March 25, 2009

Speech from Michael Blue, Bread for the City patient

We invited one of our patients, Michael Blue, to share his experience with Bread for the City today at our Groundbreaking ceremony. He did a fantastic job speaking after Delegate Norton, Councilmember Catania, et al, but by that point we were running late and I know he cut his speech short out of consideration. However, I liked his prepared remarks enough to want to share them here. Many thanks to Michael for joining us!

I'm a lifelong Washingtonian. Good gosh there aren't many things I haven’t done. I worked in the automotive field for a while, I had great health insurance there, but I left because you really have to cheat people to get by. So I went into bike messaging for 17 years, where the money was good but there were no real benefits.

And that’s how I first came here – as a courier, to pick up the DC [HealthCare] Alliance applications, which I’d then take to the Alliance. Bread for the City was one of the only stops that would have the package ready for me when I got there—and time is money for a courier, so I appreciated that. And I also came to like the feel of the place. I asked some questions and ended up as a medical patient here, then a legal client, and a food client. Now I’ve started training for my CDL (Commercial Drivers License), but in the meantime I still come here while the money isn’t flowing.

At the medical clinic I can get treatment for bike injuries, and other medical attention, but also I find here a wealth of knowledge. There’s information everywhere. From just the stuff on the walls, I learned how to read food labels. I’ve learned what it means to have high blood pressure, hypertension, high cholesterol.

And that Dr Randi: She’s woken me up. She’ll say ‘hey guy, you gotta take care of yourself.’ Pardon my French, but she’s one hell of a good doctor. Not just for her knowledge, but for her way of getting to you. She gives you one of these looks, that just gets right in to you.

My wife was sick, and we didn’t know what was wrong. She weighed just 98 pounds, and GW had her on all kinds of medications. When Dr. Randi worked with her, she focused on her diet, on her mental state. took her off of all that medication, and gave her hope instead. That did more good than all the prescriptions. Now she’s 175 pounds – a new woman! And I’m loving every inch.

At one point I’d fallen behind on rent, and my landlord was threatening to lock me out without going through due process. Dr. Randi noticed that something was wrong, that my blood pressure was high, and she asked about what was happening. I told her about my problems with the landlord, and she referred me to the legal department and they wrote a letter the next day to him, and that was that. Problem solved, and I was able to catch up on my rent. When I was having employment problems, they don’t do that work but they sure would put me in touch with someone who would, and I wouldn’t have to wait a year for it.

How you guys work in this sardine can so efficiently, I don’t know. I can get medical, legal, counseling, food, and it doesn’t take forever. It’s standing room only but the bathrooms are always spotless. And it can be a difficult clientele – people are sick, and they’re frustrated.

But the people working here aren’t just there for a job. They’re here to help. And you’re not just a problem to be solved, or put aside somehow. You’re a human being and they’re here for you.

As part of the community, this is an oasis. And word is spreading rapidly. My job keeps me in the streets, I know all kinds of people – and the need for these services is growing rapidly. People don’t have cell phones but the word gets out. There’s a lot of people who really need help, and they depend on Bread for the City. And now that it's expanding - you ain't seen nothing yet!

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