Connecting the Dots: "Punishment and Help"

Below, Bronx Community Solutions' community service staff member Corey Hatton describes an experience working with a client address his specific needs with the help of clinic staff member Magaly Melendez. Though the client was at BCS to complete a community service mandate, Corey recognized that he could benefit from BCS’s social service resources, and Magaly was able to find him a place to live.

Last month I had a client named John* who told me he needed a MetroCard to get on the train. He didn’t want to get on the subway without paying, because it was against the law and the reason he was mandated to do community service in the first place. I believed he needed it. I made a couple of calls to the clinic. Eventually, Magaly met with him, and he was given the MetroCards because it was a special situation.
John came back the next day to complete his community service. After he signed in we started talking, and he thanked me for helping him get access to transportation. The conversation turned to talking about his life. He told me he had done twenty years in prison and he was still adjusting to regular life. He told me kind of a funny story: after he had gotten out of prison, he went to the subway to try to buy tokens. “Yeah, tokens,” the clerk laughed. She had to tell him they don’t sell those anymore, and introduced him to MetroCards.

John went on to tell me that he was homeless, and that both his parents were deceased. He rarely saw his kids, and his siblings lived in different states, so he was alone. He told me that he had to carry all his belongings—heavy duffle bags and backpacks—from place to place. Breaks in the conversation allowed me to process this information and think about what I should do, while I engaging with other clients and World Vision employees.
I wanted to help, so I spoke with Magaly [a BCS clinic staff member]. She told me she wanted to meet with John. Fast forward a little and I was escorting him to the intake office. I had him wait while I spoke to Magaly—I just wanted to explain the whole situation to her. I introduced them and The Great Magaly proceeded to work a miracle. She made a call, and quickly found a place for him to live in Far Rockaway. She showed us pictures of the place on her computer, and I think we all were impressed and surprised at how nice it looked. John even took a picture of it. He was in tears, and I think Magaly got a little misty too.

I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to Magaly. You are awesome, and I think you even surprised yourself. You said you have never placed anybody that fast. You set a record and pushed the bar even higher. I know your help came from the heart and you are very appreciated. You made John’s day. I’m happy to know great people like you.

I thought it would be a good idea for the client to meet and talk with Ramon [a community service staff member], since Ramon can understand what it’s like to be incarcerated for a long time. Ramon was instrumental in providing support for someone in need, even if it was just to listen. Some people don’t understand what John had gone through, and there is great power in someone just stopping to give their undivided attention. It can be a stress reliever and I think you did that for him, Ramon. I can say with confidence that when the client left BCS, he felt lighter and could see more clearly without the cloud of despair he had been carrying around.

Name changed for privacy reasons