This program turned me away.


Adapted from a 12/03/15 e-mail to my brothers and some others.

Given instability at the shelter where I’ve been for almost five years, I decided to apply to a certain program affiliated with a major national charity and major local soup kitchen.  This program is residential, has a nice facility, and (as I understood it) was geared toward taking men with histories of addiction or homelessness and rendering them self-supporting.

Since it is a residential program, I would no longer have to carry my bags everywhere I go, vastly increasing the radius within which I can look for work; and, I supposed, I would be able to work any shift.  After all, unlike the shelter where I’ve been, they’ve got a big shove towards self-sufficiency.

They rejected me.

I wrote:

Baptismal grace means: when you get knocked down, you get back up.

Blog post (from October ’14, about getting back up): Life in the outer darkness

In the immediate future, I will be checking out options in transitional housing, and case management services at the clinic where I’m currently in treatment for everything I’m in treatment for.

=====================================

What happened?

In any interview, things can go south over the tiniest detail.  These can be hard to identify, impossible to prevent; if one makes inquiries, I am highly pessimistic that one may get an honest answer, and if one does get the facts, they typically “should” not have mattered.

[Name], a case manager, interviewed me.

The program may not be quite as described on its web page.  It’s 18 months.  The first 30 days, one cannot leave the premises, use a cell phone, access a computer or have visitors.  After that, one is still confined to the premises for 40 more days.  I asked whether I might ever be excused Saturdays or Sundays to execute my offices at church.  The answer was absolutely not.  I said OK; after all, I had already discussed with Pastor and others that this might be so.

The first three months are a rigid schedule of mandatory classes in basic life skills, e.g. anger management.  There might be some reasonable apprehension over whether I could sit patiently through all these classes I personally don’t need.  For three months.

The man asked what “hard skills” I want to acquire.  I had never heard this term before, and had no idea what he meant.  Looking back, I suppose I should have said I want to be a welder, plumber, auto mechanic, or etc.  People in those trades normally can support themselves.  Legal secretary wasn’t in the mix.

There were indications this outfit isn’t wholly businesslike. (1) When I visited last Monday, Mrs. Jones slated me for an intake interview 11:00 this Monday.  My phone records that at 14:55 11/24/15 she called and asked me to appear instead at 10:30.  I crossed out “11:00” in my notebook and wrote “10:30.”  When I appeared this Monday at 10:30, she asked my appointment time, and I said, “10:30.”  She said, “It must have been 10:00.  We don’t do 10:30s.” (2) She took me to her desk and reviewed my criminal background.  Then she phoned [Name] to advise him that his 11:00 was ready.  He indicated no knowledge of this appointment.  She said, “Per the e-mail I sent you.” (3) In the midst of his and my introducing ourselves to each other, this spastic grimace crossed his face.  It may indicate a facial tic; or, it may have indicated his decision. (4) He said a urinalysis (UA) must precede the interview itself.  He went back to his office to get the kit.  After what felt like 15 minutes, he returned — without it.  He went back again to get it. (5) In the middle of walking me down the hall to the men’s room for the UA, he stopped to talk with a co-worker.

In the end, after the interview and another time of waiting, he took me to his office and said he’d met with his team, and said they’d decided I was “not a good fit” for the program.  I offered that perhaps this had to do with my inability to do any heavy lifting.  He said one issue had been whether I might later make a fuss about being excused to do my ministries at church.  Now, I had explicitly told him in the interview that I would give up those offices.

The price of being different

A major learning of my adult life has been that being different, in any way, always entails a monetary price.  Whether that is right or wrong does not change the fact: that’s the way it is.

In recent weeks, there has been a great deal of sturm und drang on college campuses across the country on the part of people who refuse to accept that it is so.  And meanwhile insist that no one around them express any thinking different from their own.

In the present instance, my college degree, my offices at church, and my (hard-won) emotional maturity (being willing to give up those offices for the sake of this program) all worked against me.  They make me different.

I probably would have fared better had I been in need of a GED, had facial hair and facial tattoos, and slouched in the chair rather than sitting up straight.

Were I still doing chapel at the shelter, some day I’d get around to the Parable of the Sower:  “some fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some on good soil.”  I’d ask the men to consider this not in terms of responsiveness to “Jesus Saves,” but in terms of choosing to thrive.  Some circumstances are more conducive to thriving, some more conducive even to the choice to thrive.  Regardless what circumstances one is in, one has the option of so acting on those circumstances as to make them “better soil.”  But, to do that, one first must choose to thrive.

So on the one hand, I can pray to come into circumstances where my gifts will count as assets rather than liabilities.  On the other hand, even in the most inhospitable of circumstances, I can use my gifts to render those circumstances “better soil” for myself and those around me.

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