In the Valley of Dry Bones

In the Valley of Dry Bones

There is a valley that is so deep and so dark that people simply fall away into nothingness in it.  I met Janet yesterday and she was a resident of that valley.  She is 23, very frail, insulin dependent and needing dialysis treatments.  I don’t know the “why” of that, but I can guess from others I’ve seen in this valley that her descent into the valley began with pills and really caught speed with spoons and needles.  She was in and out of foster homes most her young life, and finally ran away in another state at 17.  She came here hoping to connect with some distant relatives who turned out to be too distant to care.  What has she been doing to stay alive these past six years? I don’t know, but I can guess.  When I met her yesterday she was desperate.  She was living with a man she referred to as her “uncle, but not my real uncle”.  My guess is that he is pimping her out. The man would swap her insulin for sex.  When she would protest, he would force himself on her.  Usually he’d be drunk or high.  He is a very large man…much like another large man I remember in another valley called Elah.  She has no ID and no social security card and no money and no phone and no transportation and no energy.  When I had her call the Women’s Hotline on my cell phone to see about getting her out of that situation and into a shelter, the intake person on the line asked her if she had ID.  Janet said, “No”.  The woman asked if she had a social security card.  Janet said, “No”.  The woman said, “What do you mean you don’t have a social security card. How can you not have a social security card?” Janet said, “I have been homeless and have had all of my stuff stolen in every place I’ve ever been sleeping.  I don’t have nothing!!”  The woman told her that she couldn’t get into a women’s shelter without ID. Janet said, “I can’t get ID because I got no social security card, and I got no money, and I got no way to get to the DMV.”  Janet explained her situation to the woman.  The woman asked why Janet hasn’t called the police.  Janet depends on the man to get to and from dialysis and for money for insulin.  Janet’s name isn’t on the lease.  She has no legal standing in that house.  She is also scared to death of him.  If she doesn’t do exactly what he tells her to do, he withholds her meds. The last time she called the police, the police made no arrest, and the man beat her to a pulp after the police left and threatened to kill her if she ever reported him again.  She has no ID, no social security card, no family, no transportation or money for a bus pass, no phone or money for phone calls, no job or apparent job skills, nowhere to turn.  If he killed her, the chances are that no one would even know.  The police would have no way to even identify the body.  He knows that.  She knows that.  The woman on the line said, “We have no beds right now.”  Janet asked if she would call when one opened up.  The woman replied, “We don’t do that.” And then the woman hung up.  It occurred to me in that moment that are a thousand Janets all around her in this part of the city…scattered around this valley.

The Lord set us down in that valley of dry bones and said, “Little man, can you make these bones live?”  I could offer no response.



  1. Sam Said:

    My heart is broken, but I have heard that story several times myself. How do you help the ones that really can’t help themselves? I know the steps, I have tried to help others to walk the steps, but when the doors that are supposed to help you slam shut in your face, how do you re-open them, or where can you find another one open?
    I am with you brother, I can offer no response.

  2. I never did find a shelter in the city that would take her. So many people think, “Oh there’s plenty of shelters. These women can just go to one of those.” It’s crazy what people think. There are very few shelters that will even take single women at all – ID or no ID.

    We took this one out of her situation today (thankfully without violence), and put her on a sofa in our underground women’s network. The guy won’t be able to find her there, but he’s only part of the problem. This child is pretty far down the road to hell. She’s got a monkey on her back for sure, and we haven’t even begun to know what else she’s into and up against. She can stay there long enough for us to get her some ID and let her get some strength back if she has any strength to get back. I have no idea whether she will make it or not. All the odds are against her. If she’s on dialysis, it’s because her kidneys aren’t functioning. She’s 23, which means that’s probably the result of IV drug use, which means she’s not likely to get on a list to receive a kidney. She’s got no family that would give her one. Like you, Sam, we do what we can where we are with what we have. The rest is up to God. My heart breaks, too.

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