Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Sad Story with a Thin Ray of Hope at the End

Yesterday, I fired a guy.

Well, I didn't technically fire him, because technically he doesn't work for Real Change. Technically, he works for himself. Technically, he buys his papers from us wholesale, and retails them at a profit.

It is these sorts of technicalities that allow us to employ 250 or so people that have varied levels of employability.

This guy is homeless and sleeping in shelters. He has the mental capacity of maybe a 7 or 8-year-old and a serious anger management problem.

Not real employable.

He's a sweet guy, and mostly wants to be your friend. But when he goes off it's pretty spectacular. One time he threw his cel phone at a staff person. He has lousy aim. Another time, he splashed beer on our front windows.

That was weird.

Both times he called the police afterwards. He always does that. They generally don't respond.

This time though, he'd broken another vendors arm over a turf fight. His primary defense was that it couldn't have been him, because the police had several opportunities to arrest him and didn't.

Which was true.

If a homeless guy breaks another homeless guys arm in the woods, does anyone give a shit?

Anyway, today was his appeal. I tried to manage it in a way that would hear him out, affirm him as a person, hold our ground, and get him out the door without anyone getting hurt.

And looking over this list now, I can say we did all those things. But he still freaked out.

When the moment came, he leapt up from the table and cocked back with his chrome blue cell phone. We all thought he was going to do it.

But he didn't. Instead, he ran to the lights, and angrily glared while he frantically flipped the switch as fast as he could for 5 or 10 seconds.

It was the weirdest act of rage I've ever seen.

Then he ran from the room, slamming the door harder than it's ever been slammed.

I laughed. Craig and Danina didn't. I felt like a dick.

But it was just such a strange thing to do.

He said we'd be hearing from his lawyer. He called the police.

He grabbed something made out of glass on his way out. It might have been a jar. He smashed it on the sidewalk. And he was gone.

The police never came.

Maybe they're the father he never had, and he's still hoping they'll arrive someday

Thinking about it later — how I laughed and what a dick I am for finding such humor in his situation — it occurred to me how completely screwed this guy is.

The things that have probably happened to him over his thirty years or so. His utter misery.

And how nobody is going to rescue him. Not the police. Not the social workers. Not his family. Nobody.

Maybe that's too pessimistic.

Maybe, when all this housing for chronically homeless people gets built, some social worker somewhere will make a project of him.

It'll take her a year or two, but she'll get him on the right lists, work hard to keep in contact, make sure he doesn't flip out and ruin everything, and then maybe she'll fix it when he does.

And then maybe he'll finally get to live like a human being. And her life will have mattered to someone. A lot.

And maybe he'll be saved. It's a big maybe. But it's all he's got.


Stephany said...

I hope someone treats him like a human being before 2 years expires.
Email me; I will.

Mark said...

Huhn? This guy breaks someones arm, and I'm supposed to feel sorry for him? If you or I had our arm painfully broken, I think we would want this guy in jail or to serve some punishment for his actions. Maybe he would learn liberty is a valuable thing and not to act so violent.