By Haley Spigner, Outreach Worker
At least once a week, I wear one of my OTN shirts that we make for ourselves and to sell. While my “House Keys Not Handcuffs” gets the most comments from strangers, my most worn shirt is a simple, straightforward stencil: “End Homelessness”.
At our annual event last month, Ingrid and Lindsey spoke to the room full of incredible supporters about how far OTN has come during the years since the flood. They spoke of OTN’s mission and vision for our organization and our city as a whole. “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape” will always be my mantra on days where nothing goes as planned. But what has stuck with me weeks after the event has ended, was the simple sentence that I have heard (and worn written on my clothes) so many times:
We’re here to end homelessness.
It’s that vision that brought me to the table in the first place. It’s that vision that keeps me fighting in a city where we are DAILY losing housing for our most vulnerable folks. It’s a vision that keeps me focused on days when I get frustrated with the systems that create the cycles of poverty that capture our friends and keep them stuck for years.
As the end of the year is upon us, our staff meets for our end of year reviews with Ingrid. It’s a time of looking back over the last year and planning for the next. One of the questions that Ingrid asked me during this meeting was “What’s the most challenging part of your job?” While I thought about that question, I told her that my biggest struggles weren’t ones that could be addressed by changing something in OTN’s structure.
The most difficult parts of my job are the days that I have to tell folks that there are no housing options for them because of a criminal charge they were wrongly convicted of years ago that no landlord will over look. The most discouraging pieces of my day are the ones when folks are desperate for mental health and addiction treatment options and I have none to offer to someone without insurance or income. The most challenging and time consuming portion of my job is the constant and often fruitless search for housing that is still willing to accept Section 8 vouchers in a market where landlords can get double its value from someone not utilizing a subsidy. These systemic issues are the ones that weigh me down and they are not ones that the OTN staff can solve on our own.
We are still here to end homelessness. We are still here to break the cycles of poverty. We are still here journeying with the marginalized in a city that wants to pretend we don’t exist. We invite you to join us and to use your voice to cry out against the injustices that our city is subjecting its vulnerable citizens to as their housing disappears and their existence on the street is criminalized.
Welcome to the table.