I lived in Eugene, OR working as a Social Service worker for a homeless shelter. Four years I spent doing this.
Initially, my heart was full. I was wanting to give everything I had to help the people I came into contact with. Show love to the ones who hadn't felt it in years. but what I didn't expect was how much it would have changed my heart.
Within the first month, I had heard and tried to live by a rule of "every human being is equal." Trying to change my viewpoint of looking at every single person as no better or worse than I am. It was an eye opening experience, but it was also an experience that damaged my soul.
Every day something would happen, something I thought only happened in comedies. People completely drunk, high, mentally ill, or mentally fried from previous drug experiences, taking a slam on the porch, floor, street, wall... basically anything you can imagine, someone has pooped (and worse) all over it.
After catching someone doing it, they would either be defensive acting like they weren't doing anything wrong, or aggressive wanting to slit your throat.
I had met some beautiful souls that had been forgotten and also souls that were pure evil.
Getting people into programs that helped with housing and financial help (monitored) to get people back into society.
I had placed over 50 U.S. veterans into housing.
A gentleman by the name of Harry had lost his wife over twenty years ago. In his grief he had mentally snapped and didn't know how to live anymore. He moved into the Mission twenty years prior to us meeting. There was not a bad or mean bone in this mans body. He was humble, gentle, sweet, complimentary. Nothing manipulative (more on that later).
I had learned he was a vet that never took advantage of his rightful services. We got him on his Social Security and through the VA we got him a housing voucher that helped out with getting an apartment. The heart-breaking thing about Harry was how his humility was more of a worthlessness than true humility. Being able to tell him how much he's worth, not only for the sweet man he was but also his service, was so emotionally wonderful. I had to do some manipulation myself... plant the idea, make him think on it for a day... then make him make the decision himself the following day.
He is still happily living in a 55+ community, still walks the streets to go to the market, still smiling and being an amazing soul.
Ron was a special case. A grumpy old man, no teeth, very dirty minded, but man I loved him. He would bring laughter to the days that were dreadful. He had stayed since '99 from being addicted to heroin and alcohol. He brought an evenness to the community that lived there, always correcting peoples "better than" or "worse than" attitudes by bluntly saying "you're staying at a homeless shelter, we're all the same bro". He was so lovable that no one would question or argue and just go sit down.
He, again, had self destructive "humility", finding his only worth in what the shelter had let him do at the front desk. I told him after a few months of knowing him "I am going to get you disability, I am going to get you teeth, I am getting you your own apartment. You deserve more than this."
For months, we got his disability paperwork, doctors appointments to show his health, and other situations set. After fighting the initial denial, Ron was given a lump sum that was pretty hefty. He received his disability, we got him dentures through another service, and I found a new program that would offer a free single apartment for the rest of his life.
Every time I would take him to an appointment he would say "Man this isn't going to happen, they're turning me down I can feel it." I would always reply "We're getting you a key to your place, I've got you furnishings, you're going to be out soon and the first night by yourself is going to be so peaceful." It happened.
I followed up with him for months, but I hit kind of a wall where I needed to shut down work from life for a while. He tried to contact me a month before he passed away from drinking himself to death.
Someone so joyful, thankful, emotional... now dead because he didn't know what to do with himself once he had a "real" life.
Every day I would hear terrible stories, death threats, lies, and manipulation. What has happened to me? Why have I become so callous? I watch my back every day from the day I started there.
One man who was high on meth and refused a drug test (which I was in charge of giving/watching the guests take) saw me on the street, walked directly behind me like a ninja and said "I'm going to f***ng kill you faggot." There were multiple occasions like that and I can only thank Christ for my safety.
The place was a second prison stay for most, it was the literal filth of the earth. Child molesters, murderers, rapists, people you never want to meet, all jammed in to one place.
I'm going to continue on with a few stories in the next few weeks... I am trying to just clear my head and write what I experienced and try to heal.