Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Day

A day, and what a day.

My first 'wee one' of the day lives in Point Richmond. They are a Hispanic family. Mom is at home with their son, dad works in construction. When he is not out working he works on their home, which they rent. He has built a deck, painted the home and converted the rickety wooden staircase into an elegant, solid, tiled staircase. They share the home with his brother and his family who also have a young child.

Their son was an 'extreme premie' - born just on the edge of viability, at 23 weeks. His development is quite remarkable considering his fragile and vulnerable beginnings. Mom is very attentive, and has listened to the advice of the therapists and medical professionals. He had pneumonia recently - he is now on antibiotics. Mom and Dad got sick also, but they don't have health insurance, so they didn't go to see anyone. Mom has a nasty cough.

When I arrived, dad and his brother were leaving for work. Mom told me they haven't had any work for the last three weeks because of the weather. No work, no money, and now dad, uncle, and aunt, are all struggling to make their rent payment which is due tomorrow.

On the way to the next family I listened to "This Is Your Call" with Rose Aguilar. The program was on teenage homelessness in California. A young man who was homeless for many years and now works as an outreach coordinator for homeless teenagers spoke, as well as a young woman who works in an agency dealing with the homeless.I can never listen to the entire hour, because I have to go to my next family, and usually 'come in' a little late, and 'leave' halfway through the program. The young people were really articulate and spoke about the shame and fear of being homeless, of trying to keep up a front if they did go to school. Many don't attend school and so drop out of the system.

I reached my next family. I work with their daughter who has Down Syndrome. Dad is there when I go. The parents work at the same factory, mom leaves very early for the morning shift. Dad is with the twin girls, then mom comes home and dad goes to work until late at night. They work very hard indeed.

Two weeks ago dad was very upset when I arrived. A disgruntled worker at the factory had informed immigration services that the factory hires undocumented workers. "La Migra" came to investigate. The owners were fined $50,000 and dad and others lost their jobs. Mom, whose parents brought her here 20 years ago, has been in the lengthy process of applying for papers, so she is still working. Today dad told me that they have been to see an attorney and he has begun the process of gathering all the papers so that he can apply for residency. They bought a home in Richmond in 2005. In 2007 it was appraised at $350,000. He showed me the appraisal forms. The house is now worth $50,000. "Underwater."

Back at the office a director was speaking to a meeting of families of 'consumers' about the upcoming budget cuts. As yet there are no specifics of what will be cut, but she was strongly encouraging the families to 'speak up' - their voices need to be heard.

The future seems dim indeed.

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