Sunday, April 01, 2007

Regarding the Crisis Center

I wished I could give out a 1-800 number or something so my charitable readers could donate if they wanted, but your money would be better spent at your local crisis center/homeless shelter/soup kitchen.

I started this in response to the latest post at Pandagon, but it got long, so I'm moving it here.

I just want to react to the caption at the bottom of the duct-taped kid (I bought my sister masking tape for Christmas 2001- she did not use it in the way I wanted) before reading everything.

"Just another day after hours at the local crisis pregnancy center."

I make many references to my volunteer work at a crisis center. It is not a crisis pregnancy center - we have pregnant clients, but they're so-pregnant-you-can-tell pregnant, not in the position to consider abortion. The latest was a high school girl from my working-to-lower-middle-class neighborhood - she had her baby last month!

She came in for baby clothes and food and general help.

That's what we do - give out clothes, food, money, and almost any item you could need - someone donated a wine rack last week. A wine rack? That one would have been better at goodwill. In our area, you either donate to the goodwill trailer or to us. A lot of people donate to us because we sell nothing - every weekend, I raid my house for books for the front room - I just solicited MAD magazine for a free subscription/free magazines to the place. (They send them to soldiers, they could do the same for us... we're near a base.)

The director gives out counseling - basic financial help so they don't have to come back, or some spiritual guidance if needed. "You can get through this, God will help, we will be there for you."

I'm guessing, I'm one of the volunteers that isn't a client, so I've never been back there.

But the director lives in my neighborhood and has! a! pool! and hasn't said I could swim there and we had record breaking temperatures this week (86+) and she won't let me swim and I haven't asked. She is eeeeeeeeeeevil.

The director is a great woman, a great person, a great Catholic. A very liberal Catholic. "Why haven't you been coming to church lately?" she asked me last fall. "Just don't want to." Okay then, help me take this food in.

I haven't gone since April 2004. I hope to keep up the streak - the powers-that-drag-me-to-church our going out of town next weekend for my grandmother's 69th birthday - and they'll have an Easter Egg hunt!

My jaded, worldly 16 year old little sister was like, "Who's going to hunt for eggs?"

I said, "This is Mom and Uncle Danny we're talking about. Who isn't going to hunt for eggs?"

The Easter Egg hunt makes me want to go.

I am uncomfortable around Grandma and her husband, and that was in 2001 before I was an agnostic/atheist/don't-give-a-shitist feminist liberal. She's the one who told my mom not to vote for Harold Ford because he's black. Yes, I would hold my tongue about politics, racism, religion, and sexism, and it would be damn easy - 5 desert acres that are so awesome to explore, but only in tennies or boots. No barefoot walking in New Mexico.

And it'll be so cool. When mom (and her disbelieving brother) checked the weather for the nearest town with hotels, it was 26 degrees! But I'm not going, what with the bad, bad pain and the general loathing of being in small spaces when in pain - like the cab of the truck for all day through boring, boring desert when I can't read in a car due to nausea and I promised Becky my mp3 player - but if I went, I bet she wouldn't mind me going back on that.

I'm not going!

Back on topic.

She is a very liberal Catholic - even as a member of the Navy Wives' Club. Actually, I think a lot of women who got the fuck out of the house while their husbands served got a divorce (mom) and/or became more liberal. Mom voted for Bush in 2000 and regretted it by '03. I don't think the director votes Republican. I don't know what her stance is on abortion or gay marriage, and it doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter whether gays get married, but actually the ability to get an abortion and/or BC would be good, but the local Planned Parenthood is in downtown Memphis. Which is far away, but not too far to discourage someone.

But I don't get the feeling pregnant women come to us for counseling - should I have this baby?

They come in when they've decided to have the baby and need clothing, food, diapers, furniture, and information - parenting classes, WiC applications, food stamps, etc.

But gay marriage?

Piffle. It doesn't matter whether you're gay or straight, you get help. But I think that if we do have gay clients, they put their partner down as a friend living with them - this is the South.

We officially a ministry, but we only refer people to the churches that do Thanksgiving/Christmas baskets, the one that does "Angel Food", and the one that houses the local branch of the food bank.

