Roger's Name was Read

When a resident leaves The INN Between, our care for them does not stop. There is often still work to be done, following through on applications for services, scheduling doctor appointments, understanding paperwork, groceries, and sometimes just someone to vent to. Sometimes, people leave unexpectedly and then an attempt is made at trying to find them. I make the usual calls: detox, jail, hospitals, friends, the morgue. I keep my eyes peeled whenever I am out driving. Several times I have found clients sleeping at the library. A few times just walking down the street.

A couple of years ago I was looking for a man that had been living with us when he up and disappeared. He had been staying with us to recuperate from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car. This was the second time this had happened to him. He was a sweet man who struggled with alcohol.  He was difficult to understand, in part due to his strong southern drawl but also due to injuries sustained to his jaw and mouth due to a suicide attempt. After two weeks of constant searching, I was leaving work for vacation when I drove past Smith’s and saw a familiar face laying in the grass out front. My kids were waiting at home to jump in the car and get on the road, and I won't lie, a part of me thought about calling someone to go check on him, but I knew it would eat away at me so I turned around and went back for him. He was passed out and rousing him was difficult. Once awake, I finally talked him into getting in the car where he shared that he had been ashamed to tell me that he had relapsed so he just decided to stay away. I got him back to the house, got someone to shower him and got on the road.

Once more, this occurred with Roger before he drifted out of my life. I'd think of Roger every time I drove past that Smith’s and wonder how he was doing. He would occasionally call and check in with me. 

This year Roger’s name was read at the candlelight vigil honoring the homeless persons that have passed away. It was the first I had heard of Roger’s passing and honestly it shocked me a little, even though I had somewhat expected it. 

Not long after his name was read, I heard another familiar name. A woman that I had visited several times in the hospital, she had declined to come live with us, at times angrily. She was young and wanted to live her life as she saw fit. She was not compliant in her care and bounced in and out of the hospital. Attempting to treat her cancer was difficult. She struggled with drugs. I last spoke with her several months ago, she was going to come up and meet with me. I never heard back from her. 

I have thought a lot about both of these friends this past week. When people die with us at The INN Between I get to say goodbye, tell them what their friendship has meant to me. I wonder if people like Roger know what an impact, they make on those they encounter.

I wonder how many others in that crowd have a story about Roger, or one of the other 94 people that died homeless this past year. Mostly though, I think about who's name I will hear next year that will make me gasp. I think about how I can prevent that. We can't stop people from dying but we can make a difference in how they experience that. We can give them a safe place, dignity and a promise that we will always honor their memory. 

I have a habit of keeping phone messages and texts. It's nice to go back sometimes and hear a voice that you have forgotten. I have one from Roger, "I won't forget what you did for me," he says in it. Likewise Roger.

 

*Photo Credit: Each year, The INN Between staff participates in the Homeless Persons Candle Light Vigil and they collect the candles with the names of our residents who passed away over the last year. Sometimes, it is during this event that we learn of the passing of some of our friends.

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