Tuesday, May 3, 2011

They're Not Homeless Once They Have a Home!

Last year was a very momentous and challenging year at CitySquare. There were a number of important decisions we had to make, including what to do about some what I've heard described as 'legacy programs'. The continuation of our plans for our organization's future meant that we were going to have to decide whether or not to continue some of our older programs or whether we had accomplished enough to allow us to put our resources elsewhere. After much difficult organizational soul searching, we decided that we had done as much as we could reasonably do in the Roseland Homes Public Housing Community and to deploy the resources to other areas of CitySquare.

Those resources included human resources. One of the smartest decisions we made, was to reassign Dr. Janet Morrison from Director of Education to Director of Community Life at CityWalk@Akard. Janet's passion for our neighbors, her understanding of what it means to partner with our neighbors as they seek to make their lives better - becoming friends with them, being resource for them and encouraging them - embodies the core philosophy of CitySquare's work.

Janet's blog post today, however, shows that changing the trajectory of people's lives, means educating our more fortunate neighbors throughout Dallas that the people with whom we work really are not that much different than any of the rest of us. It's a most important lesson for those who like to keep issues like homelessness and poverty at a psychological and even spiritual arms length.

To put it another way: our attitude and concept of what it means 'to help' changes, when we stop stereotyping people.

"I've mentioned that I love working at CityWalk@Akard. The diversity is amazing. To me, CityWalk is an ideal community because of it's diversity...something the large majority of communities don't have."

"Ethnicities ranging from White to Black to Asian to African to Hispanic? Check."

"Education levels from low adult literacy levels to college degrees? Check."

"Talents from musicians to engineers to aspiring attorneys to nurses? Check."

"Multiple socioeconomic levels...and multiple stages of life? Check."

"Older, retired and/or disabled as well as young kids? Check."

"It's a neat community to meet and connect with people. Every person I have met so far is trying to do better...no matter what their situation. They're trying to help out, earn more money, manage what they have, get involved, build their community..."

"...Yet, the part I hear a lot of people focus on most is, "So there are homeless people?" Sometimes it is said with the best of intentions. The person saying it seems to be excited that there are homeless people that can be "helped." Other times, it is a frustration by someone who maybe has moved into the building unaware that there are "homeless" people who also live there..."

"I can't understand why these things are met with paternalism, condescension, or stigma. Yes, sometimes people have messed up. Other times...and for some people, that messing up has been entirely out of their control. CityWalk is and should be a place where anyone can come and be around "family" no matter what their situation."

"I know rich people who have mental illnesses. The only difference is that they have a support system around them to help them take their medications on time and ensure they are as well as can be."

"I know people of all ethnicities and socioeconomic levels who don't manage their money well and would be better off having taken our YWCA Financial Education class."

"I know stubborn people of all sectors who refuse to see doctors when they should...and sometimes make things worse as a result. The only difference is that they have the insurance and money to pay for the care once they get to that point."

"I know people in my own family who have used drugs and even got busted. They, too, had some tough life situations that led them down that path. The ultimate difference? They had a family structure with enough connections and credibility to keep them out of jail and help them feel loved and supported until they could turn their situation around."

"The people at CityWalk are no different than any other place!"

Read the rest of Janet's post here. It'll do you good!

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