Everyday Heroes :: Yolie from BK
January 17, 2013
A native New Yorker, Yolie is committed to helping those in need. She has dedicated her life to serving the most vulnerable of the community, working in with children, the sick, the unemployed, and the homeless. Her big heart and big smile not withstanding, her spirit glows bright and leads the way, giving love, smiles, and comfort to those whose need is great.
I tip my hat to Miss Yolie, for sharing of herself. As the year opens I begin to consider how each of us can make a greater contribution to this world. I have come to understand that I am a link in the chain, a bead on the string, and what I do best is give other people the chance to shine, to sparkle, and to share of themselves.
Yolie is the first, though I hope far from the last, of everyday heroes in our midst who deserve nothing less than our gratitude and thanks. Props to the lovely lady from BK. Give it up, y’all, Yolie coming thru, make way!
How did you get involved in health and social service work ? What is the attraction, or the passion, or desire to help humanity on this primal and vital level?
Yolie: When I was in elementary school I decided I was going to be a child psychologist for sad kids. By junior high that turned into working with sex abuse survivors, then I decided I was going to be a sex therapist. I went to undergrad did psychology and found out I would be in school forever. My laziness couldn’t deal with that so I ended up doing social work right out of college.
Can you describe the kind of work you did for ACS (Administration for Children’s Services)? What surprised you most about this work, and the people you encountered? Why did you choose to go into a different area of work?
At ACS I investigated allegations of abuse, neglect, and maltreatment of children. I made home and court visits, referred families to services including: parenting classes, counseling, health services and substance abuse programs. I testified in court hearings, wrote court reports and very rarely removed children from their homes to foster care (kinship-relatives or non kinship- regular non related).
It was a hard job, physically and mentally. Late nights, early mornings, police precincts and even overnight stays in hospitals—all while dealing with different personalities, defense mechanisms, coping skills and interpersonal skills.
I was most surprised at the lies, not from clients, I expect people to lie when someone is getting in their personal business and practically accusing them of being a bad parent. No the lies from the agency, the lies to the media about how many cases a worker gets a month, lies to us about protection (ie. being able to go out in pairs frequently refused due to $$ issues OR appealing for the assault of a worker to be a felony offense like a transit worker), lies about getting more help or streamlining the workload or just having our backs.
In terms of cases/clients I hardly got any “real” cases. In the seven years I worked there I had maybe five true abuse cases; most cases were just not good parents but not abusive, mostly poverty (which we didn’t really help unless u needed a crib) and hood life.
I am sure there are a lot of kids being maltreated in Brooklyn but most of my cases were: malicious—one parent HATES the other and calls in obvious lies just to make life hell for other parent, cover your ass; school social workers calling in for any and everything from the absurd “Mike’s mom did not celebrate his birthday at home he didn’t get gifts or a cake” to “Linda woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and saw her parents having sex” to the what can we do “John, 16, refuses to come to school, he knows he will be left back but doesn’t appear concerned.” These were all cases I actually had by the way.
After seven years, I noticed that I wasn’t caring as much. I lost my drive. I didn’t want to refer people to services they wouldn’t attend. I grew weary of rude parents and teens, making home visits late at night in bad weather was getting to me and the fact that most of my cases were bullshit but you had to work it like CSI anyway. So I left. It was a great learning experience, both for developing my interpersonal skills/conflict resolution as well as seeing parts of life I had never experienced. Oh but the stories, mostly funny, some crazy and a handful sad.
What did you do with the Department for Homeless Services? Homelessness is such a difficult topic in this country — why do you think we struggle to deal with this issue? Do you think it is systemic, or personal, or a combination of the two? Do you think there is a way out when people have fallen this far? What kind of success stories have you observed — if any?
I actually worked in a shelter initially… my job was to:
- To reduce clients’ length of stay in shelter
- To increase client engagement and responsibility in moving to permanent housing
- To increase placements into permanent housing
- To reduce re-entries into the shelter system
- To assist residents to transition from shelter into appropriate permanent housing.
I really enjoyed my time in this area. Because I was working in shelters directly, I did not get to meet anyone that was just off the street. It really helped me to understand that homelessness can happen to anyone and there truly are a million ways that it can occur from the stereotypical (laziness, drugs) to the sad (domestic violence, death of head of household) to the “Didn’t see it coming” (house fire, lose of job) to the “What can we do?” (mental illness) and other things that just happened.
I think we struggle with this topic because we live in a ME society. Capitalism doesn’t lend an ear to the downtrodden. No one wants to take care of anyone else because no one took care of them or even if they were taken care of, they take it as a skill set they have and not as help. Americans are so hell bent on building that they never seen the backs and necks that are trampled on their way up.
I do think there is a way out but my thoughts are radical. Everyone can change for the better. I’ve seen a few people leave the shelter and move out on their own but not many. The tools needed for living on your own in the concrete jungle when you don’t really have a support system isn’t reinforced.
Can you talk about your radical ideas ? This is the kinda thing I love: a contrast between the reality of these situations and an insider’s perspective on how to work to make things better.
I think we struggle with this topic because we live in a ME society. Capitalism doesn’t lend and ear to the downtrodden. No one wants to take care of anyone else because no one took care of them or even if they were taken care of, they take it as a skill set they have and not as help. Americans are so hell bent on building that they never seen the backs and necks that are trampled on their way up. It almost seems as if the system is designed to keep people down in order to use them a bad examples and trample them some more.
When I say the system is designed to keep people in it, I say that because no matter what programs are had, what assistance is given, it’s never something that is long lasting; it’s like putting a band aid on a stab wound. Yes, they will pay your rent for 2 years if you can get any ole job but in the real world can any ole job have you support yourself if you are responsible for all your own bills?? The answer is NO!
Things like public assistance being more than just a check and some food. Also now they are saying drug addicts shouldn’t get assistance; it’s true they should get treatment, real treatment. People receiving benefits should be made to get GED or attend vocational school or junior college that way it almost guarantees the assistance is temporary and leaves the person in a position to continue onward and upward.
I’ve seen a few people leave the shelter and move out on their own but not many. the tools needed for living on your own in the concrete jungle when you don’t really have a support system isn’t reinforced. I believe that people that are underemployed, unemployed that ask for and receive assistance should be given the real tools to assist them. Yes, I think that mandating people to get GED/high school diplomas in order to obtain assistance is fair. English classes, literacy classes, etc, all these things will help people become self-sufficient. There should be aptitude tests given and guidance toward arenas that people would thrive and survive. People should be taught real banking and budgeting in high school, college and also if receiving assistance.
I also think that higher education should be free in America like it is in many European countries. Why should people aiming to become the people that our country is most proud of have to have thousands and thousands of dollars of debt strapped to their backs when just starting out in the world?
I am a socialist by nature. I don’t have a problem with my taxes helping others. I know I would sleep better knowing that there aren’t places in America that are just like a third world country. I do think there is a way out but my thoughts are radical. Everyone can change for the better.