Unexpectedly homeless.

“.. So this says I’m homeless, right?”

I received a call from a fellow worker who said they suspected an apartment was illegal and the person living in there may not know it. I approached the situation as I normally do. Somewhat dispassionately because getting wrapped up in the personal side of a situation like this can skew a feeling persons approach.

I do understand why doctors try to be clinical at their approach. Sometimes choosing not to look at their patient in order to curtail a real relationship. It could cause them to lose focus and do more than is required or warranted. Making decisions that would affect the quality of life beyond the reach of medicine. In my line of work, a career hazard can be caring so much for the occupant of the structure that the people inside begin to question the sanity, motivation (or worse) or the competency of the inspector.

So I try my very best to be even, level, fair, consistent. No one job should get a higher level of attention than the last unless the project itself warrants it. Regardless of the election results. The social strata. The economic clout. The code is the code and applies across the board because it’s not about cost. It’s about life. Money is not important. Only life is important.

So I went to the identified home and discovered that there was indeed too few ways to escape if the worst happened. The history was documented well enough to establish fault, but my goal was not to place blame. My goal was to preserve life. My co workers goals are the same. So we set about our jobs and pressed on.

Notices go out. Emails are sent. Phone calls are made. Hands are shaken. Pleasantries exchanged. No one is a real winner in this and can I see that from the beginning.

The process takes over as the people cast about unsure of what direction to turn. Some know what to do. Others are not as familiar. All are disappointed that more cannot be done now.

Then the person most affected comes in to get a liberating document. It’s intended to insert him into a place that is safe to lay his head at night. The freedom paper he held will allow him certain accesses and most valuable of all, time. Time to think and prepare and plan his next step.

And the next.

And the next.

This document is his Charlie Bucket golden ticket. But while it gains him access to a potentially hopeful future, his current situation now becomes crystal clear and is brought into bright focus.

“.. So this says I’m homeless, right?”

My world stops. I feel the need to sit down. The man before me isn’t even sure where to go next and asks for directions. Vague directions coupled with waving hands and extended fingers assist him on his journey. Dorothy Gale had better directions to the Emerald City. And her prospects proved to be just as dim upon her first arrival.

It’s hard to do my job. But I adore my career. It’s a career I value as much as any career choice can be. I’ve never felt more fulfilled because daily I have a chance to make a real difference and maybe, just maybe, help in the preservation of life, in an abstract yet very concrete way. It is in moments like this, which are few, but precious, that I remember why I do what I do. It’s not for vainglorious reasons. Not for chest thumping moments. Not for the upbraided attitude some adorn themselves in. But rather for the blessed opportunity to be honest, true and effective in the preservation of life.

And when the question is asked, “… So this says I’m homeless, right?” Somewhere along the way, I know that someone failed. Someone lost focus. Someone chose not to care.

And I am sad.

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