Martin has been living on the streets for a number of years. As the case manager responsible for helping him obtain housing, I had concerns about his ability to manage in an apartment of his own and knew that he would need support. However, Martin wanted his own apartment, and ultimately, it was his decision, not mine.
When I was first invited to apply for the manager position of the drop-in center where I worked as a case manager, I turned it down. I enjoyed being a case manager and working directly with clients, and I didn’t want the responsibility of running a program, writing reports, and going to meetings.
Instead, I participated in the search for a new Program Manager. Most of the candidates were not well qualified for this position, but we eventually found someone who seemed good and made him an offer. He accepted. And then he didn’t show up for his first day of work.
This is a poem I come back to over and over again. I found it years ago, and every time I look at it, it seems to resonate in new ways.
After some days of supporting clients, it’s the “immense responsibility and very little authority” that catches me. After other days, it’s about “resounding triumphs and devastating failures.” And still other days, it’s about “always be[ing] frustrated.”
My frustration is sometimes directed at the systems. Why are they so complicated? Why do they set people up to fail? Why don’t they support people the way they should?
Sometimes, quite honestly, my frustration is directed at the people with whom I am working. Why did she go back to her abusive partner? Why did he spend his $10,000 settlement in a month? Why did he pay his phone bill, but not his rent? Why did she use again?