Every morning you come to your office and hear the tragic tales of humanity.
A woman beaten by her husband. A child with drug-dealing parents. A man with a terminal illness, only able to get treatment from the free clinic with a seven hour wait.
You work on the front lines of homelessness and poverty. You are the caregiver.
If Charles Dickens was still alive, he could have written another dozen novels about the human suffering you encounter each day. The people you help could inspire modern versions of A Tale of Two Cities or Oliver Twist, set on the streets of Hollywood.
Your compassion and passion drive you to help people transform nightmares into dreams. Sometimes it works. Many times it doesn’t.
But, whatever the outcome, you carry on because the battered victims of poverty never stop knocking on your door, desperate for help and in need of hope.
You are the caregiver. For many, you are the last hope.
So why do you so often become the scapegoat?
People blame you for the presence of homelessness in their neighborhoods.
“If we kick out those service providers, we won’t have homeless people coming into our community,” they say.
You are the caregiver. You care when others don’t.
So why do funders tire of your compassion? Foundations demand “new ideas” and “new solutions,” as if holding a battered woman’s hand and helping her find a safe place to go is an outdated approach.
Some people even think the fact that homelessness still exists at all must somehow be your fault. After all, you’ve worked tirelessly for decades without solving the problem. You must be doing something wrong.
So funders put their money toward “better” solutions. They give their limited resources to those who build homes that take two years to finish, ignoring the fact that you need a home for that runaway kid tonight.
Or they give their money to the business community and let them decide how to spend it, figuring business owners are politically well-connected and have the right skillset to get results.
But, whatever they do, they don’t give resources to compassionate caregivers.
You are the caregiver. And your hand holding, 12-hour work days, and open door policies supposedly don’t work.
Even those you help don’t always acknowledge your dedication. They may verbally abuse you, as if you are the cause of their suffering. They may sue your organization, convinced it is at fault for their misfortunes.
But you are OK with that, because you know they are worse off than you. They need compassion and empathy. Their stomachs are empty and their minds are confused. They have no place to go, except to you.
You are the caregiver. But who will care for you?
Photo by Enrique Bosquet.