Belle Park Journey
Pandemic --> Delivery Directory --> Economic Recovery Sass --> Belle Park Community Advocate
My mantra is 'It's All Part of the Adventure', words tattooed on my forearm to remind myself that when things don't go quite as planned, something better is in the works. I embrace the adventure path, and welcome opportunities to see or explore areas I haven't experienced before. My current journey is not something I would have imagined 2 or 3 months ago.
The Kingston Delivers website is a bit of a mashup right now, and that's ok. What started as a way to help people stay home during the pandemic, has lead me on a journey meeting amazing people who are between homes. While the focus of my efforts has been at Belle Park, with the assistance of other generous helpers, I have gathered stories from homeless people all over Kingston. Ingrained in all of the stories, are pivotal moments, where an injection of care could have helped someone choose a healthier or more successful path.
With your help, I chose to use the $714.13 generated through our economic recovery sass to offer some personalized care to those between homes. The requests I received, after some coaxing, and assurance I would follow through, have included simple things - cold Coke, Mint Aero bars, a strawberry milkshake, manicotti, power banks, storage totes, safe haven for a family, and yesterday, a cherry cheesecake birthday cake. Smiles and thank you's are abundant.
Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, not one of the people I've encountered want to live in a tent. They all want clean, safe affordable homes. Some people want to live in urban dwellings, many want the connection to nature they're experiencing at Belle Park. Some people need the space to be loud, some need to be with their support animals, some need to be part of a family community, all need to be treated as individuals with unique needs.
Along with housing solutions, we must improve support systems, and ensure those designing and working within those systems are operating in service to their clients. As I meet people providing supports, I can see and hear the frustrations of wanting to do more, of seeing better ways to help. Designers and funders of these support systems need to do a better job of listening and empowering those on the frontlines to provide individualized care.
Homelessness is a complex issue, requiring many helpers from a full spectrum of experiences. While Mr. Rogers encouraged us to look for the helpers during times of crises, it's time for everyone to dig deeper, and be the helper. Ideas:
See people for their abilities.
Give your time to someone struggling, listen to their stories and offer words of support and encouragement.
Traverse support systems with someone struggling, assist, learn and suggest areas for improvement to the providers.
Before funding a support organization, explore it. Is the organization transparent, progressive, adaptive? Does it encourage client independence? Does it have a mandate to cease operating once its focus area has been solved?
Research best practices and advocate for improvements. There is always room for improvement.
Care. Apathy hurts our most vulnerable.
What ideas do you have? Comments have been left open on this blog so you can share.