Friday, July 8, 2011


Jules: We should have shotguns for this kind of deal.
Vincent: How many up there?
Jules: Three or four.
Vincent: That's countin' our guy?
Jules: Not sure.
Vincent: So that means there could be up to five guys up there?
Jules: It's possible.
Vincent: We should have Bleepin' shotguns.

Most of us remember this scene(slightly edited) from the movie Pulp Fiction- it usually pops into my head at least once a day no matter what I'm doing at work. This short scene could sum up the general experience of anyone who works at a non-profit organization, especially one focusing on homeless services. Not that being a hitman is comparable to homeless services in anyway, but often times we're just so ill equipped and poorly informed to back up what we're promising our clients, and in this way fail to effectively help them. At least on a basic service level, and by that I mean food, clothing, toiletries, showers, phone, information and directions to emergency shelters, and so on.

Imagine if you worked in a day care and you were told to cheer up all the children with a rusty can full of live centipedes and old stinky cheese, or maybe more believably promising everyone ice cream and then only a quarter of the group gets some. In either situation you might be able to please a few, but definitely not everyone...unless they're like really into centipedes or maybe cheese enthusiasts, in which case by all means roll with it because making due with what you have at the moment is all you can do sometimes. If you run out of shampoo then your just going to have to hand out soap and towel. If you run out of towels then your just going to have to stop the showers and wait for more, and get as many showers in after you get more as possible. If you run out of razors your just going to have to say you ran out and offer something else. So why bother doing something if we can only help some and not all? Why do something if it's not going to be the absolute best? Should we even still attempt to? Does the world really need a bunch of B+ efforts?

In the movie Jules and Vincent go into the situation despite being ill equipped and with inaccurate information, and make it out ok. This, however, is only possible by what Jules is convinced is divine intervention. One day at work I was trying to convince a client who had walked in a few minutes before close that we had no shoes. He wouldn't have it though, he'd been walking all day and his current shoes(black dress shoes) were ragged and hurting him. First of all we never have men's shoes where I work and if we did what were the odds we'd have his size. Second of all I just didn't have anything left in me to deal with the disappointment that we both would have when I checked for shoes and came up with nothing. Finally we were closed, and I was supposed to be going home, every else was booking it like they usually do and I wanted to be among them, not having one last insult to injury as I wasn't able to help another client among countless others this year. So to appease this guy I walked behind the counter to where the clothing and shoes are kept and what to my surprise was there but three massive bags of slightly used New Balance and Asics athletic shoes. Needless to say I was a little embarrassed (or ashamed, or maybe I felt selfish and lazy that I wouldn't even go to the counter and look) for a while, having been so convinced and trying to shoo off my client, and then happening upon bags of shoes. Not only was this guy getting shoes, but nice shoes that were intended to be walked in- a lot. So like Jules and Vincent, me and unknown client went into a situation not knowing the outcome, and then somehow dodged everything the situation could throw at us.

I know God is everywhere, but I really wasn't really aware of his/her presence at work until then. Until someone else, maybe not knowingly, told me to look and I did(reluctantly), and saw. I consider that day my own "divine intervention".

Monday, November 22, 2010

Do you realize that hapiness makes you cry?

Ready or not here I blog! And what a blog it shall be. First things first, however, this was a account I set up this summer that was intented to be a place where I would share my thoughts on music I was listening to at the time, and was originally called Lemon World, but now its not. This is why the adress is lemonworld909. I'm just too lazy to try and change it, but not too lazy to post. This is a promise I can make and can keep. This is a big step for me, and maybe a big step for you as this may be your first time reading a blog, and have yet to realize the mistake you've made in choosing this one as you're first. I'm joking of course- It's a great blog. Maybe among the greatest. Maybe too early to tell? In any case what I can tell you is that it won't be a linear breakdown of my everyday, or everyweek- thats for sure. Also I'll most likey be butchering the english launguage with each and every post, but not in the ground-breaking Huck Finn kinda way, but more in that it's sloppy and I can get away with it out here on the untamed web. Anyway, enough boring word typing and more exciting word typing.

Up until recently I had no idea how to start this blog, and it wasn't til a fellow YAV (Young Adult Volunteer) asked me two questions in an email that I was able to find a focal point and really put into words everything I was thinking and feeling (some of which I didn't know I thought and felt until I was actually writing it). I know it's borderline ranting in some areas (Isn't that what all blogs are?), but I think it makes for a good stream of consciousness/meditation/summary of what I'll be blogging about all year.

Before I start it's important that you know I work for agency in Los Angeles, California called PATH (People Assisting the Homeless). I live in Hollywood in a house/community center operated by a community outreach program known as DOOR(Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection) with five other individuals in what as known as an Intentional Christian Community. How I came to live and volunteer in L.A. is thanks to a program called Young Adult Volunteers or as some say YAV.

