Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just about done

I’m almost finished with the 3 weeks of *classroom* training for my new job. It’s going well and I’m learning about a lot of social service programs that I never knew existed, even though I’ve worked at the agency for more than ten years. That’s one thing I’ve figured out about social workers; we’re expected to be a resource for our clients and a good social worker should know all of what is available to help people. There are simply too many programs for anyone to know very much about all of them. As a caseworker I worked in the Medicaid program and knew it very well, but didn’t know much about anything else. We spent all of about 10 minutes learning about Medicaid in training today, so you can imagine how little the others were able to pick up and *know* about that particular program. At least I’m an *expert* at one of them!

To begin with I’ll be placed in the homeless services/emergency assistance unit taking applications and finding placement for homeless individuals and families. Next week, our training time will be spent making site visits to some of places where the homeless are provided with temporary housing – shelters, motels, rooming houses, and transitional housing sites. I’m looking forward to the chance for some field time, although I imagine it will be eye opening.

Speaking of eye opening: I learned that my county spent more than 9 million dollars last year providing services and housing for the homeless. Can you imagine? Typically, families are put up in motels, at a cost of approx. $1800 monthly due to a lack of any more affordable alternative. Do you or I spend $1800 on housing each month? That $1800 isn’t buying a room at the Hilton either – those welfare motels in our shore towns are some of the most run-down places! I'm curious to hear how much you know about the homeless in your own communities; I think if I asked my neighbors the same question, most would say that they're not aware of a homeless problem in our area. I mostly thought that the homeless were found in cities, not in an affluent area like the one I live in. Clearly I was wrong - what about you?

So anyway, that’s the update on how I’ve been occupying my workdays. I miss the routine of my old job and my friends, but life is good.

The pretty yellow flower is Hudsonia ericoides – Pine Barrens Heather. Great patches of this plant cover sandy places in the barrens, but this one was just about finished for the season.


Mary said...

What will be eye-opening for you will probably fuel your fire, Laura.

In Maryland we lived in an affluent town called Bel Air. There were several regular homeless men who suffered the winters and summers near fast-food places. My daughter and her high school friends collected warm clothing for them and the restaurants fed them. The sad problem is everywhere. We had two shelters in the town and I donated a lot of furniture to the "Man House" - a home for homeless men in alcohol/drug recovery.

I'm glad you are enjoying it! Your days will never be dull and you can still keep in touch with your former office buds :o)

NatureWoman said...

I was wondering today how your new job was going - thanks for letting us know. I can only imagine all of the programs that are available.

Body Soul Spirit said...

We have our share of homeless people in our city. I worked downtown for 5 years and got to know some of them well. Many refused the shelters and housing offered, except on the coldest nights, preferring to stay outdoors (single people). I have found they can be resourceful, knowing the soup kitchens and social help available. Some move from city to city. Many are mentally ill or from unfortunate backgrounds. I am sure your work will be interesting!

John said...

I'm very much aware of homeless people in my city since I live downtown, near a food bank / soup kitchen. In the suburban NJ town where I grew up, I knew of one homeless man who would frequently walk up and down our main avenue. Monmouth never struck me as the sort of county where there would be a significant homeless population, but now that I think about it, I can see where that might be the case. Anyway, you're doing important work in your new capacity.

Laurie said...

My cousin is the manager of a the women's shelter in Montana's largest city. She has a heart of gold, but after 13 years I think it is taking a toll on her. She's told me a lot of stories and they are nearly all sad.

Good luck to you in your new job. I know you will make a difference doing it.

Jayne said...

We have a too large homeless population as well, and mostly women and children these days. Sounds like you are getting the kind of education that makes most people squirm. I just know you'll be able to make such a difference Laura.

dguzman said...

So many cities, both large and small, are doing their best to "hide" their homeless by clearing them out; in Fort Worth, the police would chase them out of the upscale downtown Sundance Square on a regular basis. The cops (and the patrons) didn't care where they went, as long as they didn't hang around the Square and remind anybody of that side of reality.

rcwbiologist said...

That picture really brings back some great memories. I was the resource biologist at a state park in South Carolina that was near a SCDNR heritage site that has an extant population of Hudsonia ericoides. It was the only population in the state, and the most far removed from any of the larger existing populations.

KGMom said...

Our church started a winter shelter program about 5 years ago. Around October, and continuing until March, we open our doors for 30 + homeless people to sleep. Many other details to the program, but not needed here.
There are many reasons for homelessness--it is not an easy issue to deal with.
Much luck, patience and courage to you as you continue your new position.