Up Close and Personal

Forty days and forty nights in another woman’s shoes can put a blister on your heel that makes you want to sit down and never walk again. She’s too tired to sleep and too broken to know where to start picking up the pieces, but she keeps moving because to do otherwise would be deadly. This is not fiction. It is reality. Here at home, on our watch, an urban, suburban, rural, cross-cultural, multi-generational population across America is experiencing homelessness at an alarming rate.

In just one day in 2015, over 31,500 adults and children fleeing domestic violence found refuge in a domestic violence emergency shelter or transitional housing program.

  • That same day, domestic violence programs were unable to meet over 12,197 requests for services because of a lack of funding, staffing, or other resources.
  • Sixty-three percent (7,728) of unmet requests were for housing. Emergency shelter and transitional housing continue to be the most urgent unmet needs for domestic violence survivors.

Source: National Network to End Domestic Violence. (2016). Domestic Violence Counts 2015-A 24-hour census of domestic violence shelters and servicesWashington, DC.

This is unconscionable. This is unacceptable. This is my job. Each day for the last forty days, I have been trying to wrap my head around all of the moving parts of the juggernaut that seems to have bumfuzzled us to the tune of billions of dollars over the span of decades. Non-profit agencies and faith-based organizations dedicated to serving the needs of individuals and families in chronic crisis are tasked with stretching every dollar with Herculean strength while gently tip-toeing through a public health minefield.

Slogans and good intentions are not enough to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring in our communities. We need better tools, clearly defined and manageable objectives, and money. Lots of money. 

Stewardship is a word that gets a lot of air time in the non-profit sector, where the line of people in need of assistance is longer than the cue for Space Mountain. Grant makers, government grants in particular, require non-profits to disperse cash on hand up front and submit supporting documentation for review and approval before being reimbursed. This is one reason why those who donate faithfully to the charity of their choice are highly valued by direct service providers. WE LOVE SMALL DONATIONS MOST OF ALL should be stamped on the letterhead of every non-profit that relies on individual donors to keep the lights on.

These are the things one thinks about at 2a.m. when revenue generation is part of their job description. Staff development, board engagement, community involvement, partner agency collaboration, and that overarching performance measurement – a single success story duplicated client after client, program after program, year after budget-wrenching year – make up the sum total of my thoughts these days. It is an honor and privilege to serve. I leave you with this:

In 2014, Family Violence Prevention and Services grantees reported 196,467 unmet requests for shelter—a 13% increase over those reported in 2010. This represents a count of the number of unmet requests for shelter due to programs being at capacity.

Source: Family Violence Prevention & Services Program, Family & Youth Services Bureau. (2015). Domestic Violence Services Provided by State and Tribal Grantees. Washington, DC.

The need for safe housing and the economic resources to maintain safe housing are two of the most pressing concerns among abused women who are planning to or have recently left abusers.

Source: Clough, A., Draughon, J. E., Njie-Carr, V., Rollins, C., & Glass, N. (2014).

Having housing made everything else possible”: Affordable, safe and stable housing for women survivors of violence. Qualitative Social Work, 13(5), 671-688.

P.S. If you support an agency that serves individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness, thank you. We cannot succeed without you.

 

 

Waltzing Through The Storm

As the job search continues, dirt under my nails makes me feel productive. A constant reminder that while I may need to scrub up at a moments notice, life is in the doing. Pulling weeds and planting seeds, a metaphor for life to be sure, keeps me grounded and gives me purpose. These humble tasks are important. Removing obstacles, cultivating relationships, sharing the fruits of our labor – this is work, this is life.

FLOWERPOWER (2)
Wake Up and Smell the Awesome!

 

Life and Death: The Next Big Thing

The world has lost a giant intellect with the death of Professor Hans Rosling, the statistician who breathed life into data and gave humanity an enormous gift. His entertaining and optimistic approach to data analysis is inspirational. His teaching methods will live on in every person who had the good fortune to hear him speak, and while I am saddened by the loss of such a kind and generous teacher, there is an upside. All we have to do is accept that his work is not finished and endeavor together to continue it. Students of all ages are clamoring for teachers with Professor Rosling’s ability and willingness to facilitate learning. There are many such teachers in our schools who are eager for partnerships with industries that rely on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). What are we waiting for?

