Sunday, September 20, 2015

Introduce Yourself

Before the 1st day of work.
This past Tuesday morning, it was raining.  This past Tuesday morning was also my first day of work at PATH (People Assisting The Homeless). Rowena is working at PATH with me and we were supposed to be there by 7:30 am. Long story short, we missed our first stop, sprinted after 2 buses, crossed a river, ran through sprinklers and succulents, walked a long way in the rain, and arrived to work 45 minutes late looking like wet dogs.
The LA River

I highly recommend you read the full story on Rowena’s blog here.

After the 1st day of work!
Regardless of the rainy start to the day, the sun eventually came out and I jumped head first into street outreach with the homeless in downtown LA. If you don’t know what I mean by street outreach, click the link here, or at the top of my blog that says “Where I Work.” There you can find out more about PATH and their organization, as well as the basics of street outreach.

Now if you just found out what street outreach means and are concerned for my safety, please do pray for me! However, I do not want you to worry. I should tell you that my new partner, Jenny, and I must be together at all times. Jenny has also been working at PATH for 5 years and is very skilled as an outreach worker. She knows her way around LA and definitely has street smarts.

So far I have been very quiet with our clients, just watching and listening to Jenny’s approach. Plenty of people have refused our services, but in this past week alone I have met around 50 people living on underpass sidewalks and none of them have tried to harm us. In fact they mostly enjoy our company and are anxious to tell us their stories!
One of the underpasses where I talk to people.

My daily routine looks like this:
8:00 am drive to our designated area of LA and start walking around
8-12 pm We talk to clients (a client is a person on the street who accepts our help)
We introduce ourselves and tell them what we can offer, like mental health care referrals, shelter stays, permanent housing options, transportation to appointments, etc.
1-4 pm Fill out paperwork regarding clients we talked to in the morning

By Thursday, I could tell I am going to love this job. I couldn’t keep from smiling on my lunch break!

We talk to people at their lowest points in life, offering a smile and a handshake, genuinely listening to their stories, picking up on small details that might make them eligible for resources we have. We give out water and hygiene kits made by elementary school and youth group volunteers. Jenny speaks Spanish with some of them. Once we know them a little bit and can see they want our help, we also put them in our van and drive them to doctor’s appointments and hotels, for which they are so grateful.  

My desk at PATH
In the afternoon, I get to process everything that happened in the morning by going back through my memory of each encounter and filling out a daily log. This is a nice balance of being outside in the sunshine and creating new relationships, while also getting to sit down in the afternoon and process my thoughts.

Aside from enjoying the actual work, I could not be happier with my coworkers. Every single one of them enjoys what they do! We are making a direct difference in people’s lives! The office is filled with laughter and a laid back attitude. In fact, I appear to be one of few OCD people around and they were entertained by my precise hole punching, folder making methods.

Rowena has a coworker that is also a clinician and can diagnose mental illness on the streets. On Friday I started talking to him about the idea of doing service work as a physician. He was ecstatic! Apparently there is a large push toward getting more doctors and nurses out in the field. He said there are programs through the VA Hospital and other non-profit organizations that contract doctors to do street outreach with medicine. I could not be more excited about the opportunity to continue this type of work throughout my life! If anyone has more information on serving as a physician in this way, please let me know! (Of course I still have to make it through medical school once I get back.)

I want to leave you with the Bible verse that really struck me this morning at church.

Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I have been praying consistently for God to give me strength and courage since day one of being a YAV. Today I realized God has already given me the strength and courage. Pastor Hank at MOSAIC church compared it to our body’s cortisol and adrenaline. When everything is cool, they are lying low, and you can forget they are there. We don’t know our own strength until we “enter the danger” and become uncomfortable. That’s when you realize that strength and courage have been there all along, waiting for when you need them most.

I highly recommend the full sermon from MOSAIC church on strength and courage, so please listen to the podcast here! It was phenomenal. 

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