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Snippet from the Street:
Walking Light

March 11, 2013  |  By Cathy Finn

I have a new routine I've developed since I started working at the Duffy Health Center. When I go home at night I tend to look around my home, pick something extraneous and toss it out.

It's been much to my benefit, as some of the clutter that tends to gather around the edges of a home is disappearing, but it is also, oddly enough, because of my accumulating experience of working with the chronically homeless here on Cape Cod.

I'm going home to a house that has all the trappings of modern life. There's mail I never asked for and never wanted, there are do-dads that I have hung on to just because. I have pens that don't work, and things that I look at every day that just plain annoy me. I have a few indulgences that I picked up just because there were on sale, but they add nothing to my life.

In contrast, I am now spending the days with folks who are required to keep all their things in whatever kind of bag they can somewhat comfortably carry during the day. There is no place to keep belongings once the NOAH shelter closes down for the day, and belongings cannot be left there, so it's cart it around in a backpack or trash bag or do without.

This was highlighted early on when I took a client to his storage locker; he is the only one of my clients who has a locker; in the world of the homeless he would be considered 'lucky'.

This man has physical challenges, he is clearly wracked with pain a good deal of the day, days he spends walking the streets for lack of any place else to go.

I went to help him pare down his belongings. There were a couple of boxes in the locker, and he started picking through them, trying to sort out the most important.

It was getting cold, but he knew he couldn't deal with a winter coat until he had to wear it, so the coat went to the side.

There was paperwork that he needed in order to try to move his life forward, but I watched him go through each sheet; even the weight of an 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper was considered.

No hats, no gloves, his were stolen and he needs to wait until someone offers him some, a picture of his new grandchild; that was loaded in his file folder of important papers. A sweatshirt was bulky but needed, as he wasn't going to be carrying his coat yet.

He hefted the backpack onto his shoulder and winced, but told me that would have to do. We closed up his locker and I dropped him off on Main Street, to spend time until the shelter opened.

He has pared his life down to the very barest necessities; and it is a vivid life lesson that is with me every day as I walk into my warm, secure, yes, and over laden home. But I'm anticipating a time when I can, through Duffy supports, work with this man to get him the warm, comfortable home he needs; and he can start collecting his own things around him; maybe things he doesn't need, but certainly will enjoy.


Cathy FinnCathy Finn
Case Manager
Duffy Health Center

Cathy Finn has worked on Cape Cod in the field of homelessness for the last 25 years, gaining experience with adults and children. She has been working full time as a case manager at the Duffy Health Center since September of 2012 working with chronically homeless single adults. Working with the homeless has always been a passion of hers and the compassionate view of the homeless advocated by Duffy Health Center and the affection for the clients she works with is central to her enjoyment of her job. She is the proud mother of two young adults, and also writes a monthly commentary on sports for the Barnstable Patriot.