A Day in the HER Shelter “Shoes”


Ever Wonder What We Do All Day?

Day: Generic Summer Tuesday

Location: Portsmouth Shelter, State of Virginia, United States of America.

Start Time: 7:00 am

*Please Note P = A phone rings in the office*

7:00 AM – It’s morning at the HER Shelter. Though mostly quiet, a few clients are already up, fixing their hair and munching on toast P before heading out to work or tending to their wee hangry babe (hangry = angry due to hunger). In the hotline office, an overnight worker tidies up at the end of her shift. It was a busy night! Several calls came in between 2 and 3 am, and one of the kiddo’s got sick in room seven – P resulting in a few minutes of not-awesome assistance with a mop. Ah well, all in a night’s work. At around 7:30 she locks up and heads home for some well deserved rest.

8:00 AM – Early birds catch the worm right? Or at least get the honor of turning on the lights and prepping the Keurig for its daily ritual. P Depending on schedules and appointments, typically by 8:15 the office is already bustling about with purpose. P The bubbly housing advocate is in early, already making mental notes about which piece of donated furniture she needs to get delivered to client apartments today. As she wanders hither and yon, the hotline manager stands in front of the room assignments board, marking which rooms are empty and can be filled in the coming hours. P P P Not to be left behind, the case managers are already waist deep in coordinating their daily dance around transportation and meetings, social services appointments and weekly check-ins.


9:00 AM P By now the rest of the daily staff has arrived and is settling into their offices or desired table spaces in the conference room. P As the case managers, court advocate and services assistants are positions designed to be mobile, the daily line-up at the two shelter locations tends to vary. Today appears to be a day when a majority are in the building – at least for now. Candles are lit and music starts streaming out the door of an office here and there. P P P P

10:00 AM – As though emerging from hibernation, the teenagers and older children begin to crawl towards the light and start their days. P Soon the parking lot is filled with youngins on bikes and trikes and scooters. Knocks on the office door see an uptick in frequency, as band-aids, towels, shampoo, or milk are needed or clients stop by to see their case managers. P All the while, as time permits, staff make advocacy calls, attempt to catch up on filing and client notes, and prepare for future events or meetings.

11:00 AM – The kitchen opens soon for lunch, and with tummies growling the bike-riders and playgrounders begin to file into the common area to wait for mom to fix their pizza or leftovers. Staff too are beginning to fix meals or run out to Kroger to grab a quick salad. You might think this means things slow P down – but don’t be deceived, time waits for no worker to eat their yogurt and banana. Over lunch staff discuss some work things, but typically veer off to topics along pop-culture or personal health lines. Common P subjects may include, but are not limited to: child-birth, parenting, Harry Potter, and child-birth.


12:00 PM – Orange IKEA plates sit in a dirty pile in the staff sink, as a variety of demands pull people off into a whirlwind of an afternoon. One case manager packs up to head to the Chesapeake location for a meeting with a client there. Another begins to lug car seats out to the company van, preparing for a quick trip over to the WIC office. P P A community client and his family stop in to check on the status of their housing assistance application. While they speak with the advocate their baby wanders from office to office, giving smiles and high fives to everyone she meets. P P In the end, she returns plus one teddy bear to rest her legs and chill on her mama’s lap. The employment coordinator begins scanning copies for his class that starts in an hour, suddenly remembering to grab some purses to pass out to those who attend!

1:00 PM – Let the recruitment begin! P The employment coordinator heads out from the offices to find ladies who’d like to attend a group about customer services and developing people skills. After some urging and the promise of childcare for an hour or two, several clients follow him back over to the conference room and class begins! P The hotline manager and one of the case managers jump in the van soon after it returns and head off to pick up a new client admitted that morning. When she arrives back at the building they help her get settled into her room, put together a basket of essential items, deliver a pile of towels and blankets, and then give her some room to breathe and catch her breath. P P

2:00 PM – Employment class plods on, now in the section where clients interact with each other and the instructor in fake customer service scenarios – P like an angry person in the drive-thru, or a cranky grandmother making a return at Target. Though there is much laughter, the main points are communicated P in the end. In a small office, the new client and a case manager start the process of completing her intake form. Our children’s program coordinator returns P from a school P educational P forum, P drops her bag in her office and heads out to round-up the kids for a walk to a nearby park. Luckily today the sun is shining but the sun isn’t as blistering as usual!


3:00 PM – After some follow-up P questions and great discussion about how to be kind to people who are super rude at work, class lets out and the ladies head back over to catch a quick nap before their kids get back from the park. P Morning part-time workers start to pack up and head home or off to other jobs, as evening workers try to maneuver their cars into the parking lots without running over bikes in the process. P The children can be heard hollering as they return from the park, and moms’ naps are cut short. Not losing a moment, the children’s coordinator lassoes a few staff members and heads out to the storage shed to begin transitioning the school supplies inside so they can be sorted. With an upcoming back-to-school event there’s not a minute to lose!

4:00 PM – Several case managers head out to catch a meal with family or a quick nap before coming back to hold adult support group at about 6 or 6:30 pm. Tonight’s group is about understanding domestic violence – like a DV 101. Oftentimes topics range from discussions of the power and control wheel P (pictured below), the TED Talk by Leslie Morgan Steiner, or simply open-ended conversation on coping and taking steps towards recovery. At 4:30 an P email alert rings from a handful of computers, reminding staff about the weekly client progress meeting the next day.

5:00 PM – Full-time P staff and day staff start to leave in ones and twos, off to pick up chilluns from daycare or to let their pets out. P Evening staff is in the full swing of things now, helping clients with dinner needs and making sure the chores list is out and ready to be signed. A volunteer group is in tonight to serve desert and hang out with the kids P – they brought dirt and worms – remember that thing with pudding and gummies? You’d think things slow down right? But usually that’s not the case! This staff member works till 11pm, and is replaced by a lady who finishes out the night and cares for the phone and the clients till the next morning. And the circle spins on. P P


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