Late in the morning an elderly woman with clear blue eyes and nun-cropped white hair came to the intake window at the day center. She didn't have the look of one of our homeless clients, and I correctly surmised that the plastic bag she carried contained toiletries she wanted to donate.
But she wanted something, too. Did I know a police officer named Corey?
The woman asked if she could speak to him.
I explained he didn't work out of the day center, although he sometimes came through here.
He's one of two officers who have been temporarily taken off the Homeless Outreach Team that works to get homeless people off the street and into housing or services that can make their lives safer and less chaotic. Until the department can fill a personnel shortage, the two members have been reassigned to other duties.
She asked if I knew a way she could contact him. "He helped my son," she said, "and I'd like to thank him."
I scribbled a phone number for her. She thanked me and left.
You'd be surprised how many homeless people here have family in town. Mothers, ex-wives, children, cousins, brothers and sisters.
In some cases, the family members have troubles, too. I know one man who stays in town to look after his disabled mother, but she doesn't have room for him. She's already putting up two of her daughter's kids and could lose her Section 8 rental assistance if he slept there.
I talked today with another man who's not long out of a psychiatric hospital. His mother lives in town, too, but for whatever reason, her home is not an option for him. He is living in a house with four roommates he considers a bad influence.
If I don't get out of there, they'll drag me down, he said.
He's thinking sleeping in his car may be a better option.
There are others. Most of them, in fact. The family bonds stretched and broken beyond mending. Loved ones had to give up for their own sakes, and for the most part, we don't see them here.
But once in awhile a mother comes to offer thanks to those who try to do what she can't do any more.