A quick look at St. Joseph Emergency Family Shelter staff
Imagine for a moment that you could take the place of the proverbial “fly on the wall” at the monthly St. Joseph’s Emergency Shelter staff meeting.
From your perch you observe a rather motley crew—people from all walks of life, all ages, races, social classes—gathering, greeting each other as old friends do with exclamations and inquiries. Some have been shelter staff for years, others are going on decades. Soon, the group settles around a large table with a few snacks. Your fly-self notices that though the energy level is high, many in the group look distinctly careworn. It’s that look you often see in long-time teachers, in public health workers, in activists—physical and mental exhaustion mixed with sparks of passion. They witness much, this group, in their mission to provide support and safety to the guests at St. Joe’s Shelter. They could certainly “tell stories”, as the saying goes.
You notice, as the meeting commences, that while the focus falls on the house managers and program directors, it is clear that the group is a collective team, each one an equal player—an integral voice and a necessary cog in the mechanism of shelter operation. Sherry, the Community Support Advocate at the shelter, offers updates, suggestions, and support to staff as they discuss the observed ups and downs of shelter life. You hear snippets of “What can we do?” and “How can we help?” as the group works its way through this month’s agenda.
You listen, as staff talk in serious tones about recent snags, and cheerfully rejoice in the successes of guests past and present. Topics as mundane as who cleans the bathrooms or where to toss the trash, to the seriousness of handling a guest’s medication, or what to do in the event of an emergency all make their way across the table. Each member offers a unique perspective about how best to address the situations at hand.
A quiet observer, you get the sense that the shelter takes on a life of its own, as an organism that morphs and changes with the ebb and flow of families through its doors. Even the staff are constantly in flux—working different shifts on different days, as their busy schedules dictate. But the collective goal does not falter: shelter staff strive to provide safety, structure and compassionate service those in need. They, like the changing house, are not perfect—but it is apparent that a more caring, concerned or dedicated group could not be found.
During the month of August, Catholic Charities’ staff and committee members are "Blogging the Build". Follow our blog for updates on the expansion of St. Joseph Emergency Family Shelter.