(Continued from Part 1, Jan. 27, A4)
I asked Tasha if I could give her a ride to the Starbucks inside of Safeway. It was 7:15 a.m. The Ashland Resource Center, physically located next to Safeway, opened at 9 a.m., and I didn’t want to leave her alone as she might wander off. I told her I liked chai, to which she replied that she, too, liked chai more than coffee. Followed by our guardian angel (GA), we caravaned down the street.
Our friends at Starbucks were very kind to help us get an extra chair so the three of us could sit. GA watched over Tasha, as I made my first call to Connie Saldana, Senior and Disability Services Planner. She asked me many questions that I couldn’t answer, so I passed the phone to Tasha.
It was probably my master’s in awareness training that brought me to notice a pattern right away that Tasha would let her head droop when she sat down, like she had trouble staying awake and wanted to sleep in her chair. I brought this to her attention. She said that on the three nights on the streets before going to the shelter she hadn’t slept at all. Every once in a while, her head would raise and her eyes light up. These were brief moments of alertness (lasting no more than 60 seconds) when I could ask her questions and get clear responses.
It was probably my linguistics degree that prompted me to put my little pad of paper and pen in front of her. In one of those “alert moments,” I invited her to write down her name (which wasn’t Tasha at all). Fifteen minutes went by until the next awake moment, when she wrote her birthdate (in 1975) and where she was born (Torrence, California). I passed this information on to Connie, who started to research to see if she was in the system in Oregon. She began piecing together the puzzle of who Tasha really was.
The GA and I took turns hanging with Tasha until the Resource Center opened at 9 a.m. We walked with her across the parking lot to the Resource Center. Leigh was great in asking her some direct questions. He recommended we return the next day to speak with someone who could start the paperwork to get her birth certification and ID.
Outside, another shelter guest suggested four locations in town to go to stay warm during the day. I was feeling the impulse to check in on my consulting and coaching clients. GA said he had something he had to do, too, but agreed to check in on her throughout the day if needed.
On our way to one of the warm places, I received a call from Connie with wonderful news. Tasha was in the system. She had a real name and a home. She was actually a runaway from her new, assisted foster-care home in Medford. They had filed a missing person report, so they were very happy to get her back.
Connie even provided me with Tasha’s case worker’s name, phone number and address in Medford.
Fortunately, I had the time to deliver her there myself. On the drive, she even asked me what I loved to do (listen to music). She reached out her warm hand and placed it on my arm. “Thank you,” she said in a soft, loving voice.
As a result of Connie’s research and concerned individuals in our community (especially the efforts of our Winter Shelter team and shelter guests setting aside their personal needs), this very vulnerable woman is now safe, warm and off the streets! Thank you!
I feel big gratitude for living in such an amazing community. Combining this and my love of music, here is a link to one of my new favorite songs, called “Gratitude”: youtu.be/sO2o98Zpzg8.
Please remember that this woman in the blue coat is just one of hundreds of faces of our unhoused. I hope you consider joining our Winter Shelter team. Visit WinterShelters.com for more details.
—Phil Johncock is an award-winning author, consultant and coach. For fun, Phil enjoys making up impromptu, celebratory songs on-the-spot while playing his acoustic guitar. Contact Phil at LinkedIn.com/in/PhilJohncock or CEO@PhilJohncockNetwork.com.