One thing that is unique to this experience thus far that I was not anticipating… I laughed when I saw this prompt in the midst of this pandemic. I volunteer as a Registered Nurse at St. Vincent de Paul Village Health Center in San Diego, CA. We serve people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Every day we meet new people, hear new stories and are asked to come up with a plan to best help them. Choosing to participate in a year of service is unusual for a new graduate nurse so I didn’t know what this position would look like aside from what past volunteers had shared with me. There sure was a steep learning curve. I was learning different policies and learning how to interact with people from different backgrounds and in all kinds of living situations. Believe me, I have definitely said the wrong thing at the wrong time and made many mistakes, but I am surrounded by hard-working and supportive co-workers. My community member Keara and I were finally comfortable in our role at the clinic when we were hit with a major curveball, just like the rest of the world.
At the end of February we began discussing this weird new virus, COVID-19. Since then it has been a whirlwind of changes to the clinic structure. It’s strange that our other community members Jacob and Marty were asked to self-quarantine and stay home from work while Keara and I work “on the front lines” Monday through Friday. What a weird time we’re living in. The strangest part for me has been interacting with people who are living on the streets and have no idea why the restaurants are closing, why the library that they used to charge their phones is closed, why they can no longer get water from gas stations. On top of that, all shelters were told to stop accepting people off the streets and are telling people to “shelter in place.” It’s hard to fathom what that means for someone who lives on the streets when police officers are patrolling now more than ever.
It’s easy to see my privilege when someone asks for a sack lunch or asks if I have a blanket to help them get through the night and the next however many nights until shelters open again. Even though I may be at higher risk by going to work every day, I get to go home every night to my house and my warm bed. I am able to socially distance myself from others and to stay informed on what’s happening. I am so grateful that our clinic is still open and is here for those who need it most. While we’re all praying for healthcare workers and people who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, keep in mind all people living on the streets who feel more isolated and alone than ever before.
San Diego, CA 2019-2020