Trauma-informed, Relational Approach

By Georgia Hiatt, Intern

Two weeks ago I pulled the overnight shift at one of our resource shelters. I am happy to pull my weight, and I volunteered to do so. Still, I did not particularly want to. I was anxious that I would not sleep well. I often have trouble falling asleep and knew it would be difficult in an unfamiliar environment. I looked forward to getting to better know some of our friends, but I was still nervous about making small-talk. Crowds can overwhelm me at times, even with the skills I have developed for living with anxiety. Some of our friends have told me they avoid shelters for these same reasons.

Even with my anxiety about the night, I knew I would be okay because it was not my first night sleeping in a shelter and anxiety has not killed me yet. Also, I was able to feel safe, despite my anxieties, because I trust my friends at Open Table Nashville. I knew if I needed to leave, the staff would have supported me in that. It’s exactly this trauma-informed and relational approach that attracted me to Open Table Nashville in the first place.

I went out canvassing one-night last winter and was floored. Open Table Nashville seemed to have mapped out all the camps in the city, and the outreach worker I was paired with appeared to know every one of our friends on the street. I thought about my life and the healing I’ve received through the cultivation of healthy bonds and supportive relationships. I knew Open Table Nashville would be a place where I could nurture my own abilities to be that kind of friend because relationship building is an integral part of the OTN mission. For our friends experiencing homelessness that trust could mean the difference between life and death.

None of us are immune to the life circumstances that can preclude homelessness. Some of us have the resources to avoid it. All of us are capable of cultivating a culture of restoration and disrupting cycles of poverty, trauma, and oppression.