Senin, 30 September 2013

A Home!

On Thursday, one of my new clients, the very trusting one, moved into her own apartment after 10 years of homelessness. She's young, and she hasn't had a home for all of her adult years. When she heard her move-in was going to happen, she shrieked in happiness. And, importantly, her cats came with her. Well, at least two of the three came with her -- the third is still in the woods at her campsite because she is worried that he won't do well transitioning to indoor living. He's wild, and used to his freedom.


I went to see her on Friday. As I left my office, it started pouring rain. I thought how good it must feel to have a real roof, and not a tent, in such a downpour. 

She met me at the door of her new place. She told me she was worried about one of her cats -- that she thought he was going to die. He had been hiding under blankets since she moved in on the day before, and was crying loudly in the night. So we talked about cats, and how stress affects them. He was under the blanket, but purred when I petted him. I reassured her and told her he looked healthy and that if she gave him a few days, he would adjust. 

As we talked, he started exploring, jumping on the kitchen counter and poking his nose into cabinets. She found these two cats when they were kittens, and ill. She nursed them back to health and they are her family. Her last week in the tent, she fended off a raccoon who had found the cat food and who had been tearing holes in the walls of the tent. She was really ready to come indoors. 

On her first night in the apartment, she slept in a chair on the front porch. Her bed and the couch and floor were full with her community supporters who had joined her for a slumber party. Friday night, she planned to sleep in her bed. After a nice bath.

She said she didn't have food. She opened her refrigerator and we took stock -- she had leftovers from her move-in party, and a couple of frozen pizzas. She said she didn't know how to grocery shop. So we talked about what she'd like to eat, and what she knew how to cook. She made a list, and we went to the grocery store. Milk, butter, eggs, cereal, chicken, hamburger, bread, canned spinach and corn. She'll make spaghetti and hamburgers and baked chicken. 

On days like these, I love my job. 

A whole team in the community helped make this move happen -- young, earnest workers from the Community Empowerment Fund, a group that is working to fight homelessness through strategies to tackle poverty bit by bit (and who came to the apartment for a slumber party on her first night!); Housing for New Hope, a group that works with the homeless and helped with start-up costs; CASA, an agency that provides supportive housing for persons with psychiatric disabilities; Orange Person Chatham Community Operations Center, the program that administers the Shelter Plus Care program that funds housing for the homeless, regardless of income.

There's more to do, and now that she has her apartment, we'll all work with her to help her keep it. 

And we'll figure out what to do with the cat she left behind.

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