I found this on my computer. It was written in March of 2004. I’ve been in SLO for 10 years now. It seems like a life time ago when I first got here.
I went on a job interview today in SLO. It was for a job working with the homeless at a shelter. As I was driving into the parking lot (the main office is in a complex that reminds me of the ever present industrial parks) I heard myself say “what the fuck are you doing back here Houry?” I parked and took a look at myself in the mirror and just wanted to drive away. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life taking on the role of “social worker at large”.
Every time I see this in me, it takes me back to a day last summer at Gaspar’s house. His housemate worked in a day-program for years and years, and one day said “that’s it, there’s got to something else out there”. So he quit and got a job in the normal world. And on this day, we were standing around and talking about a new position I got through UCSF, which had me spending time with homeless people with mental illnesses who were participating in a research study to interview them-basically getting paid to hang out and drink coffee with the homeless-loved it!! So he says to me that life hasn’t been the same since he left, the world outside seems bland, boring, almost non-existent. And then he compared it to heroin- it eats at your soul the longer your in it and you get out and detox, and now your clean and in the real world and you know it’s the right thing to do because the toxicity of the adrenalin is killing you, you don’t know how to be with other people who aren’t in that place. So you go on with your life but the cravings kick in sometimes and you need your fix but you fight as much as you can but you’ll go back because it’s in your blood now and that’s where you think you belong. We laughed about it but it’s how it feels for me. I hate it.
I went in and did the interview. It’s funny coming in from SF into a small town. They have no more than 5,000 homeless people in the county of SLO and people are panicking. I asked them how many shelters there were and they said 3. I hope I had a poker face on because I just couldn’t even imagine what the fear was.
So I left and on the way home, I got thinking about this one man I met last August-Stan. It was a bitch trying to find him in the city. I knew that he was diagnosed with depression and that he was on heavy doses of pain medication. He had temporarily lived in a residential hotel, which by the way, I wouldn’t put my worst enemy in-just down right disgusting.
We finally met at the corner of Powell and Market-he was the guy in the black leather Giants cap. I was nervous, almost didn’t do it but what the hell right? He was homeless and had been since he got to SF after his wife died from cancer. He had had a really disgusting accident with some sort of snow truck in the dead of winter (east coast thing-I couldn’t picture it in my head) just before she died and is on pain killers-so he is identified as a junky with depression-lovely. Seems they were each other’s lives and she had always wanted to live in SF. And so after she died, he figured he had nothing left so he had nothing to lose. So we did the interview and when we were done, it is customary for some of these guys to ask me for more money than they get from the study, so I was prepared for it. But this one didn’t, he asked me if I had to get to work and if not, it would be great if we could finish our coffee. So we talked and it was nice until he told me about his life and the one thing that I was told never to allow myself to do happened, I felt the pain of this man and just burst into tears. Times after that, whenever I was in the area I would look for him just to see if he was all right and if he wanted to grab some coffee. I never saw him again.
Anyway, I hope that if they call me about the job, I am able to just let them know I’m not ready for another fix.