I love my job. I'm going into a third phase of my year, meaning that I am pulling back from the regular drop in work for a more desk based phase of report writing, research and resource writing. While this is very exciting, I am really going to miss the drop in work, and the clients I've got to know.
I must admit that there have been times where I have been totally overwhelmed by the task faced by those working with homelessness and poverty. With the changes to benefits this year, it has seemed like we are trying to bail out the Titanic with a thimble. A totally unscientific look at our stats has shown that the numbers attending one of our drop ins have jumped up in the last month. There is likely to be a number of factors, but can it only coincidence that it fits with the benefit changes. There are times I've got home after work and felt so guilty for the nice warm house I get to sleep in, when we have just handed a young couple sleeping bags and suggested a few places for them to bed down.
It seems like an endless job. And it has really made me reflect on those baffling words of Jesus 'The poor you will always have with you,'
I wish I knew what Jesus meant by this. Is it a rare defeatist view from Christ, or a criticism of the human condition? Or is it just a simple observation that true materialistic equality is impossible? (On that last point, I think of the film Enemy at the Gates, where the Communist Commissar comes to realise that communism won't work, as he is jealous of the love his best friend has. He says: 'In this world, even a Soviet one, there will always be rich and poor. Rich in gifts, poor in gifts. Rich in love, poor in love.')
Maybe it is a shot of reality to all of us, to not be complacent or defeatist. There will always be those in need, but that isn't a reason not to try. Or maybe I am reading way too much into this, and risk becoming like my GCSE English Teacher, who would overanalyse every word of a poem. (She once said that a poet used the alliteration of the 'M' sound to signify the falling snow.)
I'm sounding quite bleak here. But what sparked me to write this post was an encounter I had in the street a few days ago.
I was wasting time in town before getting the bus to a meeting when I bumped into Sophie*, a client who had been coming to the Drop In for a while with her partner Adam*, but who I hadn't seen for a few weeks. When you don't see someone for a while, it could be that they have moved away. Other times, we find out that they are in hospital, or even have passed away. But this case was the best scenario. Sophie told me that they had got themselves a flat and Adam had a job. She had a massive smile on her face. Then she thanked me for all we had done for her, shook my hand and walked off.
It made my eyes well up a little (and they are again now as I write this). Moments like that are that little boost that is needed to keep going. Yes, there are an awful (in both uses of the word) lot of people who rely on Drop Ins and Foodbanks, but there is hope.
*Not their real names.