Coming together in mourning
Today I accompanied Mr. S. to his mother’s funeral.
A few days ago, a family member told us that his mother had died. We knew little about the contacts he still had with his family. He tends to tell us with a broad smile that everything is fine, that the contacts are in order and that, he too, is OK. But we know that he’s sometimes “too proud” to tell us that he’s going through a difficult period.
So now we’re trying just on the off chance
Today, I visited with my colleagues a patient in Liège. I travelled there by train and met them at the Guillemins station. I hardly know this town and even less the patients Street Nurses supports there.
We’re going to visit Mr. J in his home at a few minutes distance. We tried to inform him ahead of our visit but couldn’t get through. So now we’re trying just on the off chance.
Each way of living on the street is unique, but none is just.
I see all sorts of camping spots pop up in Liège. When I walked past these homeless people before, all sorts of questions went through my mind. I saw them move around, occupy spots here and there, but never to stay. A body in a garage entrance, the movements of someone breathing under a blanket, stuff piled up in a corner, a piece of cardboard under a porch…Clearly visible traces of poverty, but always of a temporary nature.
A day at the seaside!
Mr. T and Mr. X are two patients we support in their homes.
For several months, they have been members of the tenants’ council, organized by the “Affiliation” team. There they can meet other tenants in the Brussels Housing First project and together select activities in which they’d like to participate.
A big child
It was a cold and rainy day as one could expect towards the end of the year.
The whole morning, we had been on an inspection round, with under our arm a Xmas present which schoolchildren had prepared for you.
We were soaked and the gift’s packaging was a mess. But I’ll never forget your big smile when you saw us coming with the present. It was a smile I had never seen before on your face. I’d almost say: of a big child.
My grandmother once said to me: “What would you give to be like someone else?” …and I always refused to give anything because I don’t want to be like someone else.
So many people cared for you...
A, one of our street patients recently died in unclear circumstances. We started his follow-up more than three years ago but at that moment he had probably been living on the street for ten years or more already.
Under his lovely smile, his vague and ever repeated stories, and his constant refusal of help, we assumed the presence of hidden wounds, resulting from family circumstances and exile. We’ll probably never know.
To feel useful, that matters to me
One beautiful morning in August somebody suggests over a cup of coffee that I tell something about my life, the road I travelled. Who am I that someone asks me to talk about myself?
Wow, what a transformation!
When you entered our follow-up, Mr. N.*, we had to collect a maximum of data concerning you, in order to accompany you as well as possible. That's when I received an e-mail from a member of your network that took me aback. It was a rather discouraging message, saying that you had chosen to live on the street anyway and that you had always refused to live in housing. This is obviously not the first time I've heard this kind of thinking, but it's still surprising. So let's drop it?
The importance of a care partner
Mr. K. has been followed up by Street Nurses for almost 4 years. He lost his first home, which did not suit him as it was too isolated and made him loose his bearings. He could not cope with the situation and, unfortunately, landed, after a short time, back on the street. The street: that’s what he knew too well as he had lived there for dozens of years. Like most homeless people, he suffered from serious physical health and addiction problems.
The magic of Love
Mr. J. lived on the street for a very long time. For years he slept in a tent near a Brussels quarter where people knew and liked him. When we met him, he was physically in bad shape, hygienically completely neglected. Our team took the time necessary to get to know him while he was the one who made us laugh with his jokes. His sense of humor was totally intact.
In my function as a social worker, I must of course focus on the social and administrative follow-up of our patients - but that’s not all. These people have a very tough life, but they also have a lot of resources and strength which they’re often no longer aware of.