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wellstone dem

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Member since: 2002
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When Pigs Flew and a man found a home

My true story that helps me make it through a lonely Christmas Eve......(This happened in 2010)

I work for a non-profit agency that serves the poor. What we specifically do, does not matter for this story.

In October, we began working with a mentally ill homeless man to get him housing.

He did not want people to know he was mentally ill. He would not go to a shelter, because of what that did to his mental illness. He refused to sign the releases necessary to get the medical records that we could use to prove his disability and then get him into subsidized housing. One co-worker told me that she could read a paper he was holding, and could see the language we needed to get him housing, but he wouldn't give her the paper.

Co-workers met with him, and talked with him, and never judged him. He kept coming to the office, and staff kept telling him what we needed. In November, it was getting cold, and one day I met him at the doorway, he'd stepped into our building to get warm. I got him a cup of coffee and asked him if my co-workers were treating him well. He told me the people in our office were good people, but that he did not have housing. I told him, "You are right, they are good people. You can trust them." And he was warm for the morning, but didn't have housing.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, another co-worker came to me and asked if it was o.k. to pay for a room. He said, "I'm not doing it for him. I won't sleep at night, knowing he is outside when I'm supposed to be celebrating Thanksgiving." More than one of my co-workers kicked in a few dollars, and he had housing that weekend.

But he still did not have a home.

Last week, on Tuesday, I got to the office a bit early, because I had a meeting. He was sitting outside the door to our office suite, shivering. I told him I would get him hot coffee. As I said that, yet another co-worker brought a space heater and a blanket. He told us that when he had got back to his shelter under the bridge that he had found mice in his sleeping bag. He had tried to get blankets or another sleeping bag from other sources, but could not sleep and could not keep warm.

I went to my meeting, where directors of many non-profits were in attendance. As we introduced ourselves, we were supposed to say something about our work but were asked to select something that provided optimism in this difficult time. I told them that after talking with the man without a home, that I didn't think would have housing, I could not be optimistic.

But on Thursday, the staff person who had worked with him on almost a daily basis for 6 weeks, got word that a property manager for housing for the disabled was willing to accept a signed document from a doctor, without the details of the disability. This man still needed the money for his damage deposit and first month/s rent, but if he had it, he could move in on Friday.

And on Friday she came to the office and found that office staff had raised the money, and had brought in sheets and pillow cases, towels, and dishes, and groceries. One person had an extra bed. Someone brought a coffee maker. There were chairs from the basement that had been put in storage when other chairs were donated. Everything was to help make sure this man did not just have housing, that he would have a home.

But when we brought the items we had collected, we found that he had a recliner, a table and two chairs already in the apartment. And there were groceries in his cupboard. He had moved into the apartment with nothing, and others in the apartment building saw that, and they called their kids or friends, and "a TV is on the way too." While we were there, the on-site managers brought a pizza.

This man gave us a tour of the apartment before we left, and then he thanked one of the primary staff people in private. She told me that he started to cry, and didn't want to join the rest of us with tears in his eyes.

That night we had our office holiday party. One of our staff brought me an ornament of a pig with wings. She said, "At the start of the week, we all would have said that pigs would fly before "____" had housing, so I guess pigs must be flying today."

So on this Christmas Eve, I am so grateful for flying pigs.

Edited to add: Two years later he still lives in this same apartment, though there have been a few weeks when it was touch and go, he made it through those tough times. And still stops up to get a dose of respect and kindness.
Merry Christmas to those who celebrate that holiday. Peace to all.
Posted by wellstone dem | Tue Dec 25, 2012, 12:24 AM (22 replies)
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