Hello Yow-Yow enthusiasts!
I hail all the way from Baltimore, MD where I am currently a full-time volunteer through Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I am a caseworker at a homeless day shelter where I meet daily with an average of 10 clients. The services I aid with through casework include financial assistance in obtaining identification, shelter referrals, mental health and substance abuse referrals, handing out needed clothing, and helping clients find housing along with many other things that situations call forth. I’ve done something as simple as stick a band-aid on a cut of a man’s forehead to as complicated as finding assistance for a woman and her two children who were living in an “abondominuim”.
This work is tough and emotionally demanding, especially since there is a huge need from the homeless population and Baltimore City doesn’t offer enough resources. It’s especially tough as stories of homelessness are personalized for me; I see it in the faces, emotions, mannerisms, personalities, and hearts of each one of my clients.
I’ve come to dislike the term “homeless.” It lacks human dignity for a population that most needs it. With that term comes impressions of what that person is like- alcoholic, drug-ridden, mentally ill, dirty, lazy or even simply just out of luck. Yes, there are clients I see who are “chronically homeless” and may encompass one or more of these features, but the majority of my clients have potential for obtaining housing and simply need a leg up. They need someone who will advocate for them, assist with their needs when they don’t have the finances or spirit, or simply listen to them. Instead of “homeless”, and although it might not be the best solution for defining this population, I’ve thought of “without a house/apartment/a place to stay.” For me, this phrase indicates more of a transitional period in a person’s life when times are tough. It signifies that there is hope for that individual in moving forward in reclaiming stable housing, even if it might take a while. Moreover, “without a house/apartment/a place to stay” also signifies a lack of owning something tangible that society sees as almost necessary to being a “quality” citizen; something also defined by having a valid ID, a clean record, and able-bodied enough to work, all of which many of my clients do not possess.
I want to share this picture with you: