Life on the Streets through a Social Worker’s Eyes

Today I told someone my address and gave them Oakland as my city instead of Columbus. An odd thing to come out of my mouth after eleven years have passed. From 1996-2010, I lived in Oakland, Fremont and Hayward, California. During this time, I worked for the Berkeley Head Start program and Alameda County Department of Social Services.

I “held” children from all different types of backgrounds: giving them hugs, holding their hands, providing transportation, sharing meals and listening to their stories. I read hundreds of court reports when the case was transferred over or wrote them myself. I gave them love by building trust with them through honesty and support and following through on their needs and wants. We worked a 37.5 hour week though there were times I was off the “clock” or didn’t take a lunch and a break – what was that? The best of us worked our hearts off doing due diligence for other people’s children and sometimes the quality effort, being self-assigned to a family, didn’t include looking at the clock. We were martyrs but it is easy to get lost in a life; that so desperately needs your help. Especially when those that were supposed to, had let them down so many times before – even us.

Continue reading

Down By The Lake

Standing on the dock, looking out at the mossy green basin, she discards her clothes, and jumps in.  Half-way across the lake she looks up, and notices there is no gate in the distance.  Just as she is beginning to gage her sense of timing to get to the other side, a motor sounds off to the right from the lagoon.  Dr. Lion comes toward her or “Guru” as he likes to be called.  She calls him nothing. 

He has respect from his colleagues, for his papers on depression and isolation.  He alludes to having traveled extensively, to lecture about the pressures of society. No one is allowed access to the institution, without his express permission.  Dr. Lion is viewed by his clients with fear and trepidation.  Like a drill sergeant, he demands that they live by his rules.  There is a list next to each bed: 1. Rise at seven, 2. Ten minute showers, 3. Twenty minute breakfast, and it goes on to account for the day with twelve more items.  When it was time for therapy, clients would sit on the metal chairs, in order by appointment; they were alphabetized.  No talking, no listening, the room outside his office must be silent.  Each client is allowed to read the books he has chosen for them.

Continue reading