We run into a lot of problems with the last church. It is not part of the church, it is not under the church rule, but the minister thinks it is.

He made the director cry, and she is a damn fine, damn strong woman.


He's never known poverty in his life, but he says if we fill more than 5 food vouchers a day or give food from the food bank to people who live in hotels, we're "enabling" them.

Most of this food goes to children! How do you enable a child? "I'm sorry honey, nothing to eat tonight, I don't want you to be dependent on me. You need to get a job so you can buy your own food."

That's why we have a kitchen - with food in it. If someone hasn't eaten in days, but lives outside the zip codes we serve, is homeless, the food bank is closed, or they've had too many food vouchers, they can still get food.

I remember the day we stayed until 5pm. The director wanted me there, she didn't want to be by herself with the client - or any client, I guess.

He was homeless and only a few years older than me and he'd made a lot of mistakes. We got him a bus ticket back to his father's house, so he can get his life on track. Someone had dropped off a bunch of kids' backpacks, and we filled his with food, two bottles of water, some PC items (Personal Cleaning items like deodorant,soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes), and the promise that he could turn his life around. Before he left - we had to wait for the only male volunteer to show up and drive him to the nearest bus stop - I gave him two comic books. One was an X-files episode, a comic version of "Squeeze", that I later got in a book of X-files comics. The other was the Mad Classic for December 2006 - the one that was a collection of articles from the previous year. Since I had all the issues for '06, I had to donate it.

I hope that magazine made his trip a little happier. I hope he's doing better.

Despite the undoubtedly strong religious beliefs of most of our clients and the rest of the volunteers, there is no preaching, no proseltyzing. It's not allowed. Since it's a given that you go to church here, people don't even ask what church I go to. So it's avoided completely. And that's great.

Some of the fun things I've done since I've moved to the front room (I did the paperwork and calling-people part of Toys for Tots in the children's clothing room, away from the clients for the most part) - I had to (wo)man the front desk and make appointments for 2-3 weeks in December, because the woman that normally did it had foot surgery and had to stay at home, on bed rest. She was back by the 1st of the year. I brought in one of our radios and put it on Christmas music, unless people wanted to watch "The Price is Right" and Soap Operas.

The radio is back in our bathroom (my sister was so upset, that's our shower radio!), but I still have two collages - the Wickett and Dixie ones. I also printed out two copies of one of those e-mail forwards, this one a funny one about pets, and hung it near the two collages. People ask about them, and they are gorgeous. If I had money, I'd get them blown up so people all over the room can see them, not just those sitting next to them.

I also called a guy who judt got out of prison and hadn't eaten in a few days a "wussy" because he spit out a warhead. That was when I was the only one in the front room, and because he was homeless, he was the last client of the day, so we could get as much done. And I gave him candy and laughed at him. I hope that made him feel better, it was silly, not cruel.

But my favorite was on December 19th, the last day of the first semester for the county schools.
A deaf couple came in, and we communicated through writing, but I called my mom and begged her to come. The only sign language I know of the top of my head is "toilet", "shit/poop", "little", "bull", and "no". So when she asked where the toilet was, no problem!

It amused every other client there when I told them that I was taught sign language, but all I knew off the top of my head was cuss words!

My mom didn't want to come, she wanted to go to a Christmas party at her old school. She came anyway and still made her party. She was not needed, her sign language is slow, and while she knows enough to teach the special ed kids, she doesn't know as much as a deaf adult.

But she was needed.

She put them at ease - they were new in the area.

She also took them to the food pantry, because she can drive, and all the other volunteers were long gone, and if she hadn't been there, they would have had to wait until the director was done with everyone, then go down there.

She said she wasn't needed in the back room, most of the discussion was written, but she put them at ease. And that's so important.

So, we are not a Crisis Pregnancy Center. We do not counsel pregnant women who do not know if they want the baby or not. We deal with women who already know what they're doing, and get them everything we can.

CPCs are an alternative to PPs - the website says abortion alternatives. There are many good ones, that help the woman through pregnancy and beyond. However, there are some bad ones, the just don't want the woman to have an abortion. They help them up to the legal abortion date, then turn them loose so they'll go to a PP and discover they can't have an abortion.

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