FYI. Read it and think about this!
To all who participate and are concerned or those who hold some degree of responsibility.
I am a resident, citizen, of El Dorado County who volunteers to help provide for the homeless who are not capable of fully providing for their own basic needs. I do this through donating my time, concern, and financial support through the Nomadic Shelter program. I am so much more fortunate in many ways when looking at my childhood family environment, my economic security, general health, emotional stability, and general luck in life as compared to those elements that comprise the lives of the homeless that I share time with each Monday evening at the Nomadic Shelter at the Foothills United Methodist church in Rescue.
I would like to put forth an anecdote based on my experience earlier this Monday evening of Presidents’ Day 2018, something upon which to reflect as this holiday celebrates an aspect of the governance of this republic, a society governed at all levels to support the reality of the real needs of each of we citizens, each of us working for the benefit of the other.
After a meal, its components purchased, prepared, and served by five members of the church to 40+ homeless clients, the majority quietly withdrew to the floor against a wall around the perimeter of the narthex of the church, getting cozy on a 2 inch thick foam mat and snuggling beneath a thin blanket, no pillow, and thankful for the warmth of the room as the temperatures outside this night plunged below freezing. No pajamas for most, just several layers of clothes in which they live day after day after day. These are hardy souls. By 8:15 most either were or almost asleep. A young woman is very very slowly walking beside the row of tables on which we’d served the meal, and she comes to a stop, her hands beginning to tremble, her head pointed straight ahead eyes fixed ahead but beginning to close. A woman friend comes up beside her and speaks some reassuring words to her, cradling the young woman’s arm, and placing another arm around her waste to both support and guide her. The young woman partially resists but eventually is guided about 15 feet around the tables to where her mat and blanket are on the floor and she helped down and then she begins to shudder and her eyes roll back and close and her breathing becomes ragged with grunts as she contuse to shake and seize. This is not the first time, this scene has been repeated at our shelter in previous weeks, as well as at other shelters in previous days. I am simply a host to these folks, nearly all adults, though this particular evening 4 young men a couple apparently high school age and new to the shelter make up part of this population. At this point three or four of the older ‘clients’ simultaneously attempt to take charge of the situation, arguing with one another about how best to care for the young woman, one saying she’d been a nurse and knows what to do, but is a bit hysterical herself , another here boy friend, it turns out to be her husband I think, is just placidly sitting back, while two others attempt to put the poor girl on her side then prop her head up, or is that roll her on her stomach? Oh well, she is beginning to go limp, and she seems to be going unconscious. Oh well, she done this many times in the past. Meanwhile a young man has called 911 and notified me that the paramedics are on the way. Beside the young woman another slightly older female is stroking her hair and saying come out of it we are here, you are OK, repeating that chant for several minutes as the young woman now remains comatose. At least a third of the once quietly sleeping folks are now up and around and noisily talking. Flashing red lights outside and I’m trying to find the check in register to determine the young woman’s correct full name, all I know at the moment is she’s Anna. Over the past 3 or 4 weeks, Anna has been recorded at our church having had this same situation repeated sometimes several times a night. The paramedics enter and calmly do ‘their thing’ they’ve treated Anna many many times. They check her blood oxygen levels, determine that her blood pressure is about 178, she is verbally slow to respond. She really is not cooperating with the paramedics. They repeatedly ask her if they may take her to the hospital, her ‘husband’ defers the decision to HER, and she says she doesn’t want to go to the hospital. The paramedics are patient, but she refuses. Eventually the paramedics pack up and leave, and tell us that this scenario is a repeat of many in the past and they know Anna very well. If she seizes again, they tell us to call them and they will return again, and again, and again. The talking and confusion begins to reside, and the several people sleeping beside Anna whisper and encourage Anna, and her pitbull dog snuggles up against her, hmm, I can’t remember where her dog was during all the turmoil. Its now 9:30, a half hour beyond my shift, and Michael, another volunteer has arrived to stay with this crew until 2:00 a.m. when the next shift takes over.
Michael like all of us are discouraged, as we are so ill prepared to deal with this kind of situation, we are just the gate keepers providing the roof over their heads on the cold night and helping to fill their stomachs. Most of our ‘clients’ just expect the food and the roof and the warmth, and express their great fullness for the little we are providing them. But, it is so troubling to them and us as well, to see those like Anna, who need so much more, not to mention the disturbance to the general atmosphere when severe physical, medical, and emotional problems arise like this one tonight. If Anna continues to deny help and the environment for the other 39 homeless is disturbed, what do we do, put Anna out in the cold, call the Sheriff and have her taken . . . . . WHERE?. . . . And HELPED HOW? . . . . And for HOW LONG?
We, the Nomadic Shelter Program, are not the answer for Anna. Sometimes we have 3 or 4 Annas at one time. Who are the ones to clean up the Vomit, the Diarrhea, the broken colostomy bag, the fights between mentally disturbed or intoxicated individuals, or simply quiet down those who are emotionally disturbed and non stop talkers, loud talkers, those incapable of moderating their own behavior? Each one still needs shelter from the cold, and food and water!
This has been just two hours of my evening, and the evening of those forty others. Thanks to the other 9 volunteers that preceded me this day, transporting in several van trips from Placerville’s Upper Room and Walmart, the check in crew, the cooks, servers, and those others who will continue to see them through the night, feed them in the morning, and see them transported back to Placerville? Thanks to the paramedics, how frustrating this must be for them.
Now the 40 and many others who did not make it to the shelter will be without a roof for the next 3 nights, and other churches that had participated in the sheltering program have become frustrated and had to throw in the towel, so to speak.
Let’s reflect on this Presidents’ Day and how we meet the needs of the less fortunate, the less lucky, the others. Do we have what it takes, or is there just not enough to go around and its survival of the fittest? Should we at Foothills United Methodist throw in the towel, and save our time and money and have a steak BBQ? Sure would like some help and encouragement from the greater society.
I haven’t proof read this yet, and am not going to, I’m tired!
God bless you Rowland and Sharon!!!!