I can't quite believe it but as of today the Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter has been operating for one full year! 365 days! This time last year we had been pulling 12-15 hour days for nearly a month trying to get the space ready and simultaneously organizing street outreach teams to find people and get them on our list. I remember being so tired and Mindy Chambers, long term advocate and Interfaith Works Board Member, saying to me "The real hard work hasn't even started yet"... and she was right!
I am overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings about what it means that we pulled this off and that it has sustained for a year already. I am also acutely aware that as the rain drenches our city and the winds have been strong for days, people--many people--are sleeping in wooded areas surrounding our neighborhoods and walking the streets all night long to stay warm. While what we have created at the shelter is beautiful, unique and effective, it is not enough.
In the coming year I hope to set my sights on balancing the daily operations of the shelter and also looking for ways to advance the conversation of economic justice in our community. How can we ensure that people never become homeless in the first place? If they do, how can we as a community make sure that it happens only for a brief period of time and once in a person's life? How can we create better programs to support people with very complex challenges in their lives to ensure that they can be successful in housing? How can we get our local government to strategize around these questions and make a commitment to invest in solutions that have been working all across the country?
Housing is a basic need, but it is also a human right. I want to work in the coming year to push our community towards a mindset that understands that when everyone has access to getting their basic needs met we are all better off.
I hope you will join us in this effort. Thank you to everyone that has helped us get this far. We are overwhelmed with gratitude.
Happy shelterversary to you all!
Meg Martin, MSW, MHP, is the Shelter Program Director for The Interfaith Works Emergency Overnight Shelter.