The woman in the alley (2/2)

I was still pretty concerned about Jane as it was already snowing that evening and a lot of snow was predicted for later that night.

And it was just plain cold.

One of my rules for myself while working with our clients was to never show that I felt cold, even if I was freezing. No complaining, no shivering, no chattering teeth. I figured that if they were outside all day and/or were going to be out all night, I could bear any weather for a few hours without complaining.

But this night, as I squatted in the alley talking with Jane, it was tough to keep my body from shivering even with my layers and layers of warm clothing. Frankly, it was a bit difficult to resist the urge to climb into Jane’s cozy collection of blankets where it did look significantly warmer.

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The woman in the alley (1 of 2)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned an incident where I ended up in a dark alley with a dead car battery on a frigid night during a street outreach shift. Here is the whole story.

It was November, back in the days when our agency used to drive people to the emergency shelters that opened only when the temperature was below 25 degrees or the snow was falling abundantly.

There was a new client around at this time whom we were just getting to know. We’ll call her Jane, and she was drawing a lot of attention to herself because she had set up a tent in an alley downtown. Not only that, but she was living in said tent right through the beginning of the Colorado winter, and right in the middle of the city where average citizens were not spared the discomfort of having to witness her struggle.

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Getting sober – Part 3

Thankfully, Larry made it through those two nights. He came back to the shelter after the consequence was up and he apologized for his behavior.

When spring started taking the place of winter and the snow melted away and didn’t come back, our shelter closed for the season. It was tough to be there on one of the last nights and to look around at all the people who took refuge there, and to know that they would all be without a place to sleep in a few days.

I asked Larry where he would be staying after the shelter closed, and he shook his head sadly.

“I don’t know, honey,” he said, “wherever I can, I guess.”

Continue reading “Getting sober – Part 3”

Getting sober – Part 2

Winter arrived shortly after the incident at the church and suddenly life on the streets became a higher-stakes game, as did our ability to provide services to folks who had no place to live.

When Larry turned up at our overnight shelter about a month later, the weather was taking a toll on him and he didn’t look good.

He had been sleeping outside and was back to drinking. He didn’t have much body fat to insulate him from the cold and it was clear from looking at him that the last month hadn’t been a good time for him.

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Getting sober – part 1

It was late one Saturday evening in the fall when a police car dropped Larry off at the church where we were serving dinner. We were already cleaning up as most of our guests had eaten and left by that point, but Larry looked bedraggled and said he was starving, so we invited him to take a seat while we heated something up for him. He immediately started shoveling food into his mouth, and I gave him a few minutes to eat before sitting down next to him to chat.

He was a small man in his 60s, much shorter and thinner than myself, with strawberry blond hair and bright blue eyes. He hadn’t shaved in a few days and looked a little ragged, but there was something likeable about him and his southern accent as he started speaking.

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The Ball

Last winter, my organization was chosen to be the nonprofit beneficiary of an event in our community called the Holiday Ball. It was organized by the rotary and usually attracted a huge number of people.

(Photo above is not actually the same Holiday Ball – I couldn’t find a good photo so I borrowed this one from the internet.)

It was a big buzz around the office – us being chosen for the ball. The tickets were expensive but one of our board members generously offered to buy tickets for our small handful of staff so we could all go.

As the event neared, a coworker and I were working at the shelter one evening and after things had calmed down, he asked me if I was planning to go to the ball.

I said I planned to, and he asked who I was going with. As it happens, I was single and didn’t really have anyone to take to the ball. That wasn’t a huge deal and I told him so.

As we were having this discussion, one of our clients was standing nearby. His name was Randy and we knew him quite well as he had been a long-time client of the outreach program and had stayed at the shelter almost every night that winter.

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