The World: Week 9 Micro Essay

She is 11 and suffers from seizures. She has been at the shelter since mid-January. She walks down a hallway to her room inside a cottage at Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa on Wednesday, June 13, 2016. The shelter was closing down, but in the recent weeks there have been more and more children arriving at the shelter. As long as there are children in need of the shelter, it will not close.

At age 8, he has been in and out of the Laura Dester Shelter three times. Once at 3, once at 5, and now. He lays on a couch in an intake room inside Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa in Wednesday, June 13, 2016.

Playroom at Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa on Wednesday, June 13, 2016. The shelter was closing down, but in the recent weeks there have been more and more children arriving at the shelter.

Gwendolyn Crisp, direct care specialist at Laura Dester Shelter for three years, sits for a portrait inside a play room on the campus in Tulsa on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. “I felt sad when I hear the shelter was closing down,” Crisp said. “I was concerned about where the kids would go.”

A 11 year old boy was brought to the shelter last night with his brother from their home. He sits inside Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa for a portrait on Wednesday, June 13, 2016. The shelter was closing down, but in the recent weeks there have been more and more children arriving at the shelter. As long as there are children in need of the shelter, it will not close.  ”They have fun places here and xbox. This place is happy,” he said.

An 11 year old girl’s personal items sit on her windowsill in her bedroom at Laura Dester Shelter on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

Bill Waller, programs administrator at Laura Dester Shelter, stands for a portrait on Wednesday, June 13, 2016.

A 15 year old boy has been at the shelter for a few months. He suffered from autism and is not very steady on his feet so he sits in a wheelchair on Wednesday, June 13, 2016. The shelter was closing down, but in the recent weeks there have been more and more children arriving at the shelter. As long as there are children in need of the shelter, it will not close. “For the first week he was here I didn’t know he could walk ” Theresa Huffman, nurse at Laura Dester said. “We were supposed to be closing down but then we started getting more and more developmentally delayed kids. In the last week we’ve been getting more and now half of population has developmental disabilities.”

A 13 year old girl who came to the Laura Dester Shelter in mid-April when Roserock, a home for children with autism, closed down due to budget cuts, stands in a room in a cottage at Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

Kellie Duvall, social worker at Laura Dester Shelter for four years, plays with a ball with a resident on the  in a cottage on the campus in Tulsa on Wednesday, July 13, 2016.

A ten year old who arrived last night with his two older brothers hides under his covers in his room at Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa on Wednesday, June 13, 2016.

Denise Meadows has worked at Laura Dester Shelter for five years as a direct care specialist. She sits for a portrait inside Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa on Wednesday, June 13, 2016. The shelter was closing down, but in the recent weeks there have been more and more children arriving at the shelter. As long as there are children in need of the shelter, it will not close.  ”I really hated that it was closing because of the safety it provides for the children,” she said.

The gym at Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa on Wednesday, June 13, 2016.

Playroom at Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa on Wednesday, June 13, 2016.

Nathan Edwards, a direct care specialist at Laura Dester Shelter for two years, sits for a portrait in an intake room on the campus in Tulsa on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. “When we thought we might be closing we got that question a lot from the kids, where will we go?” Edwards said. “It We spend so much time with the kids. Anytime I talk about them I call them my boys or my kids. I think of them as my own. I’d be ready to defend them as much as I would my own kids.”

Phyllis Williams, a direct care specialist at Laura Dester Shelter for 7 years, cleans a counter while speaking to a resident in one of the cottages on the campus in Tulsa on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. “I was heartbroken when I heard the shelter was going to close,” Williams said. “Heartbroken. It hurt me because I was thinking about the kids. They are just like my babies. That’s how I look at them. They are my babies. This is like heaven for them. It’s a safe place.”

A 10 year old who arrived last night with his two older brothers walks into his room at Laura Dester Shelter in Tulsa on Wednesday, June 13, 2016.

I had an assignment last week where you walk in not excited because you think you’re just taking pictures of empty rooms, but then realize how big the story actually is. I ended up staying at the Laura Dester Shelter all day. I made a little micro essay about it. Here’s what I wrote:

When I arrived at the Laura Dester Shelter for an assignment Wednesday, I met three brothers, ages 10, 11 and 12, who had just arrived at the shelter the night before. They wanted more than anything for me to dance with them, take their picture and play on my iPhone.

The Tulsa shelter for abused and neglected children is expected to close around January. When I asked the boys what they liked about the shelter, the middle brother told me: “They have fun places here and Xbox. This place is happy.”

“This is like heaven for them,” said Phyllis Williams, a direct care specialist at Laura Dester Shelter. “It’s a safe place.”

I could see that. Though these children had differing backstories, you could see how much they would light up being around people who cared about them.

Williams cares so much for one of the girls she takes care of every day, that she wishes she could foster her in her own home.

I wish everyone could see how great the staff works with the children. How Phyllis Williams knows before anyone else that one of the girls doesn’t feel well and might have a seizure. How the three brothers joke and dance and say they want to marry a tomato.

I wish they could see the immense value that this place holds, not just for the children, but for everyone who walks through its doors.


You can see how to World ran it, though for some reason it says it was by my boss John Clanton, here: http://www.tulsaworld.com/seen-the-kids-at-laura-dester/article_9b9eef3c-fa22-50f5-8e27-2039b75633aa.html

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