A Bittersweet Transition

Recently, one of my favorite guests transitioned to stable housing. Ruby arrived at the shelter about two months ago, but had been experiencing chronic homelessness for most of her adult life. Like most of our clientele, this was a product of childhood abuse and mental illness. Every day, when I would walk through the front door to begin my shift, Ruby would excitedly yell “Good morning, Amanda!” loudly from across the common room. She affectionately referred to her case manager as her “personal butthead.” When working on art projects, she was very particular about the exact color of color pencil, and regularly reduced pencils down to less than an inch. Nearly half the office is now decorated with her artwork. She loved Mountain Dew, and had a wicked caffeine tolerance that could rival most grad students. She would visit the office at least five times a day to chat, cry, get band-aids, process feelings, or joke around with staff. She struggled with anger management and had several incidents of violent outbursts with other guests, but every single time you could see just how hard she was working to keep those difficult feelings in check. Staff members who’d known her from years ago marveled at how much her temper had improved. She is an incredibly strong and resilient person. When it came time for her to transition to an apartment with onsite peer support, it was hard to say goodbye. In the days leading up to her move, she talked about how she didn’t want to leave the shelter because of how much she would miss everyone. All of the staff was eager to do whatever it took to support her in that transition. We secured a voucher at the Resource for furniture, provided many household items, and overnighted a COVID test to Cambridge so everything would be in order. One of our evening coordinators baked her a special good-bye cake to celebrate. The day she left, I carried her bags out to the car, gave her a hug and told her to call us if she ever needed anything. I waived from the porch until the car drove out of site and shed a few happy tears before heading back inside. The next day, the house was quieter than I’ve ever known it to be.