There are moments throughout my experience that remind me strongly of the importance of a place like Trail Lane Apartments. I was graced by two fo these moments just recently. I will start with my girl Donna(not her real name, HIPPA HIPPA). Donna is a late middle aged woman who has been chronically street homeless. She is well known to the homeless providers of the city for her sweet nature, sass and extreme vulnerability. Donna’s social history is widely unknown but it seems as though there is some intellectual disability and past manipulation of her by family or friends because of this. She is often seen on the streets of downtown, but more recently there have been some serious concerns for her safety and well being brought to us by the local police and our outreach workers. As luck would have it, Trail lane had an opening the very afternoon we were contacted about little Donna because one of our temporary room residents was moving to a full apartment. Matt and I whisked around Trail Lane to set up both the rooms for our present resident and our to be resident Donna. Donna’s case manager wanted her to be safe from people who have been harrassing her and the bitter cold of Pittsburgh winters. I had met Donna months ago on street rounds and dreamed of getting her into Trail Lane, even temporarily. (we have temp housing for people and permanent. she is placed in temp because her case manager wants to find her more supportive housing than Trail Lane 🙂 ) We picked her up from the drop in center and brought her to Trail Lane, gave her a quick tour and she was asleep on the leather recliner couch before we could even finish setting up her room. Its a blessing to see the immediate sense of comfort in those who enter Trail Lane. She has been living the life at Trail Lane for a little over a week and loves being able to have her own room, bed and radio. She often comes to me to tell me how shes cleaning it and enjoying her time. To see someone like Donna, who is incredibly at risk of physical, social and emotional trauma on the street.
Another experience I had recently is not as cheerful, but just as meaningful. One of our permanent residents, who only months ago came to Trail Lane after years of resisting housing passed away of cancer in our care. Bob (again, not his real name) was the kindest and most gentle soul of all of our wonderful residents of Trail Lane. He would update us all on the weather, news and most importantly, baseball. The man loves baseball.I honestly believe that the excitement of both the Pirates and Redsox this fall helped him cope with his pain and fears as his condition worsened. Everyone that works at Trail Lane has a special place in their heart for Bob, so when he became too ill to receive treatment outside of the home, all of the staff showered him with the care he needed. His outstanding primary care doctor (Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center is THE BEST primary care around, I have no doubt) helped us refer him to hospice immediately upon realizing his need. All of us case managers welcomed hopsice with open arms. Their team was incredible, kind, dedicated and savvy. Hospice care was no doubt the biggest blessing of this experience for collaborative and supportive reasons. They went above and beyond to help us keep Bob home for as long as possible. When the time came for him to go inpatient for pain management, the transistion was swift and seamless, but we did not feel as though we were left behind in the action, as many family members do when something serious is happening medically. Bob desperately wanted to die at home, at Trail Lane, but we could not manage his pain well enough. I know that he is looking down at us from heaven and knows why we had to bring him to the inpatient center. Thankfully, the inpatient center was exactly what we wanted. The “feel” and comfort of Trail Lane with access of IV Dilaudid. BINGO! Thats the stuff. All of us spent time with Bob at his end of life, together and alone, sharing with him our caring, support and wishes for him to be at peace. He passed comfortably with Melody with him. by the grace of God that Bob came to us at Trail Lane, that he was able to pass away comfortably and surrounded by love. So many of our most needy do not have these blessings. We are grateful not only for hospice and comfort, but for the avoidance of the alternative. The alternative being the streets, an abandoned house or busy ER, alone, cold and in pain.