By Colleen Sinsky
JOIN is unique in many glamorous and exciting ways. We do outreach in Forest Park and Thousand Acres, and areas where other social service agencies wouldn’t go. We’re flexible and put relationships first. I wear jeans every day. We always have kombucha on tap in the break room, and a beautiful community garden reclaimed from what was a parking lot. It’s all very wonderful.
We’re also unique in a far less fun way- doing the dirty work. It doesn’t make for a very good blog post or touching story to share at a fundraiser, but many of my daily experiences that have the most impact are just that: the unglamorous dirty work. It’s often takes more than vouchers or utility assistance for some to maintain housing. Moving furniture, dealing with bed bugs and hoarding, moves to a new apartment, muck outs, dump runs, storage units and preparing for building inspections are some of those common tasks that were probably not mentioned on anyone’s job description. We do really really unpleasant chores sometimes! And everyone just takes it in stride, jokes about bed bugs and terrible smells, and still wakes up early to do some job that requires protective booties, gloves, and a sense of humor. I’m still constantly amazed by and proud of my coworkers who have been doing this for so long.
This post has (obviously) been inspired by my day today- which consisted of cleaning out an apartment with a severe bed bug infestation, and an afternoon of moving furniture. Bill and I knew the infestation would be bad, but I really couldn’t have prepared myself for the volume of creepy crawlies in this place. The poor resident is a wonderfully kind guy who’s been living with these for too long and is finally getting his room treated so he can pass inspection and avoid eviction. We had to bag up or throw away all of his possessions; there were bed bugs crawling in DVD cases, on the walls, nested in shoes, and completely overrunning the furniture- all of which we condemned to the dump. Knowing how easily these spread, we took what precautions we could, but it was still a mental challenge for me to deal with having so many bugs around me. I’m still pretty overwhelmed and almost jittery thinking about it. The clothes I was wearing are now sealed in a plastic bag under my desk- on their way to a very hot cycle in the washer and dryer. And hopefully our friend will be able to sleep without bed bugs soon!
I’m a bit relieved that tomorrow is our monthly staff meeting. The staff spends so much time out of the office doing chores like this that it’s nice to sit down at a potluck of yummy food and connect and share work news. I’m also going to advocate that JOIN invests in some HAZ-MAT suits :).