Friday, September 4, 2009

Almost Unemployed -- Still Working So I Can Still Help Others

I recently had a situation that almost left me unemployed. Fortunately, my job was saved. I'm still not completely out of the woods though. But for now I'll enjoy my continued employment for what it's worth.

You can scroll down to the April 7th video and see me conversing with my boss, Yvette. As it turns out, she recently had a health issue that required surgery. (I'll afford her some privacy by not disseminating all of the details of her diagnosis/prognosis.) while she was out of commission, she gave her mother authority over her cleaning service. Yvette's mother (who is affectionately known as "Mom" by Yvette's employees and others at the Developing Families Center) was upset about the place having not been cleaned according to her (Mom's) standard, even though she was just assuming authority. She threatened to fire the whole crew. Ed, the supervisor, informed me on the night of Thursday, August 27th that Friday, the 28th would be my last day.

I planned to return to my place of work early on Monday so as to return my uniforms, say "Good-bye" to women in other departments whom I'd developed relationships with and see how everything went down in terms of the cleaning. I thought she might have other employees lined up already, but wanted to be there just in case Mom needed me.

On Monday I was unable to get there early. As a matter of fact, I was 10 minutes late. If I was indeed laid off, that wouldn't matter much, though it would mean that some of those whom I'd come to say "Good-bye" to wouldn't be there. I spoke to Mom who had only 1 new employee there with her as well as an old employee named Darryl. (It's not a very big building. Between 3 and 5 people clean the building on any given night. It's actually big enough to justify having a crew of 6 people on all nights.)
She eventually ended up putting me back to work. She took the time to train people according to her standard of cleanliness and ended up retaining the same crew. this was the wise choice and the one which I was hoping that she would make. Not to toot my own horn, but I guess I made a wise choice by going into work on Monday, even though I'd been told that the previous Friday was my last day. Mom is admittedly harder to please than her daughter, though she's an alright person once she calms down, clears her head of all stress and reasons a matter out. She has given me a ride in after work twice within the past 4 evenings that I've worked for her and even bought lunch for Jamal (the new guy) and myself on one occasion.

My only worry as far as this job is concerned now is getting along with Darryl, who always has a chip on his shoulder. It is for that reason that I say that I'm not out of the woods yet. I'll only let someone push me so far before I push back.

I was almost laid off in May, about a month after I started. I was told to call from day to day to see if Yvette needed me to come in. The very next day she didn't need me. I've worked every day since then. so when this latest threat came along, I said that I wouldn't worry too soon, just make myself available by calling from day to day or just going in. Well, it paid off.

And speaking of pay, I need this job for others as well as myself. As it turns out, I don't get paid for my homeless advocacy. My efforts are funded through my part-time job. I originally got this job so that I could pay for a cell phone and people could reach me more easily and quickly than if I just had e-mail. (My number is 240-305-5255.) That phone has proven to be quite the asset. Since i have Virgin Mobile's Anytime Unlimited Plan for $49.99/month, I can let people use my phone at no additional charge. Countless people have called about job opportunities on my phone. I've called the ambulance for people, including a young man who I found lying on the road in front of my workplace. He'd apparently gotten high on "dippers" (cigarettes dipped in formaldehyde) and then either laid or fell down on the side of the road. I found him lying there semi-conscious and called for an ambulance. (The bike cops got there in 5 minutes and the paramedics got there in 15. There's some food for thought.)

Just this morning I ran across a woman whom I've known for about a month. She's been walking on crutches for about 2 months due to a knee injury. She's homeless, has no income and had an appointment for her knee this morning. What's more is that she's dealing with a slight but noticeable degree of mental illness/stress. All but the last issue were reminiscent of my situation in Early 2006. I was homeless, unemployed and undergoing pre-op procedures for my knee surgery which took place on June 1st of that year. I've hobbled up to 5 miles to appointments, due to not having money for public transportation. As a friend who empathizes with her situation, I decided to pay her way and go with her to the appointment. When i couldn't stay any longer, I offered her $2, which would've been more than enough to get her the 3 miles back to the shelter where she stays. Unfortunately, her mental issues prevailed over her ability to reason and she denied any further assistance from me, though I told her that she didn't need to pay me back. she said that she would rather walk back, which i know from experience is not the wisest choice. But I lived through. She will too I suppose.

I could go on with the anecdotes for what would seem to be an eternity; but I'll end with this one. On the Friday that was supposed to be my last day of work I was walking down the street near a place that feeds the homeless. I saw a woman sitting on a wall and crying. It turned out that she was 5 months pregnant, homeless and had just seen her husband (and I call him that with some reservation) walk off with another woman right after she and the other woman had argued. She was feeling ill and wanted to go to her mom's house. I went to the bank to withdraw $50; because I had less than $10 on my person. I then came back and gave her the $10 that she'd told me she needed. I see her off and on. she's often stressed and unhappy, though I've not found her at the point of tears anymore.

All of these anecdotes beg the question: "Why are the social service agencies in the nation's capital not doing more for these people???" While I don't plan to open that can of worms in this blog post, I will say that it is difficult for me to pass someone up and not help them when I have the means. I guess I'm just the "bleeding heart" type. Nonetheless, we need a few bleeding hearts in DC Government -- people who can get help to the needy without a bunch of bureaucracy and red tape.
There are needy people who can't wait for the government to create another agency that will eventually meet their need. While I can't meet all of the needs of people whom I encounter, I do what I can. A friend told me about a job opportunity. The employer hired me. Now i'm just paying it forward. I hope that other homeless and formerly homeless people will follow suit.

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