Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Shelter Story: Barriers, What Barriers? I'm a Miracle Worker!

My initial role at the Special Needs Shelter (SpNS) was "Triage".  I did this both at Fasano and Wiregrass.  I was responsible for determining who met the definition of a SpNS resident.  Those that met the criteria stayed.  Those that didn't, didn't.  They were directed to a "General Population Shelter.  That is, you send em' - I sort em'.  First of all, I hate the name.  Because who am I to tell people they aren't "special"?  It's just awful.  Of course they are special.  Of course they are needy!  Aren't we all during an evacuation?  Anyway, SpNS criteria says they must live at home, use oxygen or be dependent on medical devices that are electronically supplied.  The gray area are always those that need "assistance".  You know, the sweet little Nana that manages in her 500 square foot apartment or mobile.  She struggles in the vastness of a General Shelter.  We absolutely need to assist the Nana.  And then there are ........ let's just say some know that the SpNS has much better accommodations than General Shelters.  That's the long and short of it.

So when you are Triaging, it's you against the world!  You have the cots and they want them!  And many have "pre-registered".  So they want to check-in, drop off their dog, go to lunch and shop because the sun shined for three days and when the rains started zip back to their reservation.  Um, no.  We can't put an Andes mint on your cot pillow and hold your spot.  Either you are evacuating or you come back when you are.  There was me and at least 50 at any given time (during admission period).  Some come with the clothes they are wearing.  Some come with all 500 square feet of their mobile, plus their friends apartment.  They came to help.  All these people are desparately trying to get my attention.  I'm the gatekeeper.   This is what I see.....The Angry Mob.  Imagine telling some of them that they aren't special enough for the SpNS.  

Meanwhile, the Nana is waiting patiently in her wheelchair.  The angry mob is louder, quicker, and more mobile than she.  It was up to me to demand that Nana not wait any longer.  On the first day there was this particular Nana.  She was sweet, quiet, and a bit hard of hearing.  Our conversation went like this:

Me:  "Betty Jones (fake name), what brought you here today?"
Betty:  "Say again?"
Me:  same question, louder
Betty:  In a quiet little bird whisper, "There is a storm coming."
Me:  "Indeed there is.  Betty, what have you brought with you?"
Betty:  "Here is my kitty, Sam.  They didn't give me much time.  I have my pillow and some clothes, a toothbrush."

Betty's eyes are worried.  She fidgets a little in her wheelchair.  I discover her children live out-of-state.  She walks but not so well.  She tires easily and sometimes doesn't "make it to bathroom in time".

Me:  "Do you take any medication?"
Betty:  "Yes, here is my list."  Pulls list from purse.
Me:  There are about 8 or  9 daily meds.  "And you brought your meds with you, yes?  Have enough for a few days?"
Betty:  Clearly upset..... "Oh no!  They came to quickly.  I didn't have time.  I don't have my heart medicine."
Me:  "Betty, you don't have your prescriptions?"
Betty:  "No, there was no time to pack."  She is wringing her hands, clearly distraught.
Me:  I'm racking my brain, thinking.  All 50-75 other people are impatient, shifting, annoyed at the cot assignment delay.  I can't leave.  I need to move on.  Her kids are in another state.  Our staff are filling out papers, setting up cots, cooking meals, hauling luggage, etc....

To Be Continued - Billy wants the light out ;-) 


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