April 11 – A story by Howard Diamond
THE INITIAL CONTACT
On the night of February 9, several years ago, it was one of those biting cold, sub-zero evenings when thirty-one-year-old Holly Stephens prepared to leave her job as a Peer Specialist for the Wellness Academy in the small village, Lake Town. The time was shortly before 8pm and she was preparing to leave after a long and exhausting day. Looking through a window, Holly could see that it was dark, and she heard the howling of the wind banging against the lit lamp posts. Also, she noticed the snow was falling heavily plus blowing in a sideways direction as if all the elements of the weather were moving and defying gravity.
As she grabbed her heavy jacket and her two sets of keys, Holly thought she perceived some noise down the corridor and thought she saw someone entering the front door of the building. Holly was right! In the lobby, there was a security officer with a young lady who stood shivering and shaking, while blowing on her hands that were frozen from the cold and wind. She was also pregnant. Never one to ignore someone in need, Holly started the conversation by introducing herself to the woman who said her name was Ruth and admitted being with child. At this moment, Holly got two chairs from the security guard. Ruth agreed to sit down and talk. Then, Holly practiced relaxation exercises with Ruth to try to calm her down and give Ruth some peace of mind as she was getting away from the inclement weather outside.
Now, Holly wondered how this happened? Ruth explained that she had turned twenty-six, was over seven months pregnant, homeless and the unborn child’s father had abandoned her a few months prior. Earlier in the day, her landlady threw her into the cold as Ruth had not paid rent for two months. After walking the streets for what felt like hours, she had stopped inside to take a load off her feet and warm up. Once again, Holly thought out loud, how could anyone do this to another person, especially to someone with all these needs, including having little money, with a child and having nowhere to go? Then, Ruth softly said she was used to this as she had been in and out of housing for five years.
According to Holly’s thinking, no one needs to get accustomed to what Ruth was currently going through. As a Peer Specialist, Holly had many resources at her disposal. With Ruth’s consent, she texted her Peer Supervisor, Steffie Green for advice. Then, Holly and Ruth looked through Holly’s laptop and figured out what might be best for her. There were local hotels and motels, but they were either expensive or rundown and in sleazy areas of downtown. Finally, Holly thought a respite might be a possible viable option.