The topic of homelessness is a big one. And whatever reading and I research I do reveals it to be more intractible and pervasive than I could ever imagined. Even though I work ‘in the business’.
But I am learning lots, and in the process discovering just how much I can take in one day, and still come out on the side of thinking that people living in precarious situations can find solutions to their problems.
And that I can develop the tone and establish the boundaries for what I need to share in the book.
I’ve now implemented a bit of a schedule so I can manage both my work and my emotions.
1. In any given week I alternate research and writing about the complexities of the issue, with a close look at all the good that organizations and individuals are doing.
Today I learned about Netherlands inventor’s Bas Timmer’s ‘Sheltersuit’ – which has already been distributed to 6,000 homeless people in the Netherlands and Europe, and asylum seekers in Sarajevo and Greece.
2. The issue of homelessness is huge in my community of Nanaimo. And there are many social network platforms where this – and other social issues – are heatedly discussed. I’ve withdrawn from all the groups which attract the most vitriol and negative thinking about the causes and conditions of homelessness, and those affected by it.
Being exposed to such mean spiritedness does nothing to help me frame the subject in a way that meets my goals of ‘providing information, challenging attitudes and encouraging empathy’.
(Although the ‘Myth Buster ‘sidebars in the book will address a number of common misconceptions I hear voiced over and over again.)
3. I alternate work sessions with other non-book related activities. Starting with a ninety-minute work session early in the morning, another ninety minutes in late morning or early afternoon, then again in the evening. In between I do some work, (also homelessness-related, but very specific work that makes a difference in 30 shelter guests’ lives every day), read a book, do an errand, take a walk, make a meal…
4. When I’m out and about in the community I do the one thing I recommend everyone try once in a while. Connect with someone on the street – with a smile, a quick conversation, a small donation.
Many people who live on the street say that the human interaction is just as important to them as whatever donations of cash or food they might receive.