Some social worker stories can never be discovered by our donors.
I was checking the church mail room for social security card replacements (during Covid? good luck!) when one of the new case managers called.
New girl: "Uuuum we have a situation with Kristy."
Me: "I visited her tent last week. What happened?"
New Girl: "I'm standing here with the police, a rep from the mayor's office, and a bulldozer. They told her that if she doesn't clear out her stuff they're going to pull it all down."
Me: "I'm across town. Call Quinceara, he lives down the street and can intervene."
Quinceara is one of the best social workers in the city, a soft-spoken artist who I mentally tagged with that nickname due to the fact that on our first outreach gig together, his car trunk was full of drag costumes and he had to hurriedly shove everything aside to make room for soap and NarCan kits.
I had approached Q the week before about Kristy, a wizened, harmlessly crazy hippie who'd found me on Facebook and proceeded to tell me, in detail, how the local city councilwoman had gotten drunk and in her face one night, threatening to call the cops for trespassing. Kristy's camp was neat as a pin, on an abandoned lot between a park, a closed school, and a funeral home, and if she weren't vibrating with PTSD from years of seeing women killed on the street she'd probably be managing a scented candle shop in Myrtle Beach.
Me: "You are very visible here. If you moved a hundred yards into the trees, no one would see you."
Kristy: "I can't leave. God WANTS me in this spot."
I called Quinceara. Among his other noble qualities, Q has olive skin and a dark full beard, which means he gets mistaken for Jesus a LOT by the schizophrenic set, and will often frame his argument with, "My child, the Lord wants you to go into shelter." I don't think she was that batty, but some people are more receptive to men with accents and it couldn't hurt to try.
Back at my job, the women running the main office asked, "Are you Facebook friends with a homeless woman named Kristy?"
Me: "She's a client. Not in a good location either, apparently the city councilwoman got involved."
Office lady: "You mean councilwoman X?"
She turned the laptop around. Kristy had posted a long rambling video on our professional page, describing the councilwoman in her bathrobe and slippers with a bottle of Schlitz, barking at her at 1 a.m., and it would have sounded nuts if the politician in question wasn't already famous with her DUI record.
I called my husband, who had run against this woman for city council a few years back. "Check this out."
He laughed, and then covered his face. "I have to be very, very selective who I tell this too. Ooo hooo."
The office women and I watched the video over and over, trying to recognize any facial tics or other signs of meth addiction to see if we could refer her to rehab, but mostly to hear her monologue. We laughed wickedly and deleted the post.
Later, I saw a congratulatory post of Kristy with the caption "Going home!". I texted Q and he said he'd gotten her into a hotel.
Me: "What hotel? I thought the hotel program ran out of money."
Q: "It's a secret hotel."
Q: "It hasn't been officially announced. They have this hotel for homeless who need case management and qualify for housing."
Me: "Which agency is in charge of this?"
Q: "I don't know. The boss pulled strings."
Me: "Can I get my other guys into this hotel too?"
Q: "Only if they are about to be arrested."
It all came together. One of the nastier social workers downtown had bragged that she never had a problem getting homeless off the street because she only gave them three options: Go into shelter, walk away from the nice part of town, or go to jail, as if three days of incarceration held any kind of disincentive for this crew.
Kristy's "Going Home" photo was liked and retweeted for days, blonde, tan, exuberant, a stylish backpack over her shoulder as she climbed into a church van for the hotel. No one asked how she got there.