duminică, 23 ianuarie 2011

On Volunteers

A pseudo-anonymous Commenter by the name of Arrogantworm in THIS post brought up the idea of creating a volunteer base to provide rides to low-income folks as bus schedules do not always meet transportation needs. Because it's a decent suggestion and because I think it's great that folks are at least talking about the needs of low- income folks, I reply to Aworm here.
Also, there is a great need for public education on issues surrounding homelessness.
Therefore, I milk this space for all it's worth. BONUS: it's free!

I'm on a few Super Secret Committees (to protect my full identity, can't name them) and this notion of getting folks to volunteer to provide rides to low-income folks has been suggested at these meetings.

A coordinated volunteer base of drivers could work -- but not in an unplanned, ER case. Certainly not for getting to work: relying on volunteers here is way too risky. And forming these volunteer bases/recruiting volunteers is honestly, MORE WORK for us already overworked and underpaid social workers -- only so many hours in a day.

Recruiting, coordinating and managing volunteers is often a full-time job (right, Walrus?) My contract is set at 32-hours per week and I am not ashamed to say some weeks I take a few liberties with those hours. Last week, for example, I had a day so intense due to the particular needs and actions of three households, I nearly ran out of my office, driving straight home to the haven of my home and cats. Some deep breathing, comforting self-talk, AnnaZu therapy and an *orgasm followed by a nap took care of the stress. Let me tell you, all of that was as necessary to my continuing to do my job well as sleep or food or any "training." I felt no guilt about knocking off a bit early that day and indeed would say the same to my supervisor, if asked.

Plus, have I mentioned I'm WAY underpaid and that I am indeed no saint? My mortgage just went up by $500 per month, my insurance payment has doubled, gas costs are up, etc. etc. etc. fucking etc. My paycheck has increased by 45 CENTS in the last two and a half years, from an already meager hourly wage. Nice, sure, if I could let all that roll off my back, nicer still if this job was merely Mad Money to supplement my husband income -- but it ain't.

(No ill reflection on The MoonMan meant. He works his ass off and hasn't had a vacation in something like 4 or 5 years.)

But during a week where I am working the full 32, my job is always first and foremost to be there for my clients. Even if I had the time to take on the job of managing/recruiting volunteers, what good am I if I'm perpetually in meetings or on the phone with other agencies or folks in the community? Which is not to say folks who do this sort of work aren't 100% necessary. Just, that ain't the job description in my contract or more importantly, the job description I have given myself.

Back to the suggestion. The volunteer ride base might work with the DV population as most folks have sympathy for this group (natch, they would not be permitted to go to the secret location of the shelter, but then there are meeting places, so I could work. As long as the woman doesn't have too much to carry back to the shelter from the meeting place.)

I don't know how well it would work with my other group, the plain old homeless/non-DV group because society has Ideas about The Homeless.

For example, my prior employers tried to talk me out of accepting my current position, because "Those People are dirty and have scabies and lice, etc." Society also have notions about Welfare Mothers who Live in the Projects. You know "All those women too lazy to work, popping out brats to get more money.

Right. $700-800/month to support you and your four kids is easy street, right?
Look out Donald Trump!

Everyone wants to help the poor (working) mother, who is properly grateful and trying to get ahead. What about the women who swear constantly, or have sudden attacks of crying, or panic attacks -- or who just aren't Trying Hard Enough or not Grateful Enough?

What about the women who were/could be still, on the sly, prostitutes!
What about the woman who needs transportation to the methadone clinic!

We didn't expect this.

Forget completely finding those to provide rides to the mentally ill (but non-violent), sometimes substance-abusing MALE.
He's too scary!
He might rape you -- or steal your car!

But still: I think the ride volunteer notion could work to a degree, say maybe for scheduled medical appointments -- IF the general population were more educated in issues of homelessness. IF we could find these volunteers and IF there was a person who had time to run the show.

The only time I have contact with volunteers is during the December holidays. Another local agency has a data base of folks who provide gifts, etc. to low-income families every year. I am often the contact person for "my" families and receive calls from volunteers regarding sizes, directions to client's house, etc. These calls reveal much about our society. One person upon learning the very Latino sounding name of "his" family automatically assumed they could not speak English (they could.) Another woman sounded very annoyed that when she dropped off gifts to a single mother because "she had a boy there, not sure if it was her boyfriend or not" and "[the single mom] didn't even introduce me to him."

As if this single mom is required to open her life to virtual strangers merely because this woman is giving her something.

Some clients are not "properly grateful." One of "my" moms was born with many strikes against her. This woman has had little choice but to live off disability and the generosity of strangers and grants, etc. from the state/agencies etc. most of her life. Believe me when I say she indeed has little choice about this, as confidentially and respect for my client prevents me giving detail.
She's "rough around the edges" to put it lightly. She is so used to needing to ask agencies, etc. for help, she can often come across as demanding, certainly ungrateful.

Cripes -- if anyone has a right to this sort of "ungrateful" behavior it is this woman.

Yet, the type of volunteer who needs a proper degree of thankfulness from the folks s/he helps would get disgruntled with this woman rapidly. Could be I'm selling her way short, probably am. She has a sweet, funny side and often does say "Thank you."

Anyway, the idea isn't out of the question, but it's problematic to say the least. I'm not knocking you, Aworm, as I appreciate any/all suggestion and appreciate anyone who even gives more than a passing second of thought to the obstacles low-income folks have to deal with every day.

But honestly, ask yourselves: how many of you want to sign up to give rides to low-income/homeless/formerly-homeless folks?
Like so much else, we often assume "Someone else will do it."

If I didn't work with this population, it's unlikely I ever would volunteer myself.

*Three natural stress-relievers and I believe endorphin releasers are: crying, laughing, and orgasm, as my doc told me. Exercise also. That orgasm was DOCTOR ORDERED, I tell you. No heathen, I!