Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesdays with Dorothy: Finding My Way in the City

(This is part of a series. For Table of Contents go here)
< Previous post                                                                                                                     Next post >

A view of the Birmingham city skyline - photo taken from Argyle Road

There is so much involved in learning to live independently: managing your money and paying bills, keeping your belongings safe, buying and preparing food, shopping for clothes and keeping them clean, attending to health needs and doctor visits, keeping your living quarters clean and safe. So much of what we consider to be independent living is taken for granted by most of us, but for people with disabilities, daily obstacles and frustrations can abound.

The Women's Group Home (left)
next door to the Intermediate
Group Home (right)
The work of the St. Andrew’s Foundation involved assessing each resident’s needs and capabilities and then plotting a habilitation plan. Each resident had his or her own teaching and training plan to address the skills they needed to acquire and things they needed to learn in order to live more independently. For one resident, a training plan might involve helping them to learn to take the bus to a sheltered workshop, for another it might be guided instruction in operating a washing machine. For yet another, their program might include a step by step behavioral program to get them to brush their teeth each day.

Not every resident at the group homes would be able to transition to independent living or even to a staff-supervised apartment, but the goal was to allow each person to live as normal a life as possible with as much independence as possible. I knew what the process was like from a staff member’s point of view, but as I spoke with Dorothy about her life, I was interested in hearing about the process from her point of view. Here are some things she had to say about her new life and training at the group homes.  You’ll see that she didn’t get along with every staff person in the process, but isn’t that the way it is with all of us, even under the best of circumstances?

Life on Southside

I used to walk all the way downtown by myself when we were in that group home. I could go down town and shop and get ice cream and stuff. You could go in those picture booths and take your picture for a quarter. You could have coffee, I just enjoyed doing it.  Sometimes I’d take the bus and go down to Pizitz Bakery and order my birthday cakes.

[At the group home] I learnt how to operate a coin laundry, how to clean floors, how to go around and make sure everybody else cleaned up. I started out at Goodwill [Industries] but I didn’t really like going over there. I was there about two or three months and then I quit.

Some of My Teachers at the Group Homes

I came to Birmingham April the eighth 1975. I moved into the Women’s Group Home at 1124 with Jim and Cathy [group home coordinators] . She was a little old Irish girl, and I mean she had one more temper. Me and her didn’t get along too good. I tried everything I could to stay out of her way.

I didn’t care much for Cathy. She was a little ol’ young thing and I thought she was really a spit-fire. I liked Jim and I liked Edsel and Francis and Faye.  I remember one time I got on the bus, I was supposed to be going to the library downtown. I ended up way down on Vanderbilt [Road] near that bridge, and I didn’t have no way of getting back. It so happened that a man came along and I told him and he took me down to the library downtown. Cathy found it out and she got so mad. She said “You don’t even know how to ride the bus. I oughtta knew you didn’t have no better sense.” That night we went to a movie over on Greensprings. She said, “Are you going to get your money out, Dorothy, or are you just going to stand there?”

That made me mad. I said “Well, I’m not going to stand here!” I said to her, “I’ll never go with you nowhere else again.” She told me to shut up and I said, “I don’t have to. So help me Jesus I’ll never go with you to another movie or anywhere else.” And I didn’t go with her ever again.

They showed us how to shop for our groceries. I’d walk on through the store and they couldn’t even catch up with me. I still like to go shopping!

At 1124 [the Women’s Group Home] me and Dorothy Goldberg were roommates, then it was me and Virginia Sherrer when I moved into 1116 [the Intermediate Group Home]. Everywhere I went, I really liked to room by myself. Just like now when I have to go into the hospital I ask for my own room.

They tried to teach me how to manage my money. I would get my money and I wouldn’t even think, I’d just go out and spend it. Sometimes I’d run out of money before the end of the month.

*    *    *    *

Next time we will hear more from Dorothy about activities in the community.

<Previous post                                                                                                            Next post >


1 comment:

  1. I've never lived in the city. Well, I didn't live in an apartment in Centerpoint for a few months before I got drafted.
    We didn't do a lot of cooking or cleaning there. We got kicked out early one Thursday morning after an unfortunate encounter with the apartment manager. Apparently she took a dim view of impromptu parties during the week.
    I've enjoyed your posts.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...