I left the grouphome for the last time this morning. The staff (most of whom I had never had the privilege to meet) pitched in and got me $40 in Tim Horton’s gift certificates (which was sweet, if not random). This gesture just makes me feel even guiltier about leaving (seeing as how they have yet to find a replacement for me). The tricky part is that most of my co-workers are immigrants with young families; filling in sleep shifts (when they are already working 70+ hours a week just to cover a skeleton crew) is impossible.
In Calgary, you can make more money working at Tim Horton’s than you can working in a grouphome. The result is that these homes are often dangerously understaffed. Who wants to deal with that shit (literally)? Who wants to deal with the low pay, the long hours, and never knowing how your day is going to go?
I’ve been doing this kind of work now for nine years, and probably 98% of that time has been incident free (the 2% occurring in the last year). I wrote my MA thesis while working in a grouphome. I have lasting friendships, with both staff and clients from working in grouphomes. I read a lot of books, watched a lot of tv. Though I have mostly posted my horror stories, the truth is that most of the nights I spent there were fine. Sometimes uncomfortable, but it gave me a homebase, complete with a shower, Internet connection and a nice bed.
I leave feeling conflicted and guilty about my privelege.