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The dad on the phone
November 12, 2013

We are not an office with a receptionist whose job includes answering and routing incoming calls. (There are days when we wish we had such a coworker…) Instead, a caller either dials someone’s direct extension or their call is answered by the first staffer who picks up.

Sometimes the callers are people who want to sell us copier toner or phone services. Sometimes they’re donors or board members. Sometimes they’re looking for a volunteer opportunity. Sometimes they’re a public official or someone from a funding agency.

And sometimes they’re a mom or dad looking for housing or shelter.

Today I caught such a call. The man on the phone was unfailingly polite, addressing me as Ms. Kris. (I’d said my name when I answered the phone.) He began the conversation by asking me how I was doing. I said, “Fine, thanks. How are you today?”

I heard the deep breath as he told me what he’d probably told other people answering the phone at other organizations today, that he and his family needed a place to stay.

I don’t remember the details except for something about a rat- and roach-infested apartment, and children.

As I write this it’s 28 degrees outside.

We don’t take shelter calls at our administrative office. I gave him our Families Moving Forward shelter number, and told him he might have to leave a message but someone would call him back. He repeated the number back to me, and thanked me.

His voice was so tired.  

I wished him the best.

And I do -- but my good wishes aren’t enough to put a roof over his children's head. So I’m becoming a Beacon Citizen today. I’m going to contact my legislators to urge their support for $100 million for affordable housing in our state. I’m going to take the monthly actions suggested to keep this issue in front of those with the power to make a difference.

It’s the least I can do for the dad on the phone.