The line snaked around the front of our building on Haskell Avenue and ran down the sidewalk toward Hill Street. I expect people had been standing in the humid, morning sunshine for over an hour waiting for the Food Pantry to open. People were patient and grateful. Before the day ended, over 300 families discussed their personal lives with our volunteers. Thousands of pounds of food left our community center during the day. I found myself almost unable to leave the crowd in the interview room. People wanted to talk, and I was happy to listen. Good folks--mostly elderly--in need of help with food, the most basic need for life. Limited incomes combined with rising prices, out-of-sight fuel costs and a soaring heat index conspired to make the beginning of summer 2008 particularly difficult. In response to the growing need, we will expand our hours of operation beginning July 1. If you're inclined,we need your help today.
"Jeremy, Barbara wants you to know that Joseph is dead," George, our receptionist and hospitality director, said, as he broke into our regular Monday morning meeting. Our conversation ended. Jeremy left to find out the details. Barbara and Joseph have lived on the streets for years. Over the past several months, thanks mainly to Jeremy's leadership (he's our Development Director), we've become involved in attempting to move this couple from the street into housing and employment. Barbara joined our AmeriCorps team several weeks ago, but couldn't maintain the effort needed to fulfill the duties of the position. Now we learn that Joseph was electrocuted while attempting to steal copper wiring. Drug addiction, and all that comes with it, makes for a cruel taskmaster. People fail themselves. People disappoint. People are weak. We keep at it.
"Everything is about economics"--the beginning wisdom of a discussion about caring for severely challenged and ill homeless persons. We were trying to web together a collaboration that might bring some continuity, compassion and quality to our overall strategy of caring for vulnerable patients. Always money. It gets tiresome, very tiresome.
Days have a way of piling up.