“Old man Jenkins is drunk and swinging on people.”
It was 9:00 pm in the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois. The only employees were me and Chris, who was brand new. It was a quiet night with a relatively low number of residents in the shelter (“only” 150 or so). A resident (a middle-aged Hispanic man with a handlebar mustache) approached Chris and […]
He didn’t want to stab me… At least not at first.
It was 23 years ago, but I remember every detail in vivid color. A beautiful spring day… A mild breeze carried the scent of freshly mowed lawns. The sun was warm. Occasionally it hid behind clouds like a first-time parent playing peekaboo with a newborn. I was doing my rounds at Hesed House, a large […]
How to NOT change the world…
I am liberal. If you do not consider yourself liberal, you can stop reading now. This isn’t for you. Ok, now that it is just us liberals, I need to rant about a trend that seems to be intensifying within progressive circles. We have adopted a dangerous fixation on language. Now, don’t get me wrong, […]
“Get a job, bum!” someone screamed from a passing car.
Jake carried six bags of crushed aluminum cans down a busy street. He wasn’t walking very fast. The bags were heavy and tearing in several places. “Get a job, bum!” someone screamed from a passing car. Jake kept his head down and continued walking. He didn’t want a confrontation. Eventually, Jake reached the recycling center. […]
When is a question not a question?
I was coming back from the hospital cafeteria when the nurse stopped me in the hall. “And how are YOU doing?” she asked me. I just stared at her. I had been suppressing my emotions for several weeks. I genuinely didn’t know. We were in a large hospital in New York City. I had been […]
My employee escalates conflict
Dear Ryan, How do I help my staff who “don’t get it” and escalate problems with our homeless patrons? Sharon Sharon, That is a great question and one I get a lot. First, let me tell you what not to do. Do not “summarize.” Avoid summarizing what your staff member is doing: “Please be more […]
The problem with “Conflict De-escalation”
It was one of the hardest de-escalation situations I’ve ever been in. The man was 55ish with a long ZZ Top beard. He had the lean body of someone who had spent the last 25 years in prison lifting weights. Because he had. He had only been on the “outside” for a week and he […]
My staff is freaking out after an incident.
Dear Ryan, I am a manager at a food pantry. One of our clients (who has an intellectual disability) had an outburst. She physically rushed at one of our staff. Fortunately, she stopped short of physically assaulting the staff member. Barely. The staff member involved is very shaken. The rest of the staff is freaking […]
Someone is stealing donations.
Dear Ryan, I work at a transitional housing program for individuals leaving incarceration. We have a closet where we keep donated items (toiletries, clothing, etc.). Lately, a lot of the donated items have gone missing. None of the residents will admit to taking them. What do we do? Kate Kate, So, here’s the thing about […]
Airplanes and frightened customers/volunteers.
I’m writing this email on an airplane from Chicago to Nashville. A few minutes ago, we hit some “rough air.” I fly a lot, so turbulence doesn’t bother me. This wasn’t mere turbulence. It felt like the plane was dropping out of the sky. Here is what happened inside me: My Amygdala, the part of […]