The majority of people are terrible liars. It is because it is in the face and body language that anyone can see a lie. It is uncomfortable having to go along with a lie. Hearing and watching someone make this effort to conceal but at the same time reveal can take a lot out of you–the observer.
After signing the HR papers and the welcome letter from the Chief Executive Officer, Joy Duggins left the main office and walked down the street to the job site, the men’s shelter. Finding out she was hired to be the Vocational Program Coordinator and not the Resource Coordinator has her on guard. What else will pop up?
From the distance, she sees the castle-like armory looming before her. She’s seen it before. Now it is her 9 to 5–or…8 to 4, or 5 to 1 depending on required coverage. The men in front of the building become a blur because she remembers that she forgot to ask the HR Manager for the Vocational Program Coordinator job description. Joy is directed to the Shift Supervisor’s Office which is a few yards from the entrance gate. Sitting inside is the Program Director who hired her and another man. The two seem to have a good working relationship. The Program Director stops talking to his colleague to welcome Joy. He says, “Hey Stan, this is Joy. She’s taking over Helen’s job.” and points to the interior door and tells her that her desk is to the right of the door.
Joy walks through the door to find three women seated at separate desks: two older women and a perky younger lady. The perky lady motions Joy over to her because she wants Joy to know that she’s sitting in her chair. She’s all smiles because she’s been promoted to the Shift Supervisor, 8 to 4 shift–when everyone is wide awake. Helen wants to assure Joy she’ll be out of her way and Joy’s assuring her that she doesn’t have to rush. “We both need to get situated.”
The woman seated in the middle of this narrow office space–set in front of the door–directs her conversation to Helen. Joy turns to look at both women. Joy says hello to them and tells them her name. They aren’t warming up to her. So, she tries more engagement by asking their names. The one seated at the center desk says, “My name is Ms. Davis.” and the other women seated in the corner to the right of center says after Ms. Davis, “I’m Ms. Owens.” Ms. Davis quickly resumes talking to the outgoing Vocational Program Director. She wants Helen to know how much she’ll miss her. The truth is Helen will be sitting in the outer office where the Program Director and Stan are.
The banter between Ms. Davis and Helen goes on for about two minutes before Joy interjects to ask Helen does she have her old job description so that she can get up to speed with her duties. Helen says she doesn’t have one but she will ask the Social Service Director to get one for her. Joy thinks she may be putting her out to make the request, so she says, “Aren’t you already busy with your move? Let me ask her.” Helen explains she supposed to make that kind of request. It is part of her job as Shift Supervisor.
“Ms. Owens, (Joy starts with her because she seems a bit more approachable than Ms. Davis, the lady in the center) what do you do here?”
“I’m the Resource Coordinator”
“Oh, what kind of resources are you working with?”
“Things the clients need. I also do PPDs.”
“What is a PPD?”
“It’s medical work the residents need.”
“Oh…interesting. Do you know that I was initially hired for your position?”
“Yes, I know that, but that got corrected. I’ve been here for 5 years as the Resource Coordinator.”
Joy looks over to Ms. Davis to ask her what she does at the shelter. Ms. Davis doesn’t look at her while she pushes back her seat and walks out of the room. Hmmm, does it usually get so cold in August? It would become a habit of Ms. Davis to leave the room when Joy asks questions about forms, procedures, the residents, and what she does. Ms. Davis is the Housing Specialist.
It is the Program Director who would later tell Joy the Housing Specialist is the pivotal position at the shelter. The Housing Specialist is responsible for moving the residents to permanent housing. The Program Director said “Move-Outs’ are how we get paid by the Department of Homeless Services.” Ms. Davis has the weekly goal of moving at least 5 residents to permanent housing. It could be a room, a studio, an apartment, a long term treatment facility, or back home with family. For Joy’s first day, her concern is knowing her job responsibilities and not what the Housing Specialist is doing or how well she is doing it.
A couple of hours into her first day, the Director of Social Services comes into the Shift Supervisor’s office to talk to Joy. She introduces herself and explains she is Joy’s direct supervisor. Joy nods her acknowledgement. The Director of Social Services hands her the job description and then points to the staff schedule that hangs on the bulletin board behind Joy’s PC monitor.
“Joy, your name and title will be placed on this schedule with everyone else. Your work schedule is Monday through Friday. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays your work hours are 9 am to 5 pm. Tuesdays and Fridays, 12 noon to 8 pm. You come in late two days so that you can do workshops in the evening.”
“I understand. What kind of workshops am I doing?”
“They’re vocational in nature. Anything to get these men gainfully employed. Did you talk to Helen about this?”
“I’m sorry, no. She’s been busy getting trained to be a shift supervisor.”
“Hmmm, then, study the job description and try to get time with her about the job. There should be a workshop schedule up on this board too. I’ll get a copy for you.”
The Social Service Director also explains that employees could have other jobs besides the shelter. What is required is that the other job does not interfere with one’s work schedule and that you tell her that you have another job. Joy responds by stating that she writes for various newspapers from time to time. Having Tuesdays and Fridays as late days made things fit together. The Social Service Director leaves satisfied. “Our meeting was short“, thinks Joy. Joy would come to know the Social Services Director practices “economy of words”. The Social Services Director is not terse or blunt. She expresses “the essential”.
Getting Your Own Keys chronicles the professional odyssey of Joy Duggins, a resourceful and encouraging service provider in a Central Brooklyn men’s homeless shelter. It gives a peek into NYC homeless services procedures and much workplace drama. My style of story-telling is influenced by watching several web series. These posts are chronological in that the story starts in one summer, goes into the fall and winter; then ends the following summer. Follow my blog at: http://gettingyourownkeys.blogspot.com.
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