January 2017 Blog post
Winter’s tough at Preble street. Often just teens above zero days, zero or below nights. Many still choose the outdoors. Most take to the shelters. Days, there is the Resource center and the Soup kitchen, and the Resource center Courtyard. Inside the Resource center, it can (on a sunny cold day for example) be sparsely populated and very quiet. Folks may sit four or five to a long table or interspersed around the room’s perimeter in chairs. A few at the counter confer with a case worker on duty. Or it can (on a grey cold day for example) be chock-a-block, with nearly every seat at each long table taken, every chair along the perimeter occupied, and even the floor spaces taken, and a constant stream of people leaving for or entering from the Courtyard by the double doors. These latter days, the sullen cold outside can seem either to unify folks against adversity or to divide them by testiness and altercation.
Winter’s tough at Preble street. Yet through it all, at least two case workers wo/man the Resource center desk and phone. This is where needs are expressed, now quietly, now stridently, and where needs are met, housing needs for example. Homeless people have strikes against them, sometimes many strikes, when it comes to the housing which can stabilize a life or lives. And so, when after a long time, measured in months or years, one of our folks, aided by a diligent case worker, finds a residence, it is really, really, really something to celebrate. And that’s how it was one recent Tuesday when I greeted Julio—a quiet thirty something Central American man who’d fled the violence in his home country and then, for the three years I’ve known him, hung on to the hope for housing. “I have an apartment now!” he answered me in Spanish, “in the high rise.” We both burst into smiles, and then shook hands warmly. At last, I said. At last, he said. “May I still have a t-shirt?” he winked. Long-suffering was not the word for it because that had now passed. Jubilant was the word for it.
Winter’s tough at Preble street. But Grace-Street ministry stuck by Julio over the years, week in week out. And finally, by one case worker’s hard work and a landlord’s wisdom, Julio finally was housed. My goodness. Amen