The following story is my conjecture of what could have happened, given a myriad of possible dangers that counselors in an outreach program may confront. I have heard of injuries sustained by these men, not necessarily from the persons they are trying to help, but through related accidental scenarios. To relate them in a statistical format, the reader would most likely find it impressively factual, but nonetheless statistical. I therefore ask the reader’s forgiveness for the following dramatization in my attempt to portray the dedication these men have in fulfilling their humanitarian duties. In a broader sense, I am sure something very similar to what you are about to read has happened more than once in this county. In Insurance Circles, I think it’s called “The Law of Averages.”
Very few people in society know what an Emergency Shelter counselor really does. I’ve never read about it in the newspaper. If they did know, people would quickly forget it. There’s also a segment of a community’s makeup that is aware of the tragic hypocrisy of rampant homelessness in this country and, therefore, are interested enough to read about it. In return, they live the example of their forbearers’ American character, freely devoting time, energies, and money for the homeless men and women’s plights in the context of confusing present day American societal values.
The two counselors I write about are Ken and Burke, counselors in every sense of the word. When they’re not resituating the homeless, they conduct open-air meetings with the men and women who live in the shelter on a daily basis. As spokesmen, they focus their constituents on job placements, medical agencies that can help them, food and clothing vouchers, not to mention haircuts and a decent pair of shoes.
When a shelter resident reaches a certain point of stability, some of them being alcoholic or drug habitual users, and others mentally ill, these counselors, along with the aid of other staff members place them in a transitional mode of living. This may be a motel unit, or a modest apartment or efficiency, sometimes for quite a few months, until their recipients exert a societal adherence through keeping appointments with the agencies that can help them, along with their own conscious and deliberate avoidances of habits that have been injurious to them during their homeless years.
Like everything else on paper, including this one, it sounds good and feasible and progressive, until you arrive at the pitfalls. For example, a counselor who thought his client was going to “make it” gets a phone call one morning from the hotel manager. The client has been arrested for she doesn’t know what and his motel room has been totally trashed. Then, the counselor’s job of a different sort begins, a discouraging duty for him or her to clean up the motel room, putting it back in order.
Then there’s the going to court for some of their clients, trying to defend them in front of a judge by assuring the courts that if their man is given probation, they will redouble their efforts in making sure he keeps his medical, psychiatric appointments, drug counseling sessions, even if they have to drive him there themselves.
The pitfalls in a homeless man’s life, due to his forced lifestyle, are many – and correspond in like manner to a counselor’s job. Nonetheless, what each has accomplished for others, each in his own way, cannot be properly described in the English language. So, the two counselors I’ve told this story about, Ken and Burke, go on. They go forward, regardless of the injuries to their minds and bodies. And, like the poem Little Boy Blue, by Eugene Field, these two gentlemen – once boys of blue, their dusty little toy dogs and rusty toy soldiers – didn’t have to wait that long, they’ve been with them all along.