Guest Insights | Street Justice

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I am a security officer for Catholic Charities at the Marian House and Hanifen Center.   This is my title, but it does not define who I am.  I often get told, “I could not do your job,” and I think this comes from people who see the worst part of my job.  They do not get to see all sides, so that feeling is understandable.   I am lucky enough to be the recipient of hugs from beautiful little girls with smiles a mile wide.  I am fortunate enough to hear “Thank you for what you do” several times every day.  I see many of the same faces day in and day out, and most are truly grateful for what they have received.  It should go without saying, but I truly feel the rewarding part of this job far exceeds the scary side people imagine when they hear I am a security officer at the soup kitchen.  Sometimes you have to look past the torn clothes and rough exteriors to see that underneath it all, our clients are human too.

Unfortunately, with the good comes some bad.  There are stories I can and do tell of the various things I see.  As a guard, my job is to be alert and observe in an effort to de-escalate situations as best as I can when appropriate.  I have seen things that would not be acceptable in our world, but because of the environment, the behaviors are tolerated and considered “normal.”   I have learned phrases like “street justice” and have a new understanding of how tough life on the streets really is.   I think back to a situation that started as an argument over a seat in the dining room and ended with one man in the hospital and one in jail.   The situation, while seemingly very senseless, is a reminder that what seems small and insignificant may be a trigger in someone else’s world.

The actual fight over the seat occurred off-property, but the result left a lasting impact on me.  That night I prayed harder than normal because I did not have answers.  I was hurting for the man in the hospital and the innocent victim who I prayed for a speedy recovery and no permanent damage.  I prayed that he might find it in his heart to forgive and not hold a grudge against the world.  I prayed that he didn’t lose the part of himself that I got to see that day because he truly did nothing wrong.  He simply came in for a meal because he was hungry, and that decision changed his life.

For the man in jail, I prayed he could find hope because it seemed like he was running low on it that day.  I prayed that he could realize how senseless this was.  I prayed that he would understand the irrefutable damage he caused so many people.  I mostly prayed that this act was a momentary lapse of reason and not who he was as a person.

For me, I prayed for peace.  What I saw that day made me lose a bit of my faith in humanity, and that was not fair.  My job as a security officer is to protect.  Although in this case, there was nothing I could have done because this was one man’s version of “street justice.”  I still hurt and wish that somehow I could have protected that man.  While I know this is not realistic, I simply am seeking to understand something that is not understandable.  This is the part of my job that people don’t see.  The events that go straight to the heart – good and bad – and make an impact on our lives.

I am a security officer for Catholic Charities.  This allows me to see a side of the world that most people are not fortunate enough to see.  This job allows me the opportunity to protect and serve those who enter our house.  The experiences I have are often lessons that help make me a better person and, perhaps, a better guard.  But it does not define me.

Bobbie Almeida is a former security guard with Catholic Charities Marian House.

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