Forget The Blah Blah: It Was Eight Degrees

Ordinarily, I am in bed by 10, as I have to get up at 5:30 because my grandson has to leave for the bus at 6:20.  But last night, watching a recording of the “Soul Train Awards” which were honoring Dionne Warwick, whose music from fifty years ago I still love listening to, I decided to stay up to finish the show.  I could have skipped ahead to the Dionne part, but knew that if I did, I’d never go back to watch the rest of the show.  Nor would I ever delete it from the DVR, until I had watched it all.  So I stayed up.

It was just about 11 when the show was over and then my cell phone rang.  I most certainly had to get to bed now, but I recognized the area code as being from Long Island, well within the catchment area of my agency, and I am, after all, the executive director.  So I answered.

And it turned out to be one of the now-grown kids whom we had placed for adoption maybe ten or twelve years ago.  He had gotten my phone number from the agency website apparently.  I recognized his name immediately as I was his transition worker way back when.

He apologized for calling so late. He told me that he was sitting on a park bench with his “fiancée” and they had no place to go.  He said that he had tried everything he could think of to get help and that I was the last idea he had. His family had moved to a town very far away and though he’d gone with them, he’d come back to Long Island on his own.  Now he was homeless and he was cold.  “Cold?” It was 8 degrees in my yard. This is the weather that one dies from.

I asked him about relatives of his or the girlfriend; I asked about shelters; about going to the police; about going into the hospital – all just to get out of the cold.  He told me that he had tried all of that and the responses he told me that they had given him seemed bureaucratically plausible.  He wasn’t asking for money. He wasn’t asking for anything but help. There is no doubt that this kid has issues; he always did.  I could easily see his adoptive family throwing their hands up when he crossed into adulthood and still did nothing productive for himself.  I’ve been there. Sometimes you think that the shock of not being supported anymore will force these now-adults to wake up, to grow up, to DO something.  Sometimes, in other worlds than his,  it might; but sometimes, in too many worlds for too many kids,  it doesn’t.  What did it matter?  It was now 7 degrees.

I went on the Internet looking for walk-in shelters.   I could find nothing.  But one of the sites said that if you needed a place in an emergency to go to the emergency room and the hospital would let you stay overnight.  I got back on the phone and told this young man that in the end, that’s what he would have to do, and he could tell them to call me if they disagreed. It was simply too cold to stay outside tonight.

It was killing me that I had no viable solution. But I had none other than the hospital.  Staying on the phone was just using up his battery. So, I told him again to go there; I got off the phone; and I went to get ready for bed, and then I thought, “What about him going to a motel, and I’d pay for it by credit card from here (110 miles away).  I called him back and he told me that he had tried that with an aunt but that the motel only took cash.  What?  I said I’d call. Sure enough: cash only. Must be quite the dive.

Anyway, to make a still longer story shorter, we found a motel in the next town. I paid for two nights using Chocolate Milk Club funds []. I called him back, and told him to go there – they were going to walk – and spend today dealing with DSS.  I hung up and finally went to bed.  It was near midnight.

But more importantly:

It was now 6 degrees.

We need to do better than this.


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