A success story…Social Workers don’t always get to hear what happens next.
Recently I was walking into an apartment office to discuss one of my clients with the manager. A woman stepped out of the office and immediately said I looked familiar to her. We talked for a minute and figured out she lived in the homeless shelter at the same time I was doing my internship.
She told me she remembered that I helped her figure out her credit score and what she needed to do to improve things.
She was excited to announce that she left the shelter 6 years ago and has lived continuously in an apartment ever since.
I think many of us assume there is no hope for people on the street. We believe they have chosen a life of drugs, alcohol, or laziness. Because we don’t always see the positive outcomes…we assume they don’t happen. When our group serves the homeless we hear lots of hopeful stories of getting a job, having an apartment or getting back in touch with family. We rarely get to see those things actually happen.
I have no doubt it took a lot of commitment and hard work for this lady to stabilize her life and maintain a life with shelter, consistency and security. I am so very happy I had the opportunity to hear her story of success.
I went to a memorial service today for one of my former clients.
I first met “Susan” 6 years ago. I was completing my social work internship at a homeless shelter and she was living in the long term women’s unit.
“Susan” always looked a mess. Her hair never seemed to be brushed and it rarely looked clean. Her clothes were always baggy and frequently stained. But her smile could brighten a room.
When I learned of her passing I was sadden to hear she died alone. Apparently an accident resulted in “Susan” relying on life support. Her family lives in a different state and made the decision to remove the life support. I have no doubt they made the right decision….but it saddens me that no-one made it to her bedside before the plug was pulled.
“Susan” had a difficult life. She suffered with schizophrenia as well as drug and alcohol addiction. She spent time on the streets and in the 6 years I knew her she moved from group home to group home. She rarely stayed anywhere for more than 6 months. The voices that haunted “Susan” were evil and the addictions were relentless but she fought back. As a matter of fact, her memorial service was held at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting space and was ran much like a meeting.
Despite “Susan” dying alone, I learned at her service, she did not live her life alone.
I was not close to Susan, I was her case worker. A case worker is expected to maintain a professional distance. Even though we don’t enjoy a leisurely lunch with our clients we do occasionally run across individuals that steal a chunk of our hearts. To me Susan was one of those people. Every time I visited with Susan she flashed a joyful smile and gave me a bear hug. Sadly, I imagined “Susan” to be somewhat friendless, especially when I heard no one was at the hospital with her. But today I was happy to learn she had friends that cherished her, friends that formed true bonds with her and friends that also would have been at the hospital if given the chance.
Today I was happy to hear people speak of her humor and her love for soda. I nodded when I heard them speak of her challenges in life, and smiled when I heard them speak of her successes. “Susan’s” death silenced the voices in her head but Susan did the necessary work to conquer her additions. Today I was happy to hear that “Susan” won her fight against alcohol and drug abuse….she died one year sober.
RIP my friend….you will be missed.