While working in the Hyde Park Neighborhood with the
, an older lady, that had had a little too much to drink came over and asked me, “Excuse me, sir, you don’t let ladies work?” (in her overly exaggerated voice). My reply was, “Yes”. She then proceeded to give me her resume verbally. I asked her how much she would charge me to rake a particular yard. She said, “Gimme $12. As a matter of fact, if you leave me some bags, I’ll rake all the yards you have cut on this street before you come back tomorrow.” So I left her some bags. And sure enough, the next morning, the grass had been bagged.
When she came around that next day, she asked if I would consider making her a part of the team. I asked if she was a convicted felon. She hesitated, not knowing what we do, and then said yes. I shocked her when I said, “Good.” At LifeLine, we are a program first and foremost. So, in order for someone to become a member of the work team, they must first join the program and volunteer for a considerable amount of time. I told her that and I told her to come around and we would try her out. In the midst of that, 3 young men from the neighborhood followed her lead and came on board with her.
Urelene is 56 years old, the oldest client in this class. When she met me 7 weeks ago, she was drunk and she wanted to work to earn some money to buy drugs. She was also homeless and she was sleeping wherever she could, mostly in terrible situations. When she came to work the second day, she was sober and ready for work. She worked hard and proved herself to me and to the team. She was the first outsider that I had allowed our group to be exposed to.
Miss Urelene worked for 4 weeks before she received her first stipend. She was doing great. She appeared to have kicked the drug habit and she was sober. She set the standard in the work ethic department. She was always there and always on time. She outworked her younger male counterparts.
The day after payday, Miss Urelene did not come to class. She was missing. I asked and no one knew where she was. So I went on with me day because I was late for a meeting. As my assistant and I drove down Hollywood, I passed the “track” (short for dope track, where drugs are bought and sold) and I saw who I thought was Miss Urelene walking in the parking lot of the store. I yelled to my assistant, “That was Urelene!” I drove about a block and I just had to turn around. When I got to the store, sure enough, it was her.
She had sat down on a box next to the juke joint. Her hair was in disarray. She was dirty. And she was drunk. When I got out of my truck and began to talk to her, I could feel her shame. I pleaded with her to get in the truck and ride with me, but she refused. She said that she did not want the men to see her in that condition. She cried and told me that she was sorry. I did everything in my power to assure her that she was not alone and that we were there to help her in anyway that we could.
The Blight Patrol has a uniform. It is a lime green T-shirt with LifeLine to Success on the front and BLIGHT PATROL on the back. Our clients take pride in that shirt. Miss Urelene told me that her shirt was in her bag, in another bag, because it didn’t need to be out there on the track. She didn’t say that she didn’t need to be on the track. She had found something to take pride in and value. LifeLine gave her that.
The next day, she was back at work. Since that day, we haven’t had to look for Miss Urelene. She is now sober, and living in the Salvation Army- away from the “track” and all of its temptations. She is a leader and all of the men love her. We were able to give her hope and a sense of purpose. We were able to assist her in becoming whole. And she is now our poster child for what our program is about. She is not shy about her past and she takes pride in the fact that the drugs and her old lifestyle did not take her out. Miss Urelene has also reconnected with her family. I am SO proud of her! She makes me get out of bed. She makes me keep pushing. Her testimony, along with everyone else’s, makes this work worthwhile