I was telling someone what we do at the CEC and one question the person had was why do people experience homelessness. I offered some of the common causes – lack of affordable housing, mental illness, drug addiction, criminal records, and tried to explain the series of losses that make up the process. My acquaintance thought for a moment and then said, “Sounds like some of them just need some support.” That’s good insight. Many of us at Love Wins have gone through a lot of turmoil and challenges with little or no support from family or community. Some of us have no family. I’ll never forget when Jane told me she had grown up in foster care. “I lived with 12 families in 10 years,” she said, “I was raised by strangers.” Some of us have been utterly rejected by our families, either because they can’t handle our mental or physical limitations, or for not fitting often narrowly constructed identity expectations… okay, we’re gay.
The kind of support we’re talking about, what my new friend intuitively thought of, isn’t something that comes only through programs, systems, or institutions. It’s more personal, more adaptive, more situational than that. In other words, it’s the kind of support you only get in community, when you know there are people who have your back when things go well, and especially when things go sideways (like they tend to do). Since our primary mission is to build community, we wind up doing a lot of unplanned things that lend support just when and where it’s needed. I noticed this dynamic at work in a number of recent happenings here at the CEC.
Martin and David got new jobs last week. We rooted for them. Gave each a pep talk before their interviews. Made sure they looked their best. Watched their stuff while they went (showing up to an interview with all your possessions doesn’t make a great impression). And then celebrated with them when they got the jobs and talked through the logistics of getting to work and succeeding in these new endeavors. If you’ve ever called your dad, mom, sibling, friend, or partner before and after a big job interview, you’ve gotten this same kind of support. You knew they had your back win or lose. Even them saying all the things you already knew helped (all great pep talks are obvious and redundant and no less great for it). You heard their love and care in what they said and how excited for you they were.
We did the same sort of thing with Bree last week, except she’s taking her custom blended oils to market as an entrepreneur. Bree designed and hand drew her own business card and was in the process of making many hand copies to give out. We figured out the cost of printing a bunch of them was $15 and then (unasked for) a collection went around the CEC and we as a community paid for them to help get her business rolling. (We change all names to protect our community members, but if you’re in the market for the best custom blended oils, contact us, we’ll connect you with Bree.)
We found out last week that there was a warrant out for James for failure to appear in court. We also learned that on the date James failed to appear, he was in jail in Wake County. Since all that trouble, James has gotten his life together. He sleeps inside now. He volunteers at the CEC. He is doing well all the way around and the very last thing he needs right now is another stint in jail (especially for no good reason). When James came to me with this situation last week, all the calm he had been building for months vanished. He was anxious, nervous, scared. From his perspective, interactions with our justice have never been fair to him; no one has had his back. So I thew out a call on my Facebook feed and a kind lawyer (a friend of a friend) went to bat for James and is working to clear it up. It’s not resolved yet and I still have a pit in my stomach about it but James seems totally relaxed about it. He knows we’ve got his back, and even though that’s a new feeling for James, he’s taken to it like a duck to water. It feels good, right, and natural knowing come what may, you have friends who will stick up for you, advocate for you, keep their promises, and have your back.