27 May 2015

Her name was Tarra

I came home the other night to find a woman sitting beside my driveway. She seemed confused, and so I asked if I could help, even if I didn't really know how. I used to know - but I had left behind all of the contacts and resources I once knew in Amsterdam. But my time in Oudezijds 100 (and with the vrouwenpastoraat [women's pastorate]) had left me with the conviction that one helps, even if only through reaching out.

I offered her a ride somewhere. As I went in to tell Matthijs, she came in with me. She sat on our couch and told us a bit of her story. She seemed confused and conflicted; furthermore, she had a black eye and had been drinking. We listened. I prayed. When I went out with her for a smoke, Matthijs called Catholic services to see if they knew how we could better help her.

Someone was sent. We gave her food while we waited for help from outside. The help turned out to be the police, perhaps the only option on a holiday weekend, but probably not the best fit for someone in her shape. When he came he asked immediately for her name, and it was only then that I discovered it was Tarra. I felt bad, having forgotten that learning someone's name is as much an act of hospitality as inviting them in.

The police tried to convince her to go to a nearby women's shelter, which I also thought good. And she was ready to go, but she got spooked. Perhaps this is not surprising, as she seemed more willing to trust me, whom she'd just met, than the police. She admitted her life was messed up because of her own decisions, but wasn't sure how to make other decisions, or even if it was safe to. And as for other solutions? The police refused to take her back to Kalamazoo Street, which she requested, as he believed this to be an unsafe place for her. Even Tarra, who is not from the area, understood the problem: Kalamazoo street is where prostitution happens. How could he bring her back to that area, even if she claimed it was where a friend had an apartment? What real friends give black eyes, anyways?

And so the police left, without her. And Matthijs and I were left confused about how best to help Tarra. I didn't feel comfortable inviting her into our house to stay the night, although perhaps we will find a way (through community?) to be able to do that in the future. So instead I walked down the street with her for awhile, let her talk to her mom on my phone, wished her well and continued to pray. Pray that perhaps the next encounter with someone will go better and she will seek and find more lasting help.

No comments: