the long walk home 06

This wasn’t the first crazy thing that happened; this was just the latest. The red flags had started even before Madeline’s arrival.

LIke all conglomerates, this company ran multiple businesses. We’ll call the parent company Shaline. One of Shaline’s businesses was providing shelter to homeless people, another was providing shelter to homeless people with mental issues and substance abuse problems, and another was providing transitional housing to homeless people. They had ran other social service businesses as well.

Shaline was located in a city which had a few competitors providing shelter services to the homeless. While there were a few companies providing services, the quality of services was such that Shaline was a fairly desirable option.

For instance, one of their larger competitors, a place we’ll call Victi, would regularly surprise residents with notices the night before of some required next-day cleaning or maintenance or whatever, which meant that residents had to take all of their belongings with them the following morning when they left the facility. You can imagine how, if you had a job at Taco Bell, showing up to work with suitcases in tow once or twice a week might not play well. (Hopefully, you had suitcases and not bags or boxes. And hopefully, you had a job and not job interviews scheduled.) An extremely tight job market made notices like that incredibly stressful. Notices like that were always less than 24 hours, and often less than 8.

There were other options than Shaline and Victi. There was Cooper (not its real name), which bussed people from a central location to local churches who played shelter hosts. But you had to be there by a certain time. If you worked late, you were out of luck. And I think you had to take all of your belongings with you, to and from the churches.

It was with some surprise when Shaline told the residents of the homeless shelter that they had a month before the shelter closed. They had, they said, lost funding six months ago, and had been unable to secure new funding. (This only applied to the homeless shelter to those down on their luck, not to the homeless shelter for those with mental and drug issues. There was, they said, plenty of funding for that.)

It was really odd that Shaline deemed it fit to only give a month’s notice. All of the residents were incredulous and understandably angry. Oddly, the staff seemed nonplussed at the reaction. I’m still puzzled by that.

The economy in that region was really, really bad. You knew that the moment Shaline staff people found out there was a funding issue, they had run to their computers to update their resumes and started calling their network for possible job leads. Only after they’d done that did they turn to the task of seeking additional funding. I might be wrong about that. Maybe that didn’t happen until the third month that they lost their funding source. But I doubt it.

Whether you do or don’t give them that benefit of doubt, you’re still left with their actions as three months turned into four and four into five, and no funding secured and no word to the shelter residents directly affected. Even if you thought it was a remote possibility, wouldn’t you give a heads up?

It wasn’t as if the Shaline staff weren’t aware of the lack of viable choices when it came to shelters: current and former esidents complained often about previous experiences. It wasn’t as if the Shaline staff weren’t aware of the lack of jobs in the region: many of the staff shared horror stories of fruitless employment searches. And yet it wasn’t until only a month was left that it occurred to them that maybe the should be told.

And let’s say that a mistake was made and somehow the staff really thought they’d be able to continue and only when they realized they were completely wrong did they say something, even giving them that . . . I still remember the oblivious expressions on the faces of the staff when residents grumbled angrily about not receiving advance notice. And I don’t mean oblivious just at the moment, I mean completely blind and deaf to why the residents would be upset. So much so that I thought maybe the staff people just didn’t like the residents and because of that, cared so little that they couldn’t even acknowledge how their actions disrupted the residents’ lives and plans. I can easily imagine those staff people reading this today and still being completely clueless.

And it’s one thing to be clueless because you only worked a few weeks at the job and just didn’t know. Some of these people had degrees and years of experience.

That incident was the first red flag.

There would be too many more.

27. April 2014 by sojourner hardeman
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