Sunday, November 1, 2009

Just One Buddy

I work closely with Keisha, a client who's been involved in our supportive housing program for over 5 years. I've worked with her since my first month at the agency, around 2 years ago. A lot of the work I do with him is advocacy and referrals. Though we have good rapport I wish I had more of an influence on her in taking part in activities like exercise classes or other community activities (some offered through my agency). She's not involved with other agencies and knows the staff and other clients who come here so trying to bring her to attend our events has been a little (though not consistently) successful in the past.

I can't convince a client to do something she doesn't feel comfortable or interested in doing, of course, and discussions about eating well and stopping smoking (which Keisha and I have had) usually don't make a person make a change. I don't have to go much farther to finding friends and family who choose to continue smoking, for example, and it doesn't matter what others say. On the other hand, Keisha also complains about loneliness and her difficulty in making friends. Years ago she was diagnosed with mental illness. I believe she has a developmental disability as well though paperwork doesn't reflect this.
I look at her situation and I think about how it relates to my department's work in trying to create a sense of community at the buildings we provide case management for. We (staff) try to foster this in different ways -- through meet and greets at my agency, occasional social gatherings, workshops. Our goal is for folks to get to know us and each other -- to feel more comfortable with each other. In some cases it means to meet their neighbors for the first time.

And for folks like my client there could be a positive side effect. Making a friend with someone in her building. Someone who would knock on her door to get her out and active. One friend and a sense of companionship would be great for her. Some people find more motivation in exercising, quitting smoking, or just leaving their apartment if they're meeting a friend. But even just for friendship, just support. One person would make a big difference.

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