No Homeless. Those are two words that you can take in two different ways. A few weeks back these words were spray painted on a local church. The church is looking to lease their land to an organization that wants to build an assisted living complex and many of the local residents are against it.
No Homeless. The other way to look at these words is in a positive way; the end of homelessness. There are several residents who support this project and it's encouraging to see as our city is in year 4 of a 10 year plan to end homelessness.
Since this program was announced it has been a heated debate. Many times I've had to walk away from the computer, put down my phone, or close my mouth for fear I'll upset friends I care about. The hardest part is that even though I use this community on a daily basis, I don't actually live in it. It makes me feel that I don't have as much of a say because no, it is not technically in my backyard. But I do want to say that it would be welcome in my backyard. Some may not believe me when I say this but it is true. Even my husband said he'd have no problem with it.
Because I had the privilege of working for an organization that helps the homeless through shelter, employment, education, and assisted living. I was able to see first-hand how amazing these programs are, the life-changing work they do, and the kindred souls who use these programs.
Did I start out feeling this way about the homeless and working poor? No. It took time, education, an open mind and an open heart.
I implore the people of this city to stop bickering, stop fear mongering, stop putting each other down; we are all in this together. Instead, let's take the time to get educated with an open mind and open heart.
There's many ways to educate yourself on those that need assisted living. The easiest way to get started is to read this blog from the Mustard Seed. Specifically you can get started with an article from June 2012, written by a friend of mine called Why People Are Homeless and work from there.
Check out the link above under 10 Year Plan. It will give you tonnes of stats, and information about our city's 10 year plan to end homelessness. I also really like this page on Causes and Myths
If you want to dig a little deeper then call one of the local shelters and ask for a tour. It's 30 minutes - 1 hour out of your time that can help you to understand homelessness. I'd even suggest calling those with assisted living/transitional housing programs so you get an even clearer picture. Most of these organizations jump at the chance to show you the progress being made.
And if you really want the whole shebang ask one of these organizations if you can speak with someone who was formerly homeless. I dare you not to cry when you meet them and hear their story. Good tears, or sad tears, you will cry.
When working with the homeless one of my former bosses used to always say 'I hope to work myself out of a job'. I never forgot this as shouldn't this be the end goal of every non-profit? But to get to this point we, as a community, need to support one another. Let's try to make this a great city for everyone who lives here.
Take the time, educate yourself, open your mind, open your heart.