Compare/Contrast with my experiences in Baltimore.
I show up at the emergency services center. There are 2 women standing out front, one is wearing a white collar. (a nun?)
I ask the ladies: "Pardon me ladies, but if one were here for the first time to apply for emergency services where would they begin? What would be the first step?"
The "nun" pointed to the sky. I asked: "Are you pointing to the second floor?!"
Elana-"Oh, you're pointing upstairs!"
Elana-"Well, you're pointing "upstairs to god!"
I smile and ask her if I should address her as "sister"
she said "No, I'm Pastor McKully!"
E-"Why thank you Pastor!"
She went on to say that i should head inside and speak to Dan. He's the head of emergency services. First I end up proceeding thru the thrift store to get to Dan. I ask the thrift store clerk if he is avail?
Clerk-"Typically, you want to call first"
E-"I don't have a phone, that's why I walked in"
Clerk-"Well, you certainly can't call if you don't have a phone, now can you?"
Let me go tell Dan you're here and find out whether he has time to see you today.
Elana-"I'll just be waiting here in the rocker"
Dan comes out and shakes my hand and invites me back. He radiates warmth. He's soft spoken which is very a-typical in Baltimore area. Almost hard to hear. He looks like my late father Arnold. I tell him this, and he says "Why thank you, I'll take that as a compliment."
Dan-"Now how can I be of assistance to you today, Elana?"
Elana-"Well, I'm just about out of food. I have a quarter tank of gas, and I'm trying to job hunt. Can I get some food out of the food pantry?
I've got all my proofs of income and documentation in my backpack.
Dan-"I WON'T BE NEEDING ANY PROOF! WE JUST USE THE HONOR SYSTEM HERE!"
Ms. Elana, about how much do you earn per month?
E-695, I earn 695.
Dan-"Have you put in for food stamps?"
E-Yes sir, I completed that process last week, and they said that the monies should be on my food stamp card by Friday.
Dan-"Very good" "If you can come back tomorrow, I'll have 4 bags of food packed up for you"
E-"That'd be great. I have some food allergies, so usually I just pull out the stuff I don't eat, and leave it at the food pantry so it can be used by someone else"
Dan-"Well, then why don't I just get you some grocery store cards so you can make your own selection."
Usually, it's not an either/or situation. Normally you can get the food from the food pantry and they give you a gift card. So, I'm a little bit dissapointed.
E-"Can't I do both?"
Dan-"Yeah, tomorrow show up with a list of things you don't eat and we'll get some bags together for you"
E-"Terrific. I see here that you help with gas. I'm job hunting and if I run out of gas I'll become a prisoner in my home. There are no sidewalks so you can't walk anywhere"
Dan-"It saddens me to tell you that, by our standards that's not deep enough of a crisis. With funding cutbacks when can only give gas in a true emergency.
E-(My life is an emergency, I think to myself. I'll be a prisoner in my home with no gas!)
Dan-"Come back tomorrow and we'll revisit the gas thing."
Dan-"Do you have a church?"
E-I just learned of the Unitarian church in Carroll County, I'd like to go there"
His knowledge really surprises me. He knows all about the church and gives me directions. He tells me of a free lunch on Fridays. We start talking about the arts.
Dan-"I'd like to recommend common ground on the hill to you!"
Elana-"Boy, you really impress me. yes, I'm deeply involved with it, I volunteered there all weekend" "Do you play an instrument?"
Dan-"I play 12 string guitar!"
Elana-"I regularly check in on craigs list to find other musicians to work with"
Dan has me come back the next day. He gives me cards for the grocery store. Generous dollar amount. He apologizes that the agency can't help with gas. He explains that "an example of a gas emergency is that you have a sick relative in the hospital and you have to drive back and forth every day to visit them"
This frightens me, but I know not to press the issue. I'm very impressed with this agency, and I may look into volunteer positions with them while waiting for paid work.