Many of our clients have lived in Chicago for years. They know about many social services that are available from their networks. However, knowledge does not always translate directly into action, for many reasons. We all know that we should eat healthy, but I know that as Christmas approaches, I will be eating a lot of cookies. Others also may know they should eat healthy, but live in a food desert or don’t have the means to buy wholesome food. Something similar happens with our clients: They often know what they need to do, but different obstacles prevent them from taking action or from being heard.
Two different young fathers that came in recently both requested assistance in making arrangements for child custody or child support. In other circumstances, it is often the mother who comes in to make a claim for child support, but in this case the fathers knew that it was necessary and important. They took ownership over initiating the process and we made calls to different legal hotlines so they could ask their questions directly.
I accompanied another client to a doctor’s appointment in the Medical District. I’ve only lived in Chicago since August, so it felt more like she was accompanying me! She shepherded me onto three different buses to get to the hospital and then taught me exactly what kind of care is done in each hospital building. Again, she knew where to go and what to do, but she wanted a companion to walk that path with her.
Our clients have a long history of resourcefulness before they walk through our doors. They are more “Chicagoan” than many who live in this city, but the way they are excluded from quality services seems to deny their belongingness. I hope that through Taller de Jose’s work, they become more visible to the city and that they feel ever more connected. I think that what we do as companions is to make the transition from knowledge to action a little smoother.