Here are the questions that were asked in the email: Do you think that someone has to do the job you're in now? Why do you think it's too much responsibility--- For you or for anyone?

So let me start like this. My job was originally two jobs. The first was basic receptionist duties like answer the phone, get clients their mail, toiletries, or showers (which I have to make sure only go 20 mins, which some clients find themselves to be entitled to more time than that, which in turn backs up the whole list of clients waiting), let them use the phone, serve lunch at 11:00, and help keep the appointments in order. The last part may sound easy, but I'm not just keeping intake and case management (intake) appointments in line, I'm also keeping our Rent to Prevent program, Gateways mental health, HPRP, Personal Care (Salon), and Pathways transitional housing appointments. All of them run on their own schedules, and only some of them are kind enough to let me know what those schedules are. The second is what used to be the case management position that was specifically there to screen clients for an intake interview and then actually sit down with them for the intake interview. This second job is now split between me (screening) and the Case Managers (intake interviews) Before it was split the purpose of this job was so that the intake case manager would be able to do screening and intake interviews all day while the other case managers did all the follow up appointments and further case management. Without this job intake interviews are limited to only 10 everyday (note: 6 follow up appointments happen in the afternoons for people who are under case management. This is the reason we can't do more intake interviews a day), which there is actually supposed to be 15, but my boss for whatever reason doesn't do the 5 he's supposed to do. What frequently happens is when a case manager is absent, or both case managers are given an emergency assignment and we have to turn people away and cancel their appointments after they've waited for 4 hours or driven or walked "X" amount of miles to be there that day or at that time. Guess who has to let them know, and guess who becomes the target of their anger when they know? Some of them have severe mental illnesses that I'm not qualified to handle and am unable to deal with in a sensitive manner. If something as simple as the mail is late and hasn't been filed then logically I'm the one responsible or the one doing it on purpose because obviously I'm a sadistic, mean, sociopathic, misanthrope (which I've been accused of and yes for this reason). I'm also pulled into the office periodically to make copies or put files away for the case managers. So my job is having a bit of an identity crisis. Am I a receptionist? Am I a office clerk? Am I screener for intakes?

So hopefully that answers you're question about why it's a lot of responsibility for one person, and I do have other volunteers helping me (Thanks co-volunteers, things would not go smoothly with out you!), but I'm the only on who's there 4 days a week, 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. To answer the other question. My job outside the context of PATH really has no purpose other than it's a filter, screen, or distraction. Sometimes I feel like one of those smoke bombs ninjas throw in movies to buy them time to prepare or to get away. I guess all businesses need someone on staff to do the small stuff and it's not like I'm making coffee-runs (yet). I also constantly question if the basic services that my job provides (lunch, shower, phone, mail, toiletries) are enabling some of the people who chose to be homeless or the system abusers. It's also hard for me to see what good a system is if it can only help some, but not all. I even get angry that people have to be homeless or that there's such a thing as homelessness. I feel like Max- a child from the movie Where the Wild Things Are sometimes in that I can't understand why things can't be they way I want them be, or why I can't simply make them be that way if they're not. I get that part of this year is about humility and being humbled and realizing privilege (I was basically a Sociology Minor so I've had these realizations and feelings for the past four years), but I didn't come out here for a year long guilt trip nor to just get the warm fuzzies about doing good work. The best answer to why I'm doing this at all is for change (At YAV orientation we heard a lot of testimonies of frustration and doubt that they had made any difference, which at the time I didn't believe). I thought I could change myself and have a chance to change the community/people that I meet. I'm not sure if it's possible (it's becoming pretty apparent it might not). I feel like I'm heading toward a dead end or a cliff, or maybe even nothing at all. And if that's the case and I don't find what I'm looking for it won't have been any different than anything else I've tried, and when all that's stripped away what will be left is just me and God, and I don't have a problem with that. It's a lot more than what I started with.

After I wrote this answer I had a conversation with my site coordinator and I told him that a lot of people were referring to my year here as only an "experience", like vacation that I would just put away as fond memory in a scarp book and never think of again. That it would be something that I would just walk away from and continue life as it was before, like nothing had happened, like I won't have cared. He answered by telling me that even if I left tomorrow I would still leave with something far beyond just an experience. Again, here was something else that I hadn't realized, that just like everyone else I was trying to quantify my year in the increments of experience: When did it start? When will it end? What does it mean/what will it have meant? In actuality it had began before I knew it and will probably be over before I know it, and what it means and will mean I can only continue to guess(and blog).

Talk atcha lata


P.S. Here is a quote that I stole/borrowed from my sister's facebook profile from a movie I know we both like. I think it's good capper on this entry.

"What do you do? You laugh. I'm not saying I don't cry, but in between I laugh and I realize how silly it is to take anything too seriously."
-Garden State