A student, a co-worker, a person who graduated top of their class, a person escaping domestic violence, a person who moved to a new city for work, a runaway. These are just some of the faces and stories of people who experience homelessness.
I was recently privileged to participate in the “Mobilizing the Compassion, Creativity and Community to Solve Homelessness” event at Impact Hub. The event brought together members of the community, including students, business people, community organizations, homeless people, neighborhood associations, media, artists – people from different sectors who are not usually in conversation with one another – to discuss homelessness. The idea was to sow the seeds of change through human connection.
At the event, we broke into sessions, and while each session had a different focus and was composed of different people, common themes appeared including removing the shame and humility of being homeless; acknowledging the homeless; creating a cultural shift to value people based on their character rather than how much they earn; and the need for the removal of stigma. The theme that came out of every single session though was that a cultural shift could occur through the power of creativity, compassion, and community.
In the session I lead, we looked at what the causes of homelessness were. We then looked at the common themes among those causes. The common themes were privatization (jails, education, healthcare, housing, etc), stigma, discrimination, lack of education (not finishing school or lack of education/awareness on a topic), and lack of resources. Our next step was discussing how we could prevent these themes from occurring and leading to homelessness. As we wrote out our ideas we began noticing every single one of them involved bringing people together and having compassion and understanding for one another; that the issues could be solved through human connection.
Our group spoke about how in American society, individuality is praised and there is a lack of community. People are viewed as different from one another based on race, sex, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, religion, and more. People often segregate based on these groups. We then began to think of what would happen if we brought people together to create solutions to our most pressing issues. What if we brought people experiencing issues such as homeless together with those who are housed? What if we pooled our resources, shared our knowledge, and educated one another? Would this change our views? The answer is yes.
We took the discussion further and talked about how we could bring people together to share our knowledge and experience to solve these issues. Some ways we can do this are: grassroots movements; block parties; Chambers of Commerce and Town Halls to bring people and businesses together to engage in conversation on issues; communities volunteering together; activities involving the housed and homeless (i.e. community dinners); meeting your neighbors; and the creation of safe public gathering spaces. At an even more basic level we can use social media as one of the paths to educate and get the word out about events; have compassion for one another; ask questions about things we do not understand rather than being fearful and judging; have patience with our neighbors and reach out to one another.
We all have the opportunity to make a difference and change the course of our society and issues people face through simple acts, acts of kindness, and of community. By using creative ideas, mixed with compassion and community we can accomplish many things. We are the solution. The solution starts now.
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