i like your random acts of kindness cat,
because they also show a willingness towards vulnerability. that is precisely what St. Therese of Liseaux meant by living joyously in the heart of God as a devotee of The Little Way. she said if we all did 1000's of acts of little kindness, we'd be getting somewhere. if we let the utter depths of the problems to solve overwhelm us and then do nothing, it'd surely be worse than doing nothing at all.
the only solution i see the so called compassionate conservatives advocating is to build more jails - surely that won't solve anything in the end, and will end up costing the taxpayers more to house our guests in their expensive shelter, rather than attempting to solve the root problems. cuz that's the way in which we've come to see our local hoosegow - as a place that can furnish nicer shelter, with a superb in-house detox/rehab program by the way, than the resources i have will allow even if there was the political will present here to build more treatment facilities and shelters. do you know another local shelter about a mile away from us that takes in women and children must turn away about 150 a month due to lack of space?
in 3 years of work at this partcular shelter, we've only been really ripped off once. a fella said his girlfriend was pregnant and they needed to travel to Nevada - so we bought them bus tickets, which after they rode to the next city down the line, they tried to cash in. the incident didn't make us stop seeking to re-unite family members, but it did make us smarter about how to buy the tickets so as to ensure they could not be cashed in by anyone but staff.
and though we are willing to be fooled, we're not foolish. we know, for example, if someone is a crackhead, it's sometimes more harmful to furnish goods and materials than not. sometimes you need to try and block out many options so that the one that's left, a road to recovery, is the only one available to the guest. every one of these cases requires soul searching - there are no simple generalizations, and there is no easily discernible good and evil.
it's not been hard garnering funds and goods for our place. those come in a steady stream. where we've still got much challenge ahead of us is in creating community amongst us and the people we serve. like we've found it's not possible if someone brings in 5 boxes of chicken, for the guests to serve themselves - the first 5 guys out of 20, tend to take 4 pieces apiece leaving us short. but we don't not do it - we just set up a table and serve it ourselves, one at a time, making sure everybody gets at least one.
it's not always a failure tho - i was touched recently by the willingness of one guest to deliver and make sure another guest who was sometimes unable to make it into our shelter, took his daily anti-seizure medicine. his willingness to take on that responsibility for his fellow 'woodsy' was sweet - that's what we'd like to see more of - that feeling that all of us, servers and the served, both partners in satisfying a mutual need, are part of one community. sometimes example isn't enough and we must take more active measures to get closer to that goal.
you can create oasis' of kindness in any community. it gets rough once in a while, both on the inside, and in the way outsiders treat it (especially other shelter providers i've found who act as if they're in serious competition not only for donations, but for ideas), but it is possible, as we've shown here, to carve out a unique niche.
there are many ways to do this. the most intriguing trend lately in the shelter business is Housing First. in this scenario, a homeless person, first, is given shelter before anything else under the theory that if a person's immediate worries, shelter for the night and food, are taken care of, then the person can settle down and respond to more comprehensive opportunities for treatment. but that's the rub: once sheltered, the services have to be holisitic and the resources to accomplish them must be there! its been tried successfully in New York and San Francisco.
and that's where i take the whole debate back to where tfire and i started. which is my willingness to pay higher taxes so services like that could be made available to the poor. in our church/state partnership, i can see directly that if our local Dept. of Social Services, and our local police and probation office had more funding available, they could do more - it's as simple as that. at the moment, i, a churchy, am actually buying supplies, like Depends!, for the probation department because they can't afford to purchase those items for one of their guys themselves... i'm willing - wish it wasn't necessasry...
i did tell the probation officer she'd need to pick up the Depends faster after i buy them, cuz riding around in my car with a pack of Depends in the back seat, isn't doing grand things for my image! :) the other day, i went into Wal-mart and picked up the Depends, a package of denture cream and a pregnancy kit... my life just gets stranger and stranger!