09 February 2011

Why We Need Places

I visited a home yesterday, which is not something I do very often while working with a predominately homeless population.

I have known Vincent for a few years now--long enough to watch him transition from frequent nights spent in a parking garage, through the application for disability benefits, all the way to the receipt of his own apartment. I have watched one further transition as well: self-sufficiency to dependency; mobility to immobility. This was the reason I was visiting Vincent today: to deliver to him his food pantry staples.

5 pounds of oatmeal
A package of salt-free rice cakes
3 rolls of toilet paper
A loaf of bread
Green Tea

With all of his bland, flavorless food requests, I was not expecting to open his apartment door to such a colorful, stimulating studio.

The walls were full of drawings, gifts from other people, fliers and dried flowers, strange sculptures. Plants (and consequently, dirt) littered the floor, next to stacks of books, and palates of paint. It was truly a 'studio apartment'.

Seeing Vincent in all his glory made me consider the further purposes of having our own housing. We desire to be in all our glory, whatever that means.

Some people fill their places with art and color, like Vincent.
Some people fill their places with people.
Some people want to be surrounded by order,
Or memories
Or collections (anyone who has seen my closet knows all about this).

Some people want their places uncluttered, simple, almost bare.

But most people want to decide for themselves. To extend themselves into wherever they are the most.

Vincent now seems himself, when he's in his place, throwing his being all over the floor and the shelves and the walls.

03 February 2011

Life Snows On

Yesterday, it was cold, and it snowed. According to Carrie, this was nothing new.

"It's always a cold day. It's always snowing. Ain't no different. Ain't no adventure. When everything's closing, when everyone's all hunkering down, we still ain't got no place to go."

I admit to feeling the excitement and thrill of anticipating a historical storm. I admit to thinking of my morning commute as an adventure. And though Carrie's view may seem cynical, who wouldn't be cynical? Who wouldn't be annoyed by all of the hubbub of the homeowners when so little changes for those without housing.

The news called and asked if our numbers had increased because of the storm. The truth is, they remained typical for this time of the month. Though the snowfall intensified, the need was already critical; the visitation already intense.

Carrie was already wearing everything she had. She'd been bundled up since November. She was planning on that. What she was not counting on was all of the services and agencies that were closed. It was a hard day to get any business done.

"Anna, there's goin' be snow and cold 'til spring. And you can always count on that."