One of my first human service volunteer jobs was at the Black Hawk County Youth Shelter. I was volunteering there for one of my human service classes. I only needed to do about 100 hours. I remember being about 25 hours in when one of the worst things to ever seriously happen in my life occurred. It is a short-term stay shelter for teens awaiting placement into foster homes. The fucking place is probably condemned now, but I doubt it.
The layout of the shelter was as follows; you drive on a dirt road for about 10 miles to get to the place. You turn in and immediately see the detention center connected to it, the two buildings shared a gym. You walk in the front door to a very small waiting area covered in dust and adorned with three wooden folding chairs. In front of you there is a large metal door, electronically locked from the outside. You knock, and the staff let you in. The doors to the facility are all locked from the outside to keep people out. However, if you are a resident on the inside you are free to leave as you please. The only thing the staff could do would be to call the police after you left. So you walk into the main living area. The door to your left is the gym, a TV area in front of you, a rack of shoes along the wall to your right, lastly a front desk guarding two separate hallways a few feet to your right.
It was October, cold, and night was beginning to come earlier in preparation for Halloween. I remember one night, about 9PM, a car pulled up to the building. It was a rusted out El Camino that still had flecks of the original silver paint on the roof and hood. It was full of trash. Out of the car came two people. They were dirty and smelled like stale crackers. It was a mother and her son, he had no shoes.
She wanted to leave her son at the shelter, saying she could not care for him anymore. However there were laws and policies the shelter had to follow. They had no choice but to turn the boy away. The thing I remember the most was that the actual working members, the ones actually being paid, were such fucking pussies that they didn't want to deliver the bad news to the mother and the boy with no shoes that they couldn't stay there. Instead, they had me do it.
I remember sitting with them in the entry way and letting them know how sorry I was but her son could not stay there that night. I said maybe they could come back tomorrow during the day and the staff could call a few services for them, but the mom said that was not an option. The mom started to cry, while the boy with no shoes just stared down at the puke-colored carpet under our feet in the entryway. I went back inside to give them a few moments, secretly hoping they would leave so I wouldn't have to face them again. A few minutes later and they were still there. I asked the lady in charge if I could at least give the boy some shoes. The shelter had a at least two dozen pairs that had been donated and were sitting along the wall right as you walked into the main housing area. She said no.
I walked back into the entryway and gave them the address for Youth and Shelter Services. I called their night telephone line and left a message. That was the end of it. Who knows what happened to the El Camino driving mom and her son with no shoes. It's a memory that vividly sticks in my mind more then seven years later. It's not funny, I know, but it's the truth, and that, in reality, is the true purpose of me writing this blog.