Sophie Rice-Sauer, one of Compass’s Case Managers, made a real connection with one of our guests at Otto’s Place Men’s Shelter. She wrote this piece after visiting Peter
in the nursing facility that the City of Seattle Department of Aging and Disability Services secured for him after a health scare.
Some folks really know how to leave a lasting impression. Peter was one of those people for me. Peter was referred to Otto’s Place by the Seattle Fire Department. When Peter first came to the shelter, it was clear on many levels that he may need a higher level of care than the hands-off approach our program could provide.
I saw Peter every morning, walking up and down the aisles of the second floor. The first thing I would say to him each morning was “Good morning, Peter.” Most mornings, he would look me right back in the eye and say, “Good Morning.”
Some mornings were tough. Sometimes, he might be feeling frustrated because he must wear his mask in the community living setting. Some mornings, he was angry that he couldn’t remember where he was, or wondered why he wasn’t getting the care he needed. Some mornings, Peter and I would simply look out the window, over the Sound, watching the ferries come and go.
On the tough days, Peter and I would go over his things, such as hygiene items like shampoo for cleaning his hair, and toothpaste to go with his toothbrush for washing his teeth. For whatever we were talking about, we would process it together and I’d slow things down if that would make it easier.
One day, Peter had knee pain that made it super difficult for him to move. Even with his walker, he couldn’t bend his knee, nor could he touch it lightly, it was that tender. After scheduling a same-day appointment, I got the keys to our company Astro Van, and Peter
and I drove to the clinic. The doctors at the clinic needed Peter to go to the ER to get more testing. So, we jumped back into the Astro Van and drove to the ER. Peter came back that evening after having some tests done.
It had been decided that we would discharge Peter from the shelter as this was not an appropriate place for him to be and thus, eliminating it as an option for him to return. This would make certain he would be placed somewhere with a supportive, hands-on staff, preferably in a clinical setting.
I received word that Peter had been discharged from the Hospital and placed in a nursing facility in town. This was huge news as he would be getting the care he deserves. It was also shared that Peter was approved for supportive services that would help him access the care and resources he needed to find some stability again. Sometimes, the beauty is simply in getting someone access to the care they need.
I was curious if I could visit Peter, as he and I had been through a lot together at the shelter. Some of the residents who knew Peter kept asking about him and wanted to know if he was doing all right. While I didn’t have much to share, and couldn’t share anything specific, I insisted he was getting the care he deserves. After getting approved for a visit, I made up a card for him and asked the residents who had asked about him if they’d like to send him a message. The residents were thrilled to write him a note and happy to hear I was going to visit him.
Thinking back to how tough those days were with Peter in the shelter and how well he’s doing now in the setting he’s in, it’s hard not to become emotional.
Community happens where we build it, where we nurture it, and it benefits every single one of us.
Seeing him for the first time since I said “see you later” to him as he was leaving the shelter on a gurney was really something else. He was healing and cared for, he was happy and eager to have a visitor. He looked healthy; he looked better.
His eyes sparkled, and he smiled and welcomed me into his room. Peter and I sat together for a little over an hour. I gave him the card that was signed by his community. After seeing him struggle a bit with the text, I asked him if he’d like me to read it to him and he said yes. After each entry, he’d let out this exuberant “Ah wow.” In some moments, he’d share how he was doing and how much better he was feeling. Some moments would be silent, and he and I would just sit together, looking out the window at the trees and sharing space. He was so happy to have a visitor there, and I was so happy to see him where he was taken care of.
Peter and I kept in touch, and I got to visit him a second time. He was just as thrilled to see me and called me out by name.
Again, I had put together a card for the residents at the shelter to sign, and I read them all out loud to Peter. His smile was so big. He thanked me for visiting and we ended our meeting with a hug.