Today was my first day since May as a volunteer at the Catholic Outreach Day Center in Grand Junction, Colorado. Hoping for the best, I looked forward to catching up with some people.
The weather has started to turn cold and stay there.
For people who have been living outside or have no sheltered place to stay during the day, almost everything changes for the worse.
One thing that doesn't change for a number of our guests is their involvement with the police and/or the court system. Here are three examples.
The last time I saw Glen, he told me he expected to be deported to his native Scotland in October. So why are you still here, I asked?
He did have his court date in Denver this fall he said, but the judge continued the case. He's due back in court in November, 2019.
I'm here now. Why don't you just rule on it now, he asked.
According to Glen, the judge said, we've got four million undocumented immigrants to deal with in federal court. You're documented.
So Glen returned to Grand Junction where he will keep his nose clean to stay out of detention, report weekly to the ICE office and submit to a weekly drug test. He's awaiting a new green card that will permit him to work. Meanwhile, he's doing volunteer cleanup at the Day Center.
A conversation with woman I called C last year inspired a brief scene in my next novel. She had recently arrived in town without her current prescriptions and had been sleeping outside. If I recall correctly, she had a patch of frostbite on her leg. When I last saw her in the spring, she was still trying to get her feet under her. The stories she told me about how doctors were treating her didn't quite add up, and I suspected they were putting her off for drug-seeking behavior.
Three years earlier, she had been a client advocate for the Southwest Center for Independence in Durango. I was hoping she might have her life in better order now.
She was in the news when we arrived in town last weekend. Crossing a major street at an unmarked intersection in the middle of the day, Tracy Brado was struck by a pickup and killed. Apparently, the left-turning driver took the same opening in traffic that let her cross. Her death was ruled an accident.
Often, the accounts of homeless people's deaths contain little more than the foregoing paragraph. I didn't know Tracy well enough to add much more, except to say that she was an intelligent woman who probably made a decent advocate for others struggling to remake their lives. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell her how I'd been thinking about her.
Five years ago, DG was living in a tent near the river. Last year, she seemed to be doing well. Maybe well enough to get her son back.
Seeing her today, there's no question she's hit a rough period.
She came in before we opened to take a shower. Usually that means a guest is working. But she stayed with us all morning. Sometimes that means a guest is trying to avoid being around drugs or alcohol.
Checking the police blotter before writing this, I learned she was arrested in August for meth possession and being a little too forthright:
After striking up a consensual conversation with the two individuals, the uniformed officer asked them where they were headed. The female, later identified as [DG], 29, told him they were going “somewhere to hide from police.”
We'll be closed tomorrow for Christmas Eve and we don't reopen until Monday.
'Tis the season when almost everything changes for the worse.