I'm back in Grand Junction until May, and with a throttled-back book schedule, I'm posting here again.
The first day back at the Day Center after a long absence always requires some adjustment. New rules get posted. The volunteer crew has changed. I have to reacquaint myself with where certain supplies are stored.
But most of all, I brace myself for the news.
It could be good, of course. Someone went back to work. A couple who'd been camping found a place to live. A court-assigned rehab is going well.
But it could also be bad. Someone's in prison. A couple's split and lost what tenuous support they gave each other. The lessons learned in rehab weren't applied on the street.
No one I know has died since I left last spring. At least from what I've heard. It's only my first day back.
It's kind of a mixed deal seeing people again. That they're here means they're alive and holding it together well enough to use our services. But it also means they haven't gotten out of their homeless state.
A woman I hadn't seen for a couple years was back today, as was a man who'd supposedly left to live with a relative in Wyoming last year.
These people who get called transients are often simply trying to better their situation. What looks like random chaos or vagrancy from the outside is sometimes a stab at improvement or survival made by a person with few resources.
The grass looks greener. An old family rift seems like it's repaired. Somebody knows somebody who might have work. Or it's just gotten too uncomfortable where they are.
There's a couple here I love whose troubles and craziness and addictions have finally blown them apart. The shortness of the fuse was apparent last spring but because I believe in their deeper goodness, I had hopes.
He shared with me what's happened since I went to his sentencing hearing. It was the usual mix of insight and acceptance of blame jumbled up with tales of financial irresponsibility, crazy infatuation and an attempt to puzzle out whether a certain winning Powerball number could possibly have been random.
I tried to follow his Kaballah-like calculations, which were mathematically correct but unmoored from reason.
Finally, he looked at me and said, "It's hard for me to occupy my mind every day."
Time is a very different burden for people with no job, no prospects and no home.
I talked to his wife later. I asked how she was doing and she told me a story about how last December she'd reached the end of her rope at 4 AM, standing wrapped in a sleeping bag outside the Mission, which is about as low as you can go to find shelter against the remarkable cold that had hit the valley. It's where the sex offenders and men released from prison submit themselves to Jesus because it's the only place that will take them in.
Her cell phone rang at 5 AM.
"It was my sister, who never calls me. She was calling to tell me she'd just won $5,000 in the lottery, and she was going to rent me a room."
I know the place. It's a house a few miles from us on Monument Road.
"I'm covered through February and then I'm going to take over payments."
I don't know what will happen down the road. The house is about three miles from town and there's no transit. She's fallen back before.
But I can see why her husband might be wondering if the lottery numbers are truly random.