|This from the National Weather Service. And this wasn't|
even as cold as it got...
I'm of two minds when it gets so cold; I want to stay inside, stay warm. And I want everyone else to do the same. Meanwhile, I also see all the snow and think of how much fun it could be. Though there wasn't much snow during the Polar Vortex, most of that came afterward. But in regard to wanting people to stay inside, I react with something resembling anger when I see people out walking from place to place when the air can literally freeze your bodily tissues solid. Seems stupid to me. But on the other hand, I feel like there's this you are your brother's keeper thing stirring in me; I have a warm house. How many people don't have that?
So I recently had an overnight shift working on the ambulance. It used to bug me when I would work during the "daytime," but I would go to work in the dark and then drive home in the dark again, knowing that there had been daylight while I was inside. But it's even stranger to go to work in the dark and leave in the dark, while driving around town and seeing for myself that there wasn't any daylight while I was working my shift.
Anyway, our first call of the night took us to a homeless shelter in St. Paul. I've been by this place before, I've seen the line each afternoon/evening, when people line up, looking for a bed to stay in for the night. Even when it gets chilly, that line is outside. But with the frostbiting temperatures, the line was inside. The shelter opened up extra room, cramming people into every corner, just trying to get people out of the cold. We were there for an individual who was off her meds and needed far more help than what the shelter staff could offer. But as we walked in to pick up this individual, I was still struck by how few people were there. I mean, I've read the articles, I've seen the charity asks and the statistics about homelessness in the Twin Cities. Even if every homeless shelter was filled to capacity (and then a little, because this is charity work after all), there must still be more people who need a place to stay.
And it makes me angry. Because I also see the people still out panhandling when the snow is up over their ankles and the wind is cutting straight through that jacket that was never designed to worn under the freezing point. People who have to walk from place to place, not because they want to, but because they can't even afford the cost of public transit.
What am I supposed to do in cases like this?
No, really, what am I supposed to do? This isn't a rhetorical question. I am processing through my emotional responses. I want to help them somehow.
So what do I do? Do I pick people up and take them to the nearest shelter? To the hospital? Do I take them home with me? I have a warm house with a spare bedroom; maybe Amanda and I should open our house and give that panhandler the second bedroom. Jesus would probably agree with me on that one.
But then what do I do the next time that I see a panhandler? And the next one after that? Do I tell that first person that I brought home that now they need to share my spare bedroom with two other people?
|That's me. In my ambulance at work.|
Trying to figure out what to do with people...
Part of me has to wonder at the possibility of me, a new EMT, who starts bringing street people into the emergency department when it's cold. I'm pretty sure that some ED supervisor would probably call the EMS supervisor and tell them that their man needs to stop bringing these people in. And then I might lose my job and lose the ready access to those life saving supplies in the first place!
You can see that I've thought about this a lot, dear reader, and I don't think I'm anywhere close to a solution...
My mother, in all her wisdom, pointed out that there may be programs like what I was talking about. Groups of public servants or other volunteers who drive around in the dead of winter and bring panhandlers and street people to shelters so that they don't get dead in the winter. Most of the time these type of services depend on a director who is sympathetic to the cause. And I don't know where my supervisors stand on that issue. Not yet at least.
At the same time, my mother also quoted Jesus at me and said "you will have the poor with you always." And she didn't mean it dismissively. Really, I think she was at the same place as me when I ask whether I should take panhandlers into my home; we only have so many resources. So how do we use those resources most effectively, knowing that Jesus wants us to help people, and at the same time knowing that we are trying to help people, in all their faults, foibles, virtues and vices.
Maybe the answer is to volunteer with a group of people already doing this work. Maybe the answer is to give money to that group. Maybe the answer is to drive around in your car with gift cards for gas and groceries (that would really be taking it to the streets, wouldn't it dear reader?)
To pull back the curtain, you know that I'm a wandering more than a little bit with this post. It's not as tight and directed as I usually like with my blog. But nonetheless, this is me, asking questions and hoping for responses.
Hit me with what you've got in the comments.