i spoke with the client that was assaulted in october on wednesday. he stated to me that he did not follow up on the assault at that time because a very high ranking employee of the mission told him that in order for any action to be taken he would need to have the employee arrested and then file a lawsuit in a civil court. this client told me that he was then told that if he did that he would no longer be able to obtain services from the sunday breakfast mission...ever. the client is a long time overniter and depends on the mission for shelter, food and services. at that point he saw no alternative but to let the incident drop.
the client that was assaulted recently has retained an attorney and is considering filing legal charges of assault along with civil charges. this has prompted the client who was assaulted in october to rethink his position and he is now considering obtaining an attorney of his own. what i found out also wednesday was almost incredulous to me. this "employee" at the time of the most recent assault was acting in a volunteer status. an unsupervised volunteer with a history of assaulting a client and a case of coercing a female resident in the family life sector of the mission. this took me off guard to say the least. how the mission could ever let themselves be put into this position is beyond me.
i hope this matter is settled quickly and definitively and that no further incidents occur in the meantime. again, this is larger than the assault on the client. this is a very clear issue of the rights of the homeless to be protected, particularly in a place that is suppose to be a respite from the violence and hardships of being homeless on a daily basis. what is even more atrocious to me is that this "employee" stood in the lobby of the mission every day and stated this almost verbatim---"the sunday breakfast mission will not tolerate violence of any sort. if you do violate this policy you will be immediately asked to leave the sunday breakfast mission for a period of one year. there are no exceptions. violence includes any unwanted advances or verbal cursing."
violence of any sort....zero tolerance. there are no exceptions. i hope the members of the staff at the sunday breakfast mission remember this when taking this issue into consideration.
i originally posted this entry on 10/14/2014. i haven't commented on it much since then because from what i understood the situation with this employee was being addressed in some manner internally at the sunday breakfast mission. but for the last few weeks i have been hearing stories about verbal abuse, targeting of individuals, barring of individuals on nites when the temperatures were sub zero with the wind chill and other needless occurrences. this morning i heard the ultimate horror story from a mission that you should never...ever...hear. this employee struck a client with his fist knocking him to the ground. this is outrageous, should not be accepted for one minute and is a black mark on the sunday breakfast mission. i have spoken to witnesses who were no more than ten feet from this when it happened, saw it from its inception, heard the entire conversation and all had the same concurring story. all said that it could easily have been avoided and that the assault on the client was needless, uncalled for and was nothing more than bullying and had a possible case of assault with full legal ramifications. not only could it have been avoided this client is a long time "overniter" and suffers from mental illness. he is also extremely hard of hearing. yes, he can be difficult. no, he is not dangerous and absolutely did not deserve to be assaulted. i am reposting the original entry to give you some history on this situation. i think in this case the sunday breakfast mission should respond accordingly and immediately dismiss this employee at best and at worst suspend him pending review of the videotape and hearing witnesses' account of what happened.
<update> the employee stated to the police dept. and apparently to his superiors at the sunday breakfast mission that the client attacked him and that is what spurred his assault. this is absolutely not true. i heard several eye witness accounts of this and none remotely indicated that scenario. two people i trust absolutely to tell the truth both saw the incident from no more than ten feet away and both said without a doubt the client did not attack the employee.
here is the original entry from 10/14/14
the previous entry was about what the sunday breakfast mission does right and the many services they offer to the homeless and the community. i admire the work of the mission and the things they do and the manner in which they do them. so offering criticism is difficult for me to do. but organizations, like individuals are not perfect and they have flaws. if left alone, then those flaws sometimes grow and burgeon into a larger problem that never should have been. a mission or shelter is very often a 24 hour self propelled entity that deals with people and problems at all times during the day. because of this, sometimes some glaring issues can be inadvertently overlooked when they could have been improved with some minor tweaking. sometimes, because of the situation of the people that a mission deals with daily, situations and problems can arise, fester and become an issue before employees realize it. sometimes, egos, misinterpretations by employees of boundaries, or lack of, can cause more harm than good and can put a mission in the situation of allowing an employee to violate the very principles of what the mission stands for.
i need to clarify something also. criticizing the mission does not diminish my opinion of them or the services they offer. it in no way means i am ungrateful for the services, relief and help they have given me. just the opposite as a matter of fact. offering criticism of something or someone you admire, as long as it is not a personal attack or hides a hidden vengeful agenda, can be another form of admiration. this is not based solely on my opinion. this is a compilation of opinions from overniters, dinner guests, residents and myself. i have listened to conversations and heard comments and discussions enough to find some common complaints based in truth and i've tried to take the ones that were stated as a matter of fact and not out of anger or frustration. in other words, i've been careful to sort the whining from the criticism and the ungratefulness from the legitimate complaints.
