The captain, the crew, the cargo

I spent time down at the police station to be fingerprinted this morning. After, the four of us new volunteers went with Amy for some team building exercises. It was a good time to bond, but also to see how I work in group situations. There are definitely moments where I lead and direct, and times when I follow. Over the years I’ve been told I lead by example. She related all of the games and activities we made to our time at La Puente the next year and gave me a lot to think about.

This afternoon we helped out with the Point in Time count. I was at the Food Bank and asking each person who walked in if they were experiencing any difficulties with their housing situation. If they said yes, I then proceeded to ask them if they were homeless and slept out on the streets on the night of Tuesday, January 22. Here’s what I found: Many of them are indeed experiencing difficulties with their housing, especially with their heating bills. One gentleman expressed to me his grief. He and the other members of the household had been laid off of work and cannot find new jobs. They are short $100 for rent and are currently being evicted from their home. They will be homeless by tomorrow, he told me. 2/3 of those I spoke to replied that they were indeed homeless, but that they stayed with friends or family on Tuesday, January 22. (Remember, it’s too cold to sleep out on the streets in the Valley.) Staying at someone’s home automatically removes them from being eligible to participate in the homeless count, despite the fact that they are technically still homeless. What’s the problem with this? The problem is the recorded numbers of homelessness in the Valley have remained stagnant over the last 10+ years. To the government it looks as though homelessness is no worse than before, when in fact it is increasing each year. It was really frustrating to me how Colorado Coalition for Homeless is defining homelessness and how the survey is laid out. First, it asked where they slept Tuesday night and who they were with, age, gender, etc. There were all these personal questions asked including, do you suffer from Substance Abuse, Mental Illness, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Domestic Violence, Chronic Physical Illness, or HIV/Aids? When I filled out the survey for another gentleman I automatically assumed he was in the over 24 category. He looked like he was in his mid-30s. He stops me and says, no, I’m only 21. I was shocked at this, that’s how old I am right now and he doesn’t look my age at all. His image is still engraved in my mind as I write this.

This will be one of the most challenging years of my life. I’m going to be pushed and pulled and stretched in so many ways—and I cannot wait. There’s going to be times where I wish I could do more to help—maybe feel like I’ve failed by not being able to do just a little bit more—but ultimately there’s only so much one can do. Homelessness isn’t going to end in the next year I’m here, and unemployment is still going to be near 25% in the Valley during the winter. But I can already tell you I care about these people, and I want to do what I can with the amount of time and energy I have here—to try and make a difference.
I find I love writing on post-it notes. It’s small enough you can only write one or two things, and the person can transfer it to wherever they’d like. I just posted one to the mirror in the bathroom saying, “Smile! Good Morning!” to my roommates who will wake up before me. It’s the little things, right?
My thought of the day: Sometimes you’re the captain, sometimes the crew, and sometimes you’re just the cargo. Value and embrace whatever role you’re in, but don’t be afraid to change roles when the time is right. Realize that without the cargo, what’s the point in navigating the ship anywhere?
Background check. First time being fingerprinted:

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View walking from La Puente Home to Food Bank.20130124-003900.jpg

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