12 May 2009

No Room at the Grand Rapids Inn

Rita is beautiful.

She has long, straight black hair, huge eyes, an incredibly wide smile, and a wonderfully pleasent and joyful demeanor. She doesn't talk very often because she is not very familiar with the English language, but she radiates light in a way that convinces you that speech is hardly important at all. Lately, she has been even more excited than usual; she is eight months pregnant with her first child, and needs to prepare a place for herself and her baby before it arrives.

The father of Rita's child, Greg, has frequented 144 South Division for over a year, requesting medical help, making long distance phone calls, and translating for Rita whenever she has any questions. Rita has been staying in the Women's Drop-In shelter, while Greg has been in a recovery house for men. I have never seen him smile, especially not today, when he escorted Rita, considerably further along than she was last time I saw her. I was happy to see Rita, but her silent smile seemed to mock the gravity of the situation, as Greg's straight face mirrored it--Rita had nowhere to go--she has no Social Security number.

Greg called the DHS about a month ago, when their options seemed to be pretty slim as to how they would care for their child when it was born. They filled out all of the applications for State Emergency Relief, but were turned down because the blank next to the prompt "SS#" had not been filled. They then called the Salvation Army, who informed Rita that if she had no income, they could not find a place for her to stay. They didn't even know about her Social Security Number.

Greg and Rita are left to beg agencies and churches to help them, somehow, to have a place for their child--putting aside any thought of the joy of pregnancy, or the excitement of starting a new family.

While Greg bangs the phone against his forehead, Rita just smiles; perhaps she can see past the situation, and can only feel the joy of life inside of her... or perhaps she knows exactly what is going on, but she only knows how to smile.

No comments:

Post a Comment