i know the mission has parameters and guidelines that they set forth for the residents and overniters to follow. i fully realize that these guidelines must be followed for the sake of order and also for the safety of everyone involved. i fully realize the difficulty in making sure these guidelines are followed. i am well aware of the type of people, personalities, moods and issues that have to be dealt with when ensuring those guidelines are followed. there is also the issue of the effects of alcohol, drugs and mild to severe mental disorders thrown in that mix when you are dealing with overniters. but i'm also aware of something else. whenever an employee becomes larger than the problems, then you move into an entirely different scenario. when an employee becomes an instigator, whether intentionally or accidentally then you have complicated an already tedious set of circumstances. when an employee intentionally makes it more difficult to exist as an overniter at the mission then they have crossed the boundary from an employee to a problem within itself. unfortunately, this is what is happening at the mission at the present time. i realize that the overall thought process is to not allow overniters to become "too comfortable" at the mission. alot of missions and shelters employ this philosophy. while i strongly disagree with that philosophy, that is an issue that i will not take argument with because it is solely a judgement call on the leadership of the mission as to what that term means, what it entails and to what lengths they will go to implement that philosophy. but when an employee goes too far in practicing that line of thought and it crosses over into the realm of creating havoc and causing an almost miserable atmosphere while generating resentment and anger, then it becomes something else entirely. when an
employee intentionally instigates and escalates a problem, then he becomes part of the problem. when an employee very intentionally and with a sense of only what i can call disruption changes a process or set of procedures solely for the purpose of changing them or to quote, "because i do things differently, because i can", then it becomes something that borders on what i can only call harrassment and a sense of ego and misguided judgement. it does more harm than good and only creates an atmosphere of anger and frustration for the overniters, many of whom are already burdened with issues from the day. the mission should be a place of respite and safe haven and not a place to face this sort of unnecessary harassment...and i use that term mildly for lack of a better adjective.
angry words spoken by an employee only creates anger. overniters pay attention and heed the rules when the other employees are on duty just as well if not better than when this employee is on duty. whenever the majority of problems, expulsions and issues of anger occur on one employees shift then it could be that the techniques of that employee may need to be examined closer. whenever the majority of complaints from residents or overniters are directed at one employee, then perhaps its time to put some credence in those complaints and not write them off as ungrateful or needless negative statements. there are many logical, sensible, non alcoholic, non drug users and very amiable people that utilize the mission and they have the same complaints and issues with this situation and individual as the typical "problem clients" do. i think the bottom line on this is what the mission states as its own unwritten policy....treat people with respect and as you would want to be treated. at the present this is not happening in this case. i think another very important issue and perhaps the main one to consider when taking this into consideration is simply this...attempting to break the spirit of homeless...whether it be intentional or inadvertently is the wrong approach. their spirit is broken when they walk in the door.
i am not going to nor will i name a specific employee. it would serve no purpose in this entry. i think anyone familiar with the sunday breakfast mission, its residents and i think most of its employees, would recognize this employee. to be honest i have been kind in describing this issue and the problems surrounding it. it is an issue and it is a negative on an otherwise very good record and statement of accomplishment by the mission. but a negative it is. it's not only a negative, but it is a negative that effects lives and the emotional state of the overniters. it effects the atmosphere and general opinion of the mission by the very people the mission is in existence to serve. it can and too frequently escalates bad situations into something much worse. i believe it could be solved by simply speaking with and explaining to that employee that there are boundaries and perhaps some training is in order. that is not for me to decide or make suggestions on however.
in the end...what the mission gets wrong...is what alot of missions get wrong. they allow an employee to cross certain boundaries for the sake of getting a job done and maintaining order. they have inadvertently done this at the expense of the overniters and the overall atmosphere of the mission. they have allowed this employee to become an entity unto himself and perform what i think he views as his own law and order and set of rules and justice. this is a situation that cannot end well and i fear that it will eventually lead to a serious conflict that could have been avoided. as for what the mission gets wrong, i believe most of it is centered around this individual and the havoc that is created by the circumstances. i also believe it could be and should be solved quite simply and easily and in a short period of time. of course before this could be done, the mission would have to recognize and agree that there is a problem and most of all...admit that there is a problem and that it is in the best interest of the clients to solve this problem . but isn't that what the mission is in existence for...to assist the homeless and those struggling with addictions and poverty....and do what's in their best interest?
....since I wrote this entry I have had several clients from the mission say that this individual
struck a client in chapel service a few nites ago. apparently it was justified by the client dozing off in his chair. the reasoning used....he wanted to make sure the client was ok? apparently the client was struck with the back or the ball of the hand. if this is true it is totally unacceptable. at no time should an employee strike a client for any reason other than extreme self defense. as I stated, this situation will continue to escalate if it is not dealt with. I doubt the intent was to harm but striking a client is unacceptable in any circumstance.
see you around town