Sometimes, rules have to be broken. That probably sounds like a heretical statement when so much of this website and blog content concentrate on helping you “stay within the navigational beacons”. However, there will be times when you need to circumvent the rules if a client in need is going to be served in the best and most loving way.
We received a call from a client we’ve helped many times. We’ll call her “Sandra” (name changed). The needs were always legitimate because she’s a young single mother of two sweet little girls, and she has cancer. She has no family at all here. They are all in another state and are very poor themselves. It appeared however that we had become too convenient for Sandra, so the brakes had to be applied.
The last time Sandra was in need we paid her rent for two weeks, made sure her family had enough to eat and paid her cell phone bill. We told her to use those two weeks and the paid cell phone to concentrate on building up a list of resources other than Project Dignity to fall back on and that the next time a need arose she needed to call someone else. We wouldn’t be able to help her. We’re very small. If we pour out all our resources on a few families, a lot of others don’t get the help we should be providing.
Sandra placed an urgent call to us this morning. She was going to be locked out of her room at 11 because she was two days short on the rent. We hear this over and over again and yet somehow our clients manage to hold on even when we can’t help them. I decided to see what Sandra could come up with. I knew that she at least had a car they could sleep in if it came to that.
I’d had a tiring day and decided to make Sandra my last call before I got some rest. I called Sandra on her cell phone and she answered—from the front of the motel where she stood locked out with her two little girls. The manager had actually done it. She had tried all day to get help. Had walked for miles to places that might be able to help and had struck out. And, she no longer had a car because the timing belt had broken. I wished her well and terminated the conversation. Then, I sat there, and sat.
It’s not right to keep helping to the point where you enable someone. Taking away their drive to help themselves robs them of their dignity and any possibility that they will climb out of homelessness one day. But, there’s also a time to realize when a person really has hit rock bottom and is not going to bounce this time. This was that time for Sandra.
It was going to be dusk in a few hours. All her belongings were locked in the room. She and her children were going to have nowhere to go. (We don’t have nearly enough shelter space in this county. One bed for every ten who need it doesn’t cut it.) They were standing on a busy street that I knew to be dangerous, loaded with pedophiles, drug addicts and parolees. I had absolutely no peace about leaving her on her own. I simply could not do it this time. I scraped together enough to pay for the two nights she needed (she was getting her paycheck in two days. She does work.
We then talked about her future. She wants to go home. Her mother desperately wants her home, but can’t afford to get her there. Solution? We’re going to send her and her two daughters home. We’ll never have to help Sandra again, but only because of the best possible reason—she will be in the midst of her family that is short on money, but huge on love and support. I don’t know what would have happened to Sandra if we hadn’t helped with the rent. Maybe nothing, maybe something horrible. But I just couldn’t take the chance. This time, the rules had to be broken