Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another Thief (post from four weeks ago)

We limit our clients to taking four items of clothing per visit, and we're not too particular as to whether the women sorting through through the donations are actually clients or whether they are simply impoverished women from the neighborhood. They don't come regularly unless they have the YANA background anyway, and some people might need the encouragement of clothes and coffee first before they're ready to acknowledge prostitution. There's good reason to let impoverished women take the things they need -- or, at least, I think so. Some of the time.

The "regulars," the "real" YANA clients, can get pretty worked up over outsiders coming in and taking their stuff. The other day, so did I. A woman I didn't know came on a quiet day and began moving about the room with the kind of wordless determination that my dogs (sorry) will get when they're after food left out on the coffee table. The few YANA women present rose in alarm as they saw her obvious attempts to take far, far more than the allotted amounts. Either so desperate or so socially oblivious that she didn't notice that the only other three people present were intent on every move, the woman careened from one part of the room to another, pulling huge amounts of clothing out of the cabinets, trying to stuff it in her bag, and angrily taking it back out again when reminded of the four item limit.

Finally, when she was literally backed into a corner, trying to shove multiple pairs of shoes on top of a small wardrobe's worth of clothing, the woman melted down to a brief, but dramatic, temper tantrum. "This place is a trip!" she screamed when I blocked her from taking her stash. "This is a trip!" Shoes went across the room. She threw a shirt back at me. "Call the police," one woman said. Both the other clients were standing right at my shoulders. There was no violence. It only occurred to me later that there probably would have been if I'd been alone with her and hadn't let her take what she wanted. After the woman stormed out, the other clients had quite a bit to say about her.

One of the clients who'd been there, Jennifer, knew the woman from the neighborhood. Predictably enough, Jennifer's stories centered on drug use, violence, and theft astounding even for Jennifer's street. According to Jennifer, this woman had been put out of an abandominium. "Put out of an abandiminium!" Jennifer crowed. In other words, she was so low, so incapable of even faking basic, civilized behavior that she was forcibly ejected from an abandoned building by the other squatters. Jennifer is a good story teller. The women laughed. I laughed. I probably should have done something very different.

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