Jennifer Olsen gives a guest the stare-down

A moment of radical honesty

Shelter Manager Jennifer Olsen shows a guest mercy with a little bit of firm reassurance about life after the street

Washington Street Shelter Manager Jennifer Olsen listened intently to Robert. He was describing how he didn't want to move out of St. Vincent de Paul's shelter and into a different temporary housing facility where he would have a space to himself.

Jennifer heard him out, then told him bluntly what he needed to do: He needed to take the chance and take this next step in his housing journey. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. 

"He was scared because it had been so long since he had been by himself. He had been in communal living spaces in the shelter for a long time," Jennifer said.

Social work can be one of the hardest jobs out there, especially considering the weight of responsibility social workers feel in influencing the future of their clients' and guests' lives. And for guests, the trials, frustrations and complex systems leave little room for mercy. That's why the social workers at SVdP do their best to provide it themselves, often in unexpected ways. 

In a moment of mercy, Jennifer knew Robert needed firm reassurance to follow through with his plans. It was a difficult conversation, but it pushed him to grow. Jennifer says those conversations are so important because it's their job to reassure them and help them take that next step when they're scared. 

Robert took the leap. He's graduated up from Washington Street's emergency-level shelter and into temporary housing while he continues his journey toward permanent housing and hopefully, a better life.