Ericka was one of the women Parker and I met in the shelter. She was young, maybe 20 or 21. Such a sweet kid and adored Parker and I.
Look at this Facebook post. She’s talking about a Mother’s Day potluck, in a homeless shelter. Waking up to make breakfast for 80 people, in a homeless shelter.
We took buses to the light rail to go to a church in the city and then came back and hung out at a crappy little pond that was pretty damn gross but it killed time and gave us something to do. And bread was cheap. Broken wing (Gregory House) was a mean little cuss but he kept going and the other ducks knew to follow him because the humans felt sorry for him and always threw the food to him. Also, there were more geese than ducks, but it was still the duck pond to everyone in the shelter.
Look how normal it all seems in this post. It all became almost normal to us. Wake up, fold up your mats if you are on the floor in the hallways, put away your bins, do your chores.
Ericka died about a year or so later. My heart broke. She fought so hard to overcome her mental health shit, but she lost. Two out of the three people in this post are gone…..
Going through things tonight I found a baggie of papers I had never looked at closely.
Parker and I handwrote lots of letters during my multiple psych inpatient stays.
While I never saved cards and don’t have many of them, she apparently saved a bag of folded letters that remind me of stuff from school days, folded in little shapes.
This little note was written on the back of a list of phone numbers of people that we were in the shelter with at the time. So it was the first of my series of breakdowns and inpatient stays, when she was holding both of us together.
Welp, that punched Draven and I both in the feels.
Of course, as I’m typing this… Draven walks out of the bedroom holding the box that Parker currently resides in and turns it back and forth looking at it (Her) and says “Mom, you used to be so heavy”
And, there’s the humor and the light. This is how we survive!
Here’s why ‘work’ felt amazing today.
When I was relying on food pantries and social service agencies and spending half the week finding whatever resource I could to pay bills and keep fed and still make it to doctors appointments …..
I’d show up at a food pantry and they wouldn’t be open during those hours anymore, or at all. Or, they’d hand me yet another box of cans to go with the 3 boxes of cans in the basement when what we really needed was some fresh food, meat, something that wasn’t loaded with salt and might make me feel human for a day or two. That meant I took time away from something else productive to get to something that wasn’t needed in that moment, or in the case of the closed pantry, that was completely useless.
Sometimes that meant spending money on transportation or using up a favor.
I said that we needed a wiki based program, something that could be updated by those of us using the services. Nothing is up to date by the time large agencies pass out lists or post them online and most of the small agencies don’t have the resources to man phone lines. And I started looking into what it would take to make it happen, at least locally. But it ended up slipping by the wayside.
United Way updates their database yearly on a rotating basis, I just started training to make the calls to the providers. She was emphasizing how important it is to get detailed information so the clients know up front what each provider is able to help with, to avoid wasting their time/energy. Fresh food vs canned, how much towards a bill, what are the income or paperwork requirements, etc.
And, they are working towards a searchable online system that would allow notes to be left by users. It’s a long way away but they know it’s needed because they can’t keep up either.
I don’t know if I’ll end up working here in a paid capacity, but it feels so good to be on the other side of this.