We'll be asking Jordan Green, the Alliance Executive Director, a series of questions over the next month or so. Here's question number one and two!
What's the biggest challenge facing the homeless population in Walla Walla?
I believe that the biggest challenge our homeless face is one of perception. Primarily the perception people have of them. The perception of the kind of person they are, the mistakes they have made, how they brought this life upon themselves, and how they need to be punished for this behavior in order to get them out of it.
I'm increasingly of the belief that the people we serve need encouragement and direction over punishment and discipline. Many homeless people (especially those who have been experiencing it for years), live in an echo chamber of opinions, judgement, and punitive measures to the point that they have no effect. Direction, structure, and consistency are vital to helping people get back on track. We all need to be corrected and set back on the right path from time to time, but how that correction is delivered can be life-changing.
When you've lived a life full of punishment, negativity, and being told you're not capable...more of the same will serve no purpose. Now, begin speaking positivity and encouragement into the life of someone who's rarely received it, and you can see the results stack up. Just like we do when a friend or family member stumbles in life, the homeless need a helping hand and a cheerleader as they work to overcome and get back on top. The knowledge that someone cares that much is a life-changing reality that every human deserves to experience.
What's the number one thing Walla Wallan's can do to help?
And Jordan's answer is....
The number one thing is to listen.
I know this isn't particularly profound, but it's becoming a lost art. In the era of opinions and everyone having a social media platform, the art of listening is quickly becoming lost. We seek to be reinforced and confirmed rather than seeking to be taught. We look for comfort over transformation.
This all comes back to my last post about perception. If we don't take the time to listen, that perception will never change. This means we become stuck in our own head, our own bubble, and we miss out on the world around us. We lose out on helping others, on being helped, on learning something new. If we let that happen, then we risk living a life devoid of real purpose and impact.
Our homeless populations have a story to tell. Some stories will shock and amaze you, some will feel predictable, but most will change your view in some way. There are so many factors to homelessness that it can be easier to just sit in our assumptions, than to listen. If we take the time to listen then we may be able to make a difference.
In this day and age, this idea may really be more profound than it should be and probably falls into "simple, but not easy"...but take the time to listen. Find someone who you would normally have looked past and take a shot at listening. Listening, purely for the opportunity to become informed. See how that changes your perception this week.