quite as bad off as them." It all gets more and more unbelievable.

Border Explorer said...

I just read your comment from my post here at the front desk of the local Shelter where I volunteer. This morning I spoke with a man who told me he is sleeping out by the Mississippi River this week. Just wanted to say that I really appreciate what you're doing.

luckyzmom said...

Happy New Year!

Z said...

It's been a long time, Jen, hope you're well.

Orangeblossoms said...

are you ever coming back?

Bryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tabba said...

I miss you. Desperately. Hope all is well. xoxo

Kim said...

And yet now I worry about them....and you.

Laurie said...

I hope all is well with you and yours. You are in my thoughts.

Lisa Marcus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Cecilieaux said...

I have imagined you in Zuccotti Park. Hope all is well!

PS: I miss Chani, don't you?

Laurie said...

Where are you? I miss you still.