Monday, March 7, 2011

Curbside Case-Management

I made quick friends with David* at the Primavera Men’s Shelter. I talked with him for a long time during his first case management appointment in January. He had been in and out of our shelter before, but had spent most of his adult life on the streets of Tucson. He had been an alcoholic for so many years but was determined that this time would be different. Although shorter than I am, David preferred to refer to me as “little one” over Meredith. I would often see him on my way in to the shelter and we would waver furiously from the street saying “hey little one, I’ll see you at home!”           
It was 4 53 pm on a Wednesday- I was a bit late getting to the shelter. As I was biking down 6th Ave, I heard, from the other side of the street “Heeyy, Little One!” I immediately knew who it was and pulled over my bike. I hadn’t seen him since he didn’t show up to the shelter a few weeks earlier. He (sort of) looked to make sure no cars were coming and ran across the street to me. He soon launched into all the things that had been happening to him lately. He’d been wearing the same clothes for two weeks (some of his stuff had been stolen), he smelled like alcohol and urine. He looked really sad- it isn’t like him to be sad.
He said the shelter had felt like a prison- so he snapped. He didn’t want to go back at that point and now (because he didn’t show up that one time) he can’t go back. He said he has no one. He had been kicked out by his mother and his brother. He said no one understands what it’s like to be on the streets. He said he’d been sleeping behind DES. How ironic is that? DES- The Department of Economic Security.
About 15 minutes later, he said something that twisted my gut, jabbed my heart, and filled my eyes with tears:
 “ If I had a house, I’d open the door to anyone- I’d open my room. I’d open the fridge. And say, ‘this is for you’.” 
Then he just looked at me with glazed eyes, and I thought “Of course. Of course you would. And, so would Jesus. But not me. Nope, I was going to keep going. I was late for work at the shelter.” Before I left he thanked me and tried to smile, saying “I just needed someone to talk to.” So I cried the rest of my way to the shelter. I wanted to turn around and say, come into my home. But so many excuses ran through my mind. No, you are a professional. No, he’s an alcoholic. No, you have a house full of roommates. No.
But would Jesus make excuses?
*Change of name for confidentiality purposes.