This week brought a big change in weather from summer with endless days of sun to daily rain. With the rain comes the trial and error of dressing right for bike rides. The errors this week have resulted in two good soakings. The rain also means riding an old bike, fenders and dealing with wet streets. None the less, my mileage is up.
Also this week I had an interview with St. Vincent dePaul's Veterans in Progress program or VIP. They didn't even ask questions, just "tell us about yourself." It sounds like I've got it, part time, though they neglected to have me fill out an application which I did later in the day. I had first offered them my services volunteering to counsel vets. It appears that they are more interested in paying me as a case manager. Which brings me to what I want to talk about, what has been on my mind the last week or so, actually going back to the closing of RAP. On the last day I worked, I called the Vet Center to offer my services as a volunteer, counseling vets. I was told that they didn't need me, that they are good at that. Nobody is good at that. Twenty-two vets a day kill themselves in this country, and if that many kill themselves how many just give up, which is nearly as bad. Come on.
I also remember a time at RAP, just before we started using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, that some of our clients told us that we weren't doing enough. They said that we were helping by putting a roof over their heads, helping with other needs, but that we weren't helping enough with their symptoms, that they were leaving feeling the same as when they came in. One thing I can say about those of us who worked at RAP is that we cared about the clients, and we changed. We started doing one on one counseling sessions, and we started a Mindfulness Group that lasted almost four years. We also started doing Inner Wisdom Journeys which were life changing for a number of clients. We embraced this change, but did Sheltercare? My answer is no. Perhaps my judgement of non-profits is harsh, but after almost twenty years working for them in Eugene; it has become clear to me that there are two concerns, one that they make enough money to keep the doors open, and two that they take care of the clients. And the bottom line is that in order to keep the doors open they often don't really think about the clients, and they pay their employees less than a living wage. And, unfortunately, if management is able to not care about their clients, it becomes easy to not care about employees as well. I've noticed several complaints about Shelter Care on Craigslist, and a response from a SC employee to the SC "whinner." Shelter Care closed the doors of a Mental Health Crisis Center because, we are told, it is not what the community wants. Seriously, I don't think that the community was asked. There are now 600 people a year in mental health crisis who are on our streets. Is that what we want for them? My answer is have some compassion. Honor and compassion are my truth. The cost is that I have to speak my mind at the risk of criticism. I recently saw one of those former clients. He was asleep in the doorway of Black Sun Books. He looked bad, not sober, sores on his legs, cold, and like he wouldn't make it through the winter. One lost to "what the community wants."
I am not always honorable, not always compassionate. I didn't take this person home with me. But here is my plea for us all. Let's start to discern just what our truth is. And yes there is a cost, but the paying of that cost is surely less than the cost of this human life.