I started a new job. To date, I am just casual/on call (which means that my phone is always on and by my side so that I can pick up shifts), but I have begun a new job. I am working in an emergency shelter.
To be honest, it isn’t the job I thought I would have when I finished my Masters in Counselling. I had all sorts of grand ideas about setting up private practice somewhere and settling in to that working world. Now that this has happened and I am getting into the rhythm of working here, I am enjoying it and right now I would rather be doing this then establishing a practice. Not to downplay the important work that is done in private practice – work that I have participated in myself in my sessions with individuals dealing with marital conflict, anger and alcohol use, mild depression, identity questions, and grief – but there is something quite satisfying in working with people on a more base level of survival: providing food and shelter and basic human contact.
The kicker is that some of the individuals I see regularly at the shelter are not individuals I would have placed in that arbitrary category of “homeless” or “needing shelter housing”. They look just like me. They don’t all have that glaze of addiction over their eyes. Some are quite well-dressed and well-groomed. They are intelligent. In other words, they don’t, at least not obviously, all belong in that ‘other’ category of “mentally ill” or “addicted”.
Others do, and I have already had my share of entertaining encounters with those who are high, drunk, or experiencing delusions and/or psychosis. We’ve had to call the paramedics but, thankfully, not the police (yet). All in a day’s – or night’s – work as they say.
While I make it a practice to not talk about work on my personal blog, sharing my responses and reactions to working in this field is something I feel okay about doing because it is about my own personal growth and will hopefully be able to continue as I spend more time with a segment of society we often ignore and overlook. I’m looking forward to getting to know people and sharing parts of life with them.
[As I was writing this, I checked my rss feed and read this post by Tall Skinny Kiwi on choosing to be homeless and thought it an interesting comparison/compliment to the individuals I work with and challenge for our spiritual life.]