I want to brag on our community for a minute. We have a community made up of people who have experienced some of the most difficult circumstances you can imagine. Health issues, mental/physical/emotional/spiritual/sexual abuse, family rejection, financial hardship, etc. Some of us have been through stuff that would take an average person out entirely. But we have coped. More than that, we have maintained our humanity, our dignity, and our compassion for others. We have hardships in common but what makes us community is our care for each other.
Each Wednesday at 2pm we have Support Group. It’s an open forum where we can talk honestly about what’s going on in our lives, the challenges we are facing, the successes we are celebrating, the ways we are trying to cope, to thrive, to live. We also enjoy milk and cookies together because we’ve already had a good meal (our shared community meal is at 11:30am on Wednesday, you should come) and we just want a little something to snack on while we chat. It is one of my favorite moments of the week. I always hear something really encouraging in Support Group. I often get my heart broken too.
We’ve described homelessness as a series of losses. A similar way to say that is experiencing homelessness is like walking a path, one with unexpected turns and unforeseen difficulties. What happens in Support Group (and at other times too) is people who have walked this path take time and give care to help others navigate parts of the path they have already walked and learned to handle. Several of our most active community members are people who are no longer homeless and have a deep passion to help those who are going through the difficulties they know all too well.
I have seen community members help each other with: navigating the agencies that offer help, deciphering Raleigh’s tricky bus system, finding and maintaining campsites, getting affordable housing, landing and keeping a job while homeless, handling relationship stress, etc. People who are just starting on the path often come to the office with lots of questions. I have learned the best thing I can do is invite them to Support Group and introduce them to some of our regulars. Experiencing homelessness is like anything else, you start out not knowing how to do it, and you don’t even know all that you don’t know.
Here at the Love Wins CEC, we have seasoned practitioners who will kindly and gladly teach you how to be homeless, how to walk the path before you all the way to its end. It’s not a path you choose when you have better options and that is precisely the reason it is good not to have to walk it alone. We walk the path together because the way through the experience of homelessness, the way past it, the opposite of it, is community.