It always amazes me that people are so intrigued by the work I do at the emergency shelter. I never really stop to think about what it is that I do – I just do it. When the job offer came, I didn’t stop and think about whether or not I would take the job, I just did. So I always feel a little uncomfortable when people express admiration for what I do: it has to be done, it is my job to do it, and I think I am good at it.
Sometimes people will ask me for advise on how to interact with the homeless or ask for stories about my job. Only once, today, have I been asked if I have met a specific person. To be clear, I cannot ever say (for legal/privacy reasons) if someone is or has been at the shelter unless they have signed a release of information for me to talk with that person/group. And so I did not confirm or deny the presence of an individual when asked today… but as my friend described her friend’s sister and what circumstance may have led to her being homeless, it brought home the fact that everyone I meet at the shelter has a back-story that I don’t always get to know. Everyone is someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, daughter, son. There are people who love them, care about them, search for them or who have given up on them. There is always a story. It can be hard to look past the mental illness or drug addictions sometimes and see that. It can be hard, in the moment, to realize that an individual may once have behaved or existed in a completely different way to how they do right now.
So to my friend with whom I shared this short conversation today, thank you for the reminder that each person has that other side to their life, that they have a bigger story.