When is it Really an Emergency?
Some days you get no phone calls. Some days they pile up quicker than you can handle them. That’s when you have to “triage”—decide which call gets handled now and which ones can wait for a bit. Face it, they are all emergencies. No one ever calls just to say hello. Someone’s on the verge of eviction because they can’t pay the rent, someone’s car just broke down, someone needs food, someone needs to get to the doctor. The key word is need. Everyone needs something and they pretty much need it right now.
Depending on the size of your staff and/or volunteer base a day with a lot of phone calls can either go smoothly or cause you to spin in circles if you’re not careful. If it’s just you handling the emergencies you need to take a deep breath, make your best decision and get on to the next one.
Last week there was a day with multiple phone calls and emails, all with serious requests, involving rent, food, transportation and a sick child. Guess which one got handled first? Right, the one involving the sick child. We received an urgent call from one of the motel residents asking for help for another family whose baby was very sick. (Motels are mini microcosms, communities unto themselves. The residents take care of each other).
One resident helped get the baby and mother to the emergency room. Another helped get them home at 2 am when the buses were no longer running. Unfortunately, they ran up against a problem they couldn’t solve. They all had heart. What they didn’t have was money. The emergency room saw the baby and diagnosed her with a bad case of the flu. Then she was released to go home, with a 103 degree temperature and a prescription. When the mother went to the 24 hour pharmacy to fill the prescription, she found out there was a foul-up with her Medi-Cal coverage. The prescription cost $150 and she didn’t have the money. Neither did anyone else. She had to take the baby home without the prescription.
The baby’s temperature was climbing when we got the phone call. We got the money to the mom and she immediately picked up the prescription. We saw the baby 3 days later and, as children will do, she looked like she’d never been sick! Incidentally, all the other “emergencies’ were handled too. Just another day.