Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Power of Staying Put

The text came in the middle of a Wednesday night meeting.

“Marshall, can you call me? Steve* is here and needs a place to stay by Friday.”

Diane and I hadn’t seen Steve in at least 4 years; he had bounced in and out of our tutoring program in its early years, and like many of the kids that we have worked with, he drifted out of our lives. He was always a polite, friendly kid, and now he was back, 22 years old, homeless, jobless, and the father of an infant daughter in another state. I talked with him briefly on the phone, told him to stay put (Diane was fixing him some dinner), and was soon home hearing his story.

After telling me all that had happened, he said, “I knew that if I came to y’all’s house I could find some good people who could help me.” That’s a good reputation to have, I think, for my family to be known as good people who are willing to help. Steve knew that even after years gone by, he could come to our home and be received with love and care.

To me, that’s the power of staying put when working with the urban poor. This is a transient population, people moving from house to house, chased by bills and job loss and just being stuck in generational poverty. We can’t chase every kid, every family, but we can make it easy for us to be found. Even as Glenwood changes around us, there’s great value of staying anchored on the corner of Silver Avenue.

* name has been changed

Epilogue: Steve stayed with us for two nights, and then a friend was able to get him placed in a home for young men until January, giving him time to find a job and find a new place to stay.

No comments: