Compassion in Action
by: Peter Schindler, Senior Program Officer, Community West Foundation
Recently I had the opportunity to spend a few hours one morning with Jim Schlect from Care Alliance and his volunteer partner, Paul Sherlock, as they visited the homeless who were still living in tents, camps, and abandoned buildings during this brutally cold weather. Efforts by Jim and others (with support from the Community West Foundation) had resulted in most of those living outside to seek shelter indoors, but for some, they chose to stay in their “homes” outside. On this particular morning it was in the upper 30s and there was talk of flooding. One man whose tent is on the banks of the river in the Flats spoke of his concern of having his home flooded, just as you or I would be concerned with flooding in our basements. For me it was a truly surreal moment in which the absurdity and injustice of the situation were almost too much to rationally comprehend.
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I met Jim and Paul early in the morning as they pulled into the parking lot at St. Malachi’s in their beat-up van, and literally within seconds they were surrounded by men all talking to Jim at once. Jim knew everyone by name, and gave each one the answer to their questions about appointments and assistance, as well as handing out what was the prized item of the day – socks. Warm dry socks was what everyone wanted, and what Jim provided, along with shoes, water and a variety of other items.
The next few hours were spent tracking people down to make sure they were ok, picking up oxygen for one of the tent-dwellers, tracking down a young man Jim knew was in need of medical attention and taking him to the Care Alliance Clinic at Riverview Towers, stopping to talk to people on the street that Jim recognized and asking what they needed. Whatever it was, I knew that Jim and Paul would take care of it. For me, it was a morning of witnessing compassion in action as real as it gets.