If you’ve hung around here for awhile, you might know that I used to work in a homeless services center in Atlanta.  I recently came across some stories I wrote down during the first few months the center was open.  They are really roughly written and were just meant to be my way of recording some interactions that represented the breadth of my daily experiences.  I eventually gave up the process, as each day was filled with too many encounters – both humorous and heartwrenching – to record, but I thought I’d share these in an attempt to provide a window into the peaks and valleys of working there.   

Dennis & Bruce – 8/4/05

I call Dennis and Bruce the dynamic duo.  They are always working together around here while they complete their community service assignments.  They helped me move out of my previous office.  Every day Bruce is wearing a bright red ballcap with a straight brim, sort of like Forrest Gump.  He’s a very skinny and has a moustache.  Dennis always wears glasses and one of those black back braces.  They know they can’t smoke on our property, so they go next door to sit on the back steps of the Municipal Court building.  Those steps are right behind my office window.  Every once in awhile, I will look out the window and see them sitting there.  They wave at me.  It’s good to turn around and see them smiling outside my window.  They call me Miss Rachel.  They help out with anything and everything around here.  The other day Dennis was helping escort clients upstairs to the clinic and the career center.  I told him he was a great conversation partner for the elevator ride.  He said, “Well, people come in here in a funk and you have to have the right attitude to help get them out of that.”

Henry – 8/19/05

I was taking a photographer around the Welcome Center today.  She was taking some pictures of the intake desk and so I stood next to a tall African-American man who was waiting with one of our maintenance cleaning carts.  I apologized that we were in his way and introduced myself.  He said it was no problem.  I thanked him for helping us out here at the Center.  He said we were the ones who helped him out.  “Those drugs are awful.”  I could tell he had some vision problems, but his smile was reflected in his voice.  He said that every morning he wakes up and asks the Lord to give him the strength to make it through this recovery. I told him that God answers those prayers.  He is always faithful to His promises, and He promises that all things are possible through Him.  He said, “I know I must be doing something right because I can sense Satan attacking me every day and trying to get me to give up.”  I said he was right, but that Jesus would help him make it through.  He said thanks for everything we had done for him.  I said it was my pleasure. 

“Mr. Alvers” – 8/29/05

 He stopped me as I was walking up to speak with a gentleman enrolled in our culinary arts training program.  He asked me if the police were going to get the information that we were asking for in the intake process.  I told him that law enforcement had to present us with a warrant before we could give them anyone’s information.  He asked if we had psychologists on staff – not just people with a master’s degree who thought people were stupid.  I told him that we did not have any doctors on staff.  However, we had licensed clinical social workers who knew more than just an average person with a master’s degree.  He asked if they understood “street people.”  I said that they did and that they understood everyone came from a different situation.  He agreed and said that people, like him, who had been on the streets for years were difficult to understand.  I went on to tell him that, at this Center, we looked at people’s individual situation and tried to meet each person right where they were.  I introduced myself and asked his name.  He was hesitant to give it to me, but he did shake my hand.

 Mary  — 8/29/05

I was speaking with David in the lobby, and an elderly black woman was sitting in the chair.  She interrupted us, saying, “You are in the wrong business.  You need to be a model.  You need to quit this job ‘cause you’re wasting your time.  Go to New York and be a model.”  I told her I liked the South too much to leave, but that I was flattered.

[Don’t worry about my head … comments like these were tempered by a woman named Melanie, who promptly informed me one day that she had no idea why I had paired that jacket with those pants.] 

2/13/06

“I’m ready to give up … Either this cold is gonna kill me or the crack will.  The only reason I keep kickin’ is ‘cause of this baby.”

I don’t understand, Lord.  It was just a MARTA token.  That’s all she needed to get down here to the Center.  About 8 or 9 miles stand between the two of us sitting on either side of the phone.  But we are worlds apart.  It was a window of opportunity that may have vanished because we had no way to go get her.  Sometimes the injustice of this world is more than I can take.

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