Volunteering as a Case Worker Associate at a Homeless Next Step Program in the Greater Washington, DC area has been rewarding to say the least.This role involves to help participants with their resumes, seeking out jobs, and computer training.Through this experience, it has helped to challenge myself on how I view my encounters with anyone I meet, as well as realize how powerful we can view a person based on the stigma of a “label” (ie. being homeless).
When I read about homeless individuals it stated that many of them suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse, psychotic and dissociative disorders. So my expectation coming into volunteering was that I would see a glimpse of a mental hospital. I was expecting the worst! However, in my experience this was not the case. Some individuals coming into the program even had on better clothes than I and appeared more social and in a happy turning point of their lives.
Yes, there were times of discomfort between both the participants and myself; especially when I was assisting them. They would never look me in the eye when I would explain something or ask them a question. I’m not sure if this was due to low self-esteem or impaired social skills, but I felt like the participants thought I was better than them. A lot of the older participants were even calling me “ma’am” which showed me that they viewed me not as there equal. I would never want someone to feel like because they are not in the same economic status as I, that this would give me some type of senority or authority of them. So to let them feel comfortable and know that I see us as all as equal, I made sure I said “Yes Sir or No Mam” to them whenever they asked me a question. In doing this I saw a change in behavior as I continued to help them; towards the end of my shifts they were making more eye contact and was more relaxed.
I recognized that these individuals are just people who are just in a dilemma in their life, and even if some were depressed about the situation they were in; they viewed themselves in survival mode. Meaning they recognized they didn’t want to be homeless anymore and were taking the necessary steps to get out of their situation, such as becoming apart of a Next Step Program. In my opinion, these participants are more open and honest about their lives than most persons who internalize their feelings or mask their situation with a smile. So I ask this question to you: Who is living more of a healthy lifestyle- a person who is in denial about their situation yet living comfortably; or a person who is honest with their situation and working towards progress to live confidently?
What are your next step towards making yourself a better person within your Christian walk? Are you spiritually homeless or are you talking with God honestly about your problems? Are you seeking a prayer partner to help you through your situation? Don’t wait another day, DO IT TODAY!