Ask me what I do and I will tell you a stories full of hurt, pain and loss. I will take you for a ride through the stories of those who have faced the worst seasons of their lives but have not given up. The stories are heart breaking but honest and need to be heard.
What do I do?
I am a Case Manager at a homeless prevention program in Boston which caters to the elderly population. The unique aspect of my position is the foundation that housing is as necessary as any medicine that can be prescribed for physical or mental health. We prescribe housing and once it becomes stable we witness drastic changes in every area of the lives of our clients.
I would have never put elderly and homeless together until I started this position and to be completely honest each and every new case wrecks my heart. Once these elders are referred to our program they are in various stages of crisis. Some are having difficulties with landlords and need an advocate, others are in the process of eviction and need assistance navigating the legal system and others are homeless and need help with housing search. None of these scenarios have simple or easy solutions. Advocating for our clients is priority in each case but never as straight forward or easy as it may seem. The legal system for tenants is daunting and confusing to navigate and without the knowledge of volunteer lawyers and resources available to them for free our clients sometimes end up making agreements that are not in their best interests. Housing search sounds simple right? Find an apartment, pay rent, happily ever after? Now enter the fact that most of the elders that I work with are collecting social security or disability income and are on a fixed income. Next add that the cost of living for a one bedroom in Boston is generally more than 60% of their income. Is the picture getting clear? These elders are in a compromising situation as it is but now imagine if there were an unexpected illness or a expense arises that needs immediate attention. They are forced to live paycheck to paycheck and without the assistance of subsidized elderly housing they are forced to make hard decisions. Unfortunately these hard decisions can lead to the non-payment of rent.
Most days I am left drained and frustrated but I am quickly reminded that these elders sometimes have no one else fighting for them or on their side. I am reminded that I am in this position not to solve these problems in my own strength but to trust God. I’ve walked into meetings trusting God for the strength to get through difficult conversations and sometimes to get through the day. I’m reminded daily that I am in this position for a reason and part of that reason is to intercede on the behalf of my clients in prayer. Honestly only God can make a way out of no way and I have seen him at work in the short time that I have been in this position.
Why am I sharing all of this?
If you live in Boston or any city to be honest I am sure that you have seen the growing homeless population. Most people are not sympathetic to the homeless and it is easy for us to think the reason people are homeless is because they are lazy and don’t want to work. My hope is that by sharing a glimpse of what I do that you will look at homelessness in a different light. Every story is different and I hope that we will learn to stop labeling and start to think about how can we help come up with solutions to support others in crisis.
“Who are we to give up, when the people we have been given the opportunity to serve never give up on themselves?”