The chimes of my alarms awake me at 6:30 AM, but I don’t rise until 7:00 AM when Bethany pops her head in my room to make sure I’m awake. I throw on gym clothes and then head downstairs to grab a cup of coffee before we head to the gym. Working out has been one of our favorite ways of self care as Bethany and I have been training for a 5K and hope to run a half-marathon before our time in Albuquerque comes to a close. The kitchen is one of my favorite places as it is our morning meeting place before the five of us scatter our separate ways. It is a place of sanctuary and time to connect and offer support before facing some of the tough realities of the world. Our community has become more like a family through sharing of food, emotional support, and friendship. In the early morning, we also cross paths with the other volunteers who live in our building, Teacher’s Hall, on Menaul school’s campus. Volunteers in Mission (VIMs) are retirees who have committed to serving at different organizations for a period of six months. There are six VIMs living in Teacher’s Hall, and their presence has provided a great opportunity to create a multi-generation community in addition to our YAV community. After the gym, I drop Bethany off at work and then head home before I myself need to go to work.
While three of the YAVs work a typical 9 to 5 schedule, Claire and I both work afternoon and evenings. During my free time in the morning before work I have been trying to study to re-take Medical College Admissions Test or do chores such as laundry, cleaning, or grocery shopping. Claire and I will eat lunch together around noon in the great room of Teacher’s Hall before heading our separate ways to work.
I had been biking to work since my work site is less than a block away but with the cold weather, busy road and darkness of night when I leave, I find it safer to drive. To get onto the Albuquerque Opportunity Center (AOC) campus I punch in the familiar gate code, grab my walkie-talkie to communicate with other staff throughout the evening, and head to my office in one of the back buildings. The first thing I do is check the bed reservation report—a list of who is staying in each of the 103 beds at the shelter, how long they have been there, when they are due to exit, and any urgent notices taken by other staff members regarding each resident. I go through the list and highlight my clients, making a list of who needs to be seen and topics for discussion. I often find new residents I need to meet with or mysterious disappearances of clients I thought I had just begun making progress with. Each week I make a schedule of appointments so that I can meet with each of my clients at least once per week. Each day I make appointment reminder notes for those who are scheduled and place them on their beds. Residents are allowed to enter the shelter’s campus at 5:00 PM, so I meet with clients between 5:00 and 9:00 PM. Typically I have between 15 and 20 clients that I am working with and try to meet with each once per week.
After reviewing my schedule for the evening, I review each client’s Individualized Development Plan. Upon entering the AOC, an extensive interview, also called a Personal Needs Assessment (PNA), is conducted with each resident. The purpose of the PNA is to determine the needs of each individual in order to create an Individualized Development plan to address each of those needs. In addition to asking the client about their healthcare, health status, income, education, and more, I also incorporate their own desires and goals through a goal setting worksheet–what is it that they want to accomplish during their time at the AOC? After I have all of this information, I create a general outlined plan with the obstacles and solutions that will hopefully help them exit homelessness. Before each appointment, I look at their plan and my notes from last appointment to remind myself of what sorts of things we had agreed they should work on this week and if there were any resources I should prepare before their appointment. The bulk of my afternoon is spent planning for these appointment—calling different service organizations, printing out information packets or apartment listings, and thinking about the best way to broach difficult subjects such as anger issues, substance use disorders, mental health issues, and past felonies with my clients. In the evening I meet with clients, check in on their progress, and write down what we discussed in their chart. At 9:00 PM I head home and try to wind down and get some sleep before the next day of work.