“Awesome”

“You are awesome.”

I’ve been hearing that a lot lately, for what I’ve been trying to do to help my new friend, Mandy.

I don’t feel awesome.  I’m just a person with the right sort of upbringing, who has done the right sort of volunteering, and have the right sort of experiences, to know that maybe – just maybe – this person can be helped.  If they want it bad enough.

It’s been an interesting week with Mandy.  Yes, folks, it’s only been a week since this young woman’s plight touched my heart – and maybe yours.  Several of you have come forward asking how you can help, and I know my responses have been less than encouraging.  In truth – I don’t know what to say.

I know that straight money is not appropriate – and I think most of you do too.  I would be willing to go with her – or buy the ‘thing’ directly.  An idea to crowd-fund when we have clear cut things that need to be bought for her has been brought up.  I like the idea.  I’ll keep it for a while and we’ll see what happens after Pennsic.  I already have a plan for Pennsic – but I’ll share that later.  As fast as my world moves, the world of the street is even more unpredictable.  I can’t plan for Friday for the street… that’s many hours, many choices, many options, and many worlds away. 

Yesterday, I was in contact with the Assistant to the Executive Director for the Homeless Advocacy Project.  He told me that the clinics (the free legal ones I have previously wrote about) will help her get her birth certificate but to get there on time.  The next one is about 5 blocks from where she squats.  (But, I’ll get to this later.)

I also reached out to my managerial contact at ProjectHOME.  I let her know that Mandy may already be in their system and that she feels like she isn’t supported by her outreach coordinator.  I made it clear that I was not attacking ProjectHOME or the system – that I just wanted to know how this complaint could be researched.  My contact was very gracious and open to looking into it.  I will need to collect a little more information from Mandy – either her last name, or more likely, the name of her outreach coordinator.  Mandy told me where the woman works – but for the life of me I cannot remember.  I’ll have to stop by today between work and the train to see if I can get that information from her.  My contact was open to the possibility that it might not be Mandy, but a coordinator who is not trying hard enough, that it’s a problem, and that it’s worth remedying.  To quote Bill Engvall, “Now that is what I call awesome.”

The outreach team could not find her when they went out yesterday afternoon.  And, I was walking with a co-worker, so I didn’t go my usual way when I got on the train.  They did, however, let me know that they would try again last night, this morning, and this afternoon.  After that, she would be put into their system as someone to watch out for, unless I called them when I either could see her or was with her.  Again, I am in awe at the amount of time and effort that ProjectHOME puts into finding someone who has been reporting as needing help. 

If she agrees to go with them to the shelter, which I had urged her to do yesterday, they will be able to help her get her IDs in order.  But, there is a such thing as shelter-shy, which the assistant from the Homeless Advocacy Project understood. While older, this article in the New York Times does a really good job of explaining why the homeless dodge the shelter system. 

I’m not certain what tomorrow will bring – or my conversation tonight.  I don’t know what Mandy thinks of my attention with her situation  I don’t know if she finds it cute, helpful, or terribly annoying.  She’s always gracious, and I make a habit of not doting too much – maybe going another way to the location so that I can see her, but she can’t see me. Just to make certain she is still out there.  Mind you, should she take my advice and go with ProjectHOME, one day she will just disappear.  I will have the option of calling after her and, because I’m the person who called her in to begin with, they will tell me the status.  But, I can’t help but worry about what that status will be – or if she’ll be there at all.

At that point, she would be in the wind.  And that’s something I simply don’t want to think about.  So, I’ll work on not – not yet, anyway.

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