Once or twice a year, my organization sends out a list of items that our clients need. I got the latest list the first week in June. It had the usual things on it, like Target gift cards, quarters (for laundromats), umbrellas (they travel on foot or via public transport and it’s been a rainy spring), and shoes (in this case, men’s size 8, “preferably tennis shoes”).
Someone needed a suitcase. As an asylum seeker he is not allowed to work and he also is not eligible for any public benefits, like housing. So he is sleeping on someone’s couch—probably a friend of a relative of a friend who is the same nationality as he is. The most common nationality we see right now is Ethiopians.
I had a giant suitcase that I was never going to use again so I arranged for him to have it. Win-win situation: I didn’t have space for it; he needed it, good deed done. I am so glad I’m not a social worker; our clients’ needs are endless and their stories are so sad.
A week later I got this letter from Vince:
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my release. I’ve been here 100 days. 82 to go.
I’ve mentioned before that I won’t have much when I get out. Nothing really. But there are some necessities and even some convenience items I will need your help with. You’re the only one I feel comfortable asking, but you may know some others that are willing to help.
So here’s my list of things. Some of them explain themselves. Some may not, so I will:
- Bed and bedding related items
- Clothing (from the ground up, figuratively and literally)
- Eye exam and contact lenses
- A vehicle and insurance. For this I may (will) need to take out a loan from a loving family member. With only four hours of personal time per week, not to include AA meetings or physical activity, time management is going to be critical. For me, a vehicle is one of the more important needs. We’ll talk.
- Gym membership. We’ve talked. [I told him the YMCA has a sliding scale system.]
- Cell phone, if my ISR agent allows one. I think I can pay for it.
- Well, that’s a good list so far.
This list wasn’t entirely my idea. We are all encouraged to write to family asking for help when we get out. They know we leave with nothing, and it’s good to prepare as soon as possible.
I have a new copy of my driver’s license in my file here, and soon I will have a new Social Security card, so I will leave here with the requirements to obtain legal work anywhere. My chemical dependency counselor says it would be good for me to get work outside the foodservice industry, so keep your eyes peeled for factory work or anything really that you think I could do that would be felon friendly.
I’m not intentionally trying to add stress to your life so if I am, say so. They say the more we prepare, the better our chances. And our resources here are limited. I know I’m going to be a bit of a burden for a while. But I’m willing to pull my weight however possible.
I’m coming home with a positive attitude, a good work ethic, and a desire to be productive always.
I need to fill 90 hours of community service/volunteer work. You mentioned a good volunteer is hard to find. I volunteered in a nursing home the other day in Moose Lake. It was very rewarding.
I love you, Mom. Thank you, again, for all you continue to do.