As I understand it, (And I understand things in very basic ways) to enable someone is to give a person the best chance of becoming more able to help themselves. In a nutshell, it should be liberating. It should help and support a person to find the strength to get up off the floor and walk in the direction that gives them the best chance of freedom, both physically and mentally.
My first day on the job was like no other first day I’ve ever encountered (And I’ve had lots of first days) I woke up early, excited and a little nervous. My new manager contacted me to inform me I could pick up my work laptop and phone from the offices at 11am. She arranged to meet me outside the offices (We were not allowed to go inside because of the dreaded covid: We’re still not Allowed in the office!)
I arrived on time and approached the entrance to the office, and waited, and waited, and waited. I tried opening the door but it was locked. The boss was 30 minutes late, and couldn’t apologise enough. She seemed really nice, in fact she is a lovely lady. She used the intercom to ask someone to bring said items down to us. (I hadn’t noticed the intercom!!) A really friendly looking chap came out to us waring his mask and gloves, and handed them to me and welcomed me to the team, obviously smiling because the little crows feet around his eyes were prominent and he was squinting like Lee Van Cleff. Boss lady briefly explained the procedure I should go through when I arrived back home concerning the set up of my equipment. After a lengthy, formal, informal and lighthearted chat, I casually turned on my heel, and headed towards my car, fully intending to drive home, only to be halted in my tracks with the words “Do you want to come on a visit with me? It’ll be a good experience for you and give you an idea of what to expect “. What could I say, I couldn’t refuse! Boss lady instructed me to follow her in my car (We’re not Allowed to car share, covid policy. We’re still not allowed to car share!) So off we went, boss lady leading, taking corners like a F1 driver, and I’m trying to keep up, acutely aware of the fact that we were breaking speed limits and my work laptop was possibly taking a battering in the boot!!
I eventually followed her into a cul-de-sac and parked up alongside her bat mobile. I was quietly informed by my boss that the new referral was a working prostitute, who was also a drug addict, was in loads of debt, was a victim of abuse and wanted to turn her life around, but didn’t know where to begin. Whilst I stood there, mouth agape, trying to process what she’d just whispered to me, Boss led the way to a door and knocked as if the resident was profoundly deaf. Whilst we waited for the door to stop trembling, she told me that it was the initial visit so she/we didn’t know what to expect.
The following account brings to mind a quote from Nietzsche. “If you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss stares into you”.
The door opened and a woman of about 25 asked us to come in. She looked forlorn (I discovered later that she is 26) She led us into her living room, stumbling over random pieces of clothing and empty fast food containers. When I walked through her living room door, I was greeted with the sight of a floor to ceiling chrome pole. It happened to be the pole she slid up and down to entertain her clients before the real action started ! I must admit, I missed some of what the boss was saying to her because I was transfixed with the state of the pole. It appeared to have ‘Stuff’ stuck to it. I think some of it was congealed food, but I could be wrong. An inappropriate thought went through my mind. ‘Why doesn’t she polish it’?!!!
The young woman spoke openly about the way she makes money, even though we didn’t ask her and had no interest in pole dancing. It transpired that she is the mother of 5 children, all of whom have been taken into care. I listened to her talking and felt a deep sense of sorrow for her. Her family had “Washed their hands of her”. In more ways than one, she was alone. Her family are gypsies and before they turned their back on her, they shamed her in front of other gypsy families and friends. She told us she was glad that her children were being brought up by families who would look after them without abusing them. I could see the sadness in her eyes. In reality, she didn’t know where her children were living.
Boss lady asked her if she would like to go for a walk. ( I think the intention was to get away from the squalor) We walked for a while and the boss explained to her what we could do to support her to make positive changes to her life and then we went to a shop, where we bought her some food, tea, coffee, milk and sugar. On the way back to her house, she started to sing, and she sang beautifully. She told us that she had been a member of a church choir, but didn’t go anymore. After a brief chat outside of her house, we followed her inside and helped her to tidy her living room and kitchen. Boss lady advised her when she should expect a first visit from a member of the team and we left her to make herself something to eat. I felt like we were abandoning her, but knew that help and support was not far behind.
That was the last time I saw this young woman. She was allocated to a colleague with much more experience than little virgin me. However, a few weeks later, we had a group meeting to discuss the clients we are supporting. The young woman’s name was mentioned during the meeting. She had been on a well known website to drum up some illicit work. A car with 3 men had pulled up outside her house and she was subjected to a violent assault. As a consequence of that, she had taken an overdose and taken to hospital. She recovered physically but psychologically, she was in hell !! The latest report is that she is living in relative safety in shared accommodation, policed by carefully vetted security personnel.
Enablement didn’t or couldn’t do much for her, but at least she’s safe now, and hopefully getting better.
That was my first day on the job. Thankfully, the rest of my time has been less harrowing, but nevertheless, still extremely challenging. I’ll leave that for another time.