It’s New Years Day, 2015, and as we reflect on the past year and look forward, there are many thoughts going through our brains at Carmichael Outreach.
This year, it felt like we had a long conversation about poverty, it’s effects, and the experiences of the individuals and families who find themselves at Carmichael Outreach. Each day, our community members come to access food, or clothing, or help maintaining housing because they are unable to overcome the challenges and barriers they face for a variety of different reasons. On one hand, it was exciting that there seemed to be discussion about these outcomes when things had been ignored for far too long. On the other hand, we found ourselves answering questions about what homeless people needed during cold months, whether we found it easy to get donations, and quickly realized the discussion was focused on ways to make sure people were comfortable in their poverty, rather than to give them the resources they needed to overcome the challenges they face.
For 26 years, we have functioned to provide basic necessities to folks who may not have access to them otherwise. It’s not a role that we celebrate, but rather, is one we wish didn’t exist. What we realized this year is that for too long we’ve become another holding space for the folks who are the manifestation of conversations we try to avoid. Too often, we’ve had individuals show up, seemingly discarded from other areas of our community to Carmichael Outreach with the expectation that we will make the inconvenience of their situations disappear for a portion of each day. Many of our city’s extreme poor live in a 3 block radius, bouncing between emergency services, addictions and mental health supports, shelter, and us.
From 9:00-4:30 our community members step into our building, where we try to create a safe, welcoming environment that upholds the highest virtues of community – trust, acceptance, value, empathy, and love. It is in these spaces that we find our greatest fulfillment. It was earlier this year in one of these moments that one of our new friends said, “For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m part of a community.” It was a powerful statement, and it was clear that the sense of belonging and relationship had the ability to bring about major change.
As we look forward, it seems that making New Year’s Resolutions is the traditional thing to do, and make no mistake – as we head into this year at Carmichael Outreach, we are more resolved than we have ever been before.
– We have resolved that we will no longer allow ourselves to only be a space where people sit, still separated from their community.
– We are resolved to ensure that the conversation about extreme poverty shifts from how individuals and families survive brutal prairie winters to how we as a community can end poverty and homelessness.
– We are resolved to see barriers that stop individuals and families from being able to access the resources they need eliminated.
– We resolve to advocate tirelessly for strategic investment of our currently available resources in programs and services that recognize the dignity of the individuals and families using them, and for systems that stop oppressing individuals and families who already face many other challenges.
– Finally, we are resolved to welcome every member of our community into Carmichael Outreach so that we are no longer simply together in a geographical space known as a community, but that each individual and family in our city can truly say that we are together with one another as a community.
We have so many partners and friends who have already joined us on this journey, whether as volunteers, contributors, or regular day-to-day members, and we are truly grateful for the privilege to share life with each one.
It’s our resolution and our invitation. Come join us.
As a community, we can and must do better. As a community, we can end poverty.
This year let’s be,
Together in Community, Together as Community,
The Carmichael Outreach Team