I started my day with a jog and intentionally ran to the White House with the mixed emotions of pride and sadness that this will probably be the last time for me to pay my respect to President Barack Obama, an elected leader for whom I have great respect and gratitude.
The final day of the National Conference to End Homelessness was characterized by continued learning and sharing of best practices. I focused on two inter-related concepts: a workshop on “Harm Reduction is Important across All (Homeless) Systems,” and an extended session on “Building Trauma-informed Organizations and Systems.”
Both are very relevant to Solid Ground in terms of how we engage and serve our clients and program participants, and in fulfillment of our core values. Being a trauma-informed organization which has harm-reduction practices/culture is of increasing importance as we go deeper in our people-centric and social justice work as set forth in our Strategic Plan.
Conference attendees were roused to their feet on two occasions at the final plenary session. We responded enthusiastically to a call to action to end all aspects of homelessness by 2020 per the goals of Opening Doors. We were emotionally moved by a very compelling and compassionate speech by Matthew Desmond who wrote the book Evicted, Poverty & Profit in the American City.
Desmond spoke to the critical importance of housing, saying that “Home is the Center of Life.” He discussed the irony that the richest nation in the world has the highest rate of poverty, and that we can’t end homelessness much less poverty unless all people have affordable, safe and healthy housing. He helped us understand the trauma of evictions and how eviction leads families and individuals deeper into poverty claiming “eviction is the result of the inevitability [of poverty], not irresponsibility.”
I leave our nation’s capital with greater appreciation for the role of the US government as a critical resource in ending homelessness and poverty, while at the same time recognizing that our various governments have also helped create and perpetuate the systems of inequity and oppression that have resulted in the US having so much poverty in the midst of so much wealth.
I leave with profound appreciation for the courageous leadership of President Obama and his administration, and hope that the next administration will continue the important anti-poverty and social justice work that is underway. Making a difference must be continued and be accelerated. I leave with pride in the work of Solid Ground and the commitment of my peers and partners who choose to serve on the All Home Coordinating Board, and the very talented staff of All Home.