On August 18, 2015, I resumed working at the clinic after summer break. I now have other students working in the office with me, as well as a VISTA. Today was the first day back, so Professor Boraca and I went on a tour of Hesed House, with the new student and the VISTA. We traveled throughout the shelter, as a small group. As we walked into the main dining room, there were several guests in there and “Mr. Smith” was volunteering. He said hello to us and then began helping guests with breakfast, as it was 9:30a.m. I began zoning more into Mr. Smith helping a man, “Mr. Johnson,” with a breakfast Danish than I was listening to the tour. At this point, Mr. Smith asked the man how he was doing and he said that “it was hard.” Mr. Smith assured him that things would get better. Next, we were walking through the dining room and exiting to see a “secret pantry.”
I have worked with Mr. Smith, a former guest of Hesed House, so I know him to be a spirited and caring man. However, Mr. Smith has lived in the community since I have been working on his case. While volunteering, I found it uplifting and nice of Mr. Smith to ask Mr. Johnson, whom I assumed he knew from having previously lived at PADS, how he was doing. However, prior to seeing an encounter like this, I did not really think about how it would be for people to engage with people once they moved on from life at Hesed House PADS. I was glad to see that it was a positive relationship and exchange that Mr. Smith was sharing with Mr. Johnson.
Moreover, I was somewhat anxious watching this encounter. I wondered if Mr. Smith felt sad for Mr. Johnson or uncomfortable because Mr. Smith was now living in a home outside of PADS. Also, I felt desolate for Mr. Johnson, because he was relating to Mr. Smith, who used to live among the rest of the guests, who is now possibly seen as superior , or at least different to the guests of PADS. I was left with many questions about how Mr. Johnson felt. I wondered if he missed Mr. Smith because he only sees him when he volunteers, or if he is an inspiration to Mr. Johnson to move out of Hesed House? I was frustrated for the situation, but comforted for Mr. Smith that he was out of PADS.This means that when people are able to overcome homelessness the partners of the NIU Health Advocacy Clinic are working. It proves that no matter how small one’s work may feel, it can prove to be very worthwhile.
I guess I had an overload of emotions due to the fact that in my own life when I see other people do great things, I have always tried to strive to do better. So in a way, I cannot imagine having circumstances limiting my ability to do great. Some of the guests of Hesed House have things working against them that will keep them in poverty, unless they have a support system outside of Hesed House.
Overall, this was a simple conversation, but I felt it had greater implications, which I am sure neither party envisioned. I think it is important to remember that clients face greater things than the things they bring into your office, so this was a good thing to keep me in perspective. In the future, I will keep in mind that people living at PADS, whether they move onto TLC or community-based housing, will always have a piece of Hesed House with them. It may be something that is difficult to deal with or it may be a sense of pride but either way, it is important to remember that people have other complicated things going on in their lives. These things include problems in relationships; financial fears, social disadvantages and reduced access to jobs. These things are not going to be quickly forgotten, just as a person will never forget Hesed House once they have been a guest.
-Lindsay Weidling, August 31, 2015