I finally got my hair cut today – only about 5 months overdue. My hairdresser is lucky to see me twice a year and while she often mixes up the personal details of my life (tonight she was convinced that my husband worked as a nurse) she somehow can remember just how I like my hair cut so that I won’t end up looking too much like Shirley Temple on crack. Curly hair is funny. People fawn over my hair until I tell them that I never comb it. I guess they must imagine that I spend hours each morning in front of a mirror. It looks worse if I fuss at it too much. The past week of unbearable humidity was enough to convince me that cutting most of it off was the only viable means of control. What I wouldn’t do for straight, well-behaved hair.

My hairdresser and I chatted about my new job at length; she’s very involved with her church and, as a result, has some experience with homeless families as oftentimes they’re put up in church buildings for a few nights when they don’t qualify for the help that my agency can provide. She was upset that people should have to sleep in church buildings on cots. If she only knew! People end up sleeping in churches here because they make too much money to qualify for the services offered to really poor homeless people. The families she knows of may be homeless, but they’re too rich for our programs.

I told her about the cases I’d been involved with this past week, my first few days spent at a desk and on the front lines:

* a woman and her son who had been evicted because she hadn’t bothered to pay her rent since December. We couldn’t help them long-term, but we offered them placement in a motel for a few days until they could make other arrangements, but they never showed up.

* a single man who’s been living on $140 a month who presented at our office last week drunk and disorderly and was taken to the hospital, by the police, for detox. He was discharged from the hospital without shoes and without anyplace to go. We put him up in a motel.

* a young mother who is about to be discharged from a residential drug treatment program; her family has turned its back and she has nowhere safe to live while she continues in recovery. It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to offer her anything.

* a young woman who’s wheelchair-bound, a victim of domestic violence, and who was put out of the nursing home she’s been living at because she’s a problem there. Her own parents won’t take her in because they fear the ex-husband as well. We turned her away, too.

* a homeless man who we know only by first name so far, reported to us by a phone call from a concerned neighbor who sees him living behind the dumpster of a bakery in her neighborhood. She says he is sick and dying, but has refused any help so far. As I was leaving the office today, we were trying to get someone out to look for this man.

So that’s been my week. Any wonder why my hair is looking a bit frazzled? Maybe a little more gray, already? Honestly, it doesn’t much faze me. I think that’s what bothers me most of all.

13 thoughts on “Perspective”

  1. How do you do it, Laura? Can you truly put it down at the end of the day? What made me crazy about some of your examples is that the people who aren’t belligerent can’t get help? So, what’s the criteria for getting help? One guy is a drunk and you were able to put him up in a hotel, but a young mother trying to kick a bad drug habit can’t get help?
    What made me laugh at was your “Shirley Temple on crack”.
    Amen to that! I get a haircut twice a year, too. But I don’t think I’ve ever looked like a crackhead Shirley Temple.

  2. Wow. I don’t think I’ve got the fortitude to see that sort of thing every day, but I admire you for it and I’m grateful to you for sharing. I’ve had a very stressful week and it looks like there are a few more to come, but it’s mostly good stress with favorable outcomes at the end.

    I need to keep that perspective at times like this. Thanks! 🙂

  3. I could never do all that you do daily. Only in small doses could I not get burned out or frustrated.

    I think we should get to see a photo of your new hair. Who’s with me on this?

  4. There are many jobs that I am grateful other people do: school teacher, tax preparer, nurse, etc… I could not do what you do. I admire you that you can do it.

    As for the hair: my brother and sister both got thick auburn hair. I got fine, straight, light brown hair… and it doesn’t behave. Why is it that curly-headed folks want straight hair and straight-haired folks want curly hair?

  5. I understand Laura, I really do. I see people every day as well that just choose not to participate in getting better, and so you have to help the ones you can and let it go. Truly, we have the best intentions, but we can’t grab it for someone. They have to want it and reach out. There is too much need to try and convince someone to take what is being offered. The thing is we see them over and over again doing the same things and expecting a different outcome. That’s what gets frustrating. What part of “if you don’t do XXX, nothing changes” do they not get?

    And, as for the hair, mine is spaghetti straight and I’d trade you in a heartbeat! :c)

  6. People make bad choices all the time and it is impossible to fix their problems for them. Many have burned their bridges by the time you see them. I feel badly when innocent children are added to the mix. For all those you cannot help, I am sure there are more that you can support.

  7. What a week, Laura. Wow! Glad you were able to get a haircut and relax a little.

    Your examples are heartwrenching. I admire you for being able to do what you do!

  8. I just couldn’t do what you do. I’m not strong enough.

    And congrats on the haircut. I had mine done too…once every 6 or so weeks, the darn stuff grows like a weed and it’s curly enough to drive me nuts when it gets to a certain length.

  9. I am with you on the hair. Mine waves, not curls. So when I look at straight dos and want one, my hairdresser says–ahem–remember the wave. Oh right.
    Other people envy my hair, but I would like it to be straight, just once.

  10. My hair is stick straight- I’ll trade!!

    Really, though, I don’t know how you handle the frustrations of your job. I appreciate that you do it.

  11. It’s good work you do, but I confess I save most of my compassion for the innocents.

    Adults who choose to wreck their lives through the use of alcohol and other addictive drugs are at the the bottom of my compassion list.

    It’s a good thing YOU are out there.

  12. I’m with Susan–why does Drunk and Disorderly Guy get a motel but In Recovery Lady gets probably nothing? I tell you–I could never do your job. I’d end up slipping everyone a twenty, go broke, then end up applying for aid myself. I have never understood the need for drugs or that much booze, but who am I to judge?

    I’m right there with you on the curly hair–straight-haired people are always pawing at my curly hair (which I try to blow-dry straight except on humid days when it’s just no use) and ooh-ing and ah-ing. Ugh! I’d trade for straight hair any day!

  13. SGN: I’m good at leaving this stuff behind at the end of the day. My students and their issues are another story.

    The rules are pretty complicated, but it comes down to that the young mother had been screwing up for years and had had lots of help when she was homeless in the past. Now that she is *ready* for the help and other services, she’s already used up the time allowed.

    Bunnygirl: This work always makes me glad for what I have.

    Pablo: I look the same as the profile pic – just a few years older and more wrinkly!

    Jennifer: The grass is always greener (when it grows on someone else’s head).


    Jayne: You are totally right. Only, the rules seem to allow certain groups of people to make the same mistakes many more times than the rest.

    I don’t make the rules though.

    Ruth: You got it. We’re a last resort. I’m surprised by the number of people who walk away from the offer of a clean bed because the motel or shelter doesn’t meet their standards.


    Liza: We’ll see. I haven’t been at it long. It makes denying people health insurance seem easier than I remember.

    Laurie: I should get it cut that often because it feels so nice when it’s freshly cut, but I’m too lazy!

    KGMom: Waves sound lovely compared to the frizz I have most days!

    Lynne: Thanks.

    FC: In theory I agree, but sometimes I think people’s lives fall all apart at once through no fault of their own and then they find drugs/alcohol. Those people probably are deserving of a hand out of the mess, I think, so long as they’ll take it.

    Delia: Yea – you’d have to resist that urge to hand out money. Really, it’s not about the money. Some people need to learn life skills or a whole other lifestyle before more money will do them any good.

    I blew my hair straight every day through high school – what a chore! It’s good to finally embrace the curly!


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