Meet John

An Identity, Not Just An ID Card

By Angela Castaneda

He was a young man with the heart and mind of a kid but the trauma of an adult. When I first met John, he looked very skinny and lost. He made little sense when he spoke, but it was easy to see that he had been through a lot in life.  He had nothing but a bracelet with a number and his name to show us who he was.

Many of our guests carry more than just bags and suitcases around; they carry painful memories of traumatic experiences, feelings of rejection and disappointment, and many other things that make their journeys incredibly rocky. Some of them never had a choice to decide what they wanted their lives to be like; their future was chosen for them before they could even understand their reality.

John had been a guest at the old Lamb Center, and the staff knew him from before. For me, it was the first time I had met him, more than a year ago. After he started coming to the Lamb Center regularly, I saw an enormous change in his demeanor; his interactions with other guests improved and he started opening up more and engaging in different services.

The incredible staff at the Lamb Center helped him get an ID card, a Social Security card, food stamp benefits, Medicaid, and clothes. All those things may seem trivial to anyone who is not familiar with homelessness, but to someone who comes to us, those services are a bridge to trust; to getting an identity back, not just an ID card; to being recognized and feeling a part of society again.

The Lamb Center has played a substantial supporting role for many organizations in the area to get people into an appropriate housing program, but there were gaps we could not fill. As of a month ago that changed. We are now able to provide housing referrals through a process that the county has established and we will be able to help the people who turn to us as their last hope.

On February 12, 2019, John had an appointment to see an apartment that he will be able to call his home, hopefully as early as next week. Seeing John’s face during the tour filled my heart with many emotions that I can’t fully explain.  I couldn’t help but think about the two big black trash bags he was carrying around the very first time I saw him on Campbell Drive, how he eventually “upgraded” to a suitcase and a locker, and now he will have a room of his own.

Through the time I have worked with John, he has made me laugh many times with his mannerisms. I have learned that he loves art and painting. I have learned that if I repeat things to him many times throughout the day, he listens and eventually does what I ask him to do. I have learned that he likes his hair to be braided by other guests. I have learned that he is kind, sensitive and patient (most of the time) and I have learned to understand the pain he does not always show. I am glad God led him to us so that we could serve him and make a difference in his life. There are still many things about him that I do not know, and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to continue to support him, but every baby step we have taken has been a great victory that we have celebrated with great joy.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” ~ Ephesians 4:2

The names and photos have been changed to protect the dignity of those involved.

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