When You Think You’ve Seen It All

June 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm (Employment, Social Services) (, , )

We had some pretty strange conditions that we worked in.  I remember going with Josh to a site before I even started working with the agency.  I arranged to do my PCM (Practical Christian Ministry, required every semester at Moody) at one of their sites on the west side.  I don’t remember how we arranged this, but I visited once at a site on the southside, Englewood, the roughest place in the city.

It was a store front church.  Services were provided by our agency in the basement while the church was passing out bags of groceries upstairs.  I don’t remember much of that visit except the damp, dank, dark.  It was a basement that felt very much like a basement.  I could hear scufflings around in the corners.  There were stains on the underside of the floor above us.  Later when I was employed by the agency, I came to know the place well.  But we were moved upstairs in the ‘sanctuary’ with everyone else.  In a room next to us was where they kept the food before it was sorted and distributed.  I laugh now (and cringe and feel a little sick) as I remember one scene as clear as day like it was yesterday.  We had just set up shop at the tables they provided us in front of the stage, waiting for clients to sign up to talk to us.  My coworker next to me slammed her hand down, lowered her head to the table facing me, and said urgently, yet quietly, “I just saw a RAT shuffle across that floor!  It was THIS big!  It was just moseying along!”  And this was not a skiddish woman.

Summers at that site were brutal.  No air.  No circulation.  Sometimes the stench was more than one could bare.  That was when the cockroaches were worst.  We already knew better than to leave our bags on the floor.  One of our collegues had already taken a roach home with him.  This was a year-round problem.  Casually brushing roaches off paperwork without squealing was an art.  But in the summer?  That was when we had the FLYING roaches.  They were smaller, but they were pesky!  And the regular roaches were so bad they would just start dropping from the ceiling.  Once during the summer while we were used to roaches dropping from the ceiling, my collegue thought they were being particularly annoying dropping from one certain spot in the ceiling, only to look up and find that there was a dark stain from which liquid was dropping.

There was another site on the southside at a parachurch organization where we saw clients while lunch was being served.  After all the years we had been going, the workers never quite got a grasp on what we were there to do.  As we came in they announced (EVERY.SINGLE.TIME!) “Doctas is heya!”  This caused us incredible frustration because medical services was indeed something that was greatly needed on the southside, so everyone would quickly sign up thinking they were going to be seen by a nurse.

This site also seemed to be forever under construction.  It was just myself and my female collegue at this site.  The workers would usually forget that we were coming (yep, it’s Tuesday.  yep, we come every week.) and have to empty out a room that was completely filled with clothing and other donation.  This room was right next to the men’s restroom.  This room, as well as the men’s restroom also…did not have a ceiling.  And there were LOTS of homeless men eating lunch right down the hall.  Needless to say, it was a challenge creating a professional atmosphere for our clients.  Another scene I remember like it was yesterday:  my collegue on the cell phone trying to arrange services for her client, probably trying to find a bed in a shelter or treatment center.  She looked bored with her head in her hand, elbow resting on the table.  Probably having a hard time getting the right person on the line.  LOUD grunting begins in the room next to us.  My collegue instantly looks up at me, her eyes bulging, and she covers the mouthpiece on her phone.  We stare at eachother wide-eyed, not sure if we should laugh or be furious.  That must have been our first time there because it became old hat after that.

Our favorite site was at a fransiscan church in a gentrifying part of the west side.  We didn’t have to deal with these issues, we were supported by the church members, and we were able to see the most progress in our clients here.

Updated to say: As Josh and I were talking, I remember that it was not ROACHES that were dropping from the ceiling.  FHEW!  Thank goodness!  It was maggots.


1 Comment

  1. Kacie said,

    Wow. Sounds like a building that is probably a health hazard. I haaaaate roaches.

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