One thing that must be understood is the notion that, “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach” is utter nonsense. I offer instead the counter, “Those who teach empower others to discover they, too, can do.”

Teachers in many schools feel hamstrung by the very system that is supposed to support student growth and achievement. Budget constraints and ineffective administrators often work in tandem to squelch the enthusiasm of new teachers who either hang in there, hoping it will get better or give up in frustration. Teachers begin their careers with the knowledge that society does not view them as professionals. The pay scale proves it. The lack of parental involvement in scholastic performance proves it. The fact that some believe our teachers must be armed with weapons, rather than the proper tools to do their job also proves it.

Optimism for the future rests in the hands of teachers. Modeling behaviors such as respect, attention to detail, curiosity, and compassion, often falls solely on teachers, because of a lack of engagement at home where inappropriate behavior is sometimes cultivated or ignored. Behavior cannot be ignored in a public classroom any more than it can be ignored in society. Teachers cannot merely take to social media or the streets to remedy problems they encounter daily in the classroom. Clear, measurable objectives proven by goal-driven evidence are only part of the success story. Teachers must be supported, empowered, and compensated in order for us to arrive at a solution with which we can not only live but thrive.

Thanks, Professor Rosling, for your knowledge, humility, and humor. You will be missed, but hopefully your message will not be lost on us.

Optimal Methods For Neutralizing Grief

The world is stricken! Stricken, I say, with global grief! The word on the tweet is nothing but he slammed so-n-so and he bashed such-n-such. Misery’s harmony is warped and worn out, and the world is sick to death of that lame old song. The Black Death killed fewer people, for goddsakes! Everybody needs some grief counselling. Well, here you go:

Feed a soul, starve a narcissist!

The direction the affliction is headed is clear, and that means it’s time for a different tack. There are plenty of things happening in our communities that are more worthy of attention than the Fee-Fi-Fo-Fiefdom in Washington. If media is supposed to give a voice to the people, then it’s time to get outside and explore the good stuff going on with the people. If it’s cold where you are, put on a jacket first.

Here’s what’s happening over at Friday Fictioneers this week, where image meets imagination. Sometimes they fall in love. Sometimes they don’t. One thing is for certain, people are sharing good stuff. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields makes sure of it. This week’s photo prompt is courtesy of Roger Bultot. My 100 word story is a tale of a sad sack in need of a night out. Names were not used in order to protect the innocent. Thanks for reading.

roger-bultot-flowerCopyright Roger Bultot

A Wallflower’s Window on the World

Another gloomy afternoon, another strained ballad of mistrust and disgust wafts from the room below. Harsh reflections slide on long shadows toward another night alone, watching bits of cellophane dance along the alleyway where the addicts mingle. A slow betrayal of mind and body provokes a longing for those sepia toned days when life was still a mystery, before the weather and world affairs conspired repeatedly to wrench the senses. Only now, as memory fails, does the pain relent, a tender mercy. “Always trust the trees,” my father told me. “They never lie.” If only I could see some trees.

*****

Taking Risks

What leaders do and how they do it is a topic of much discussion around the world and around my dinner table. Leadership theory as well as leadership in action is, one might say, “in my wheelhouse.” A debate about whether or not managers really need to know how to do the jobs of the employees they manage went on for many years in my house. Then this notion of managing vs. leading began to emerge.

It has become popular in organizational development circles to say that managers focus on processes and leaders focus on people. This raises the questions if a manager must be a leader and if leaders need to be good managers. The best case scenario is for leaders to model behaviors that inspire others to deliver results. Of course, accountability and integrity are qualities which managers and leaders share. The ability to build relationships is another. This does not require super-human skill. It does, however, require the willingness to put one’s self out there. In other words, take a risk.

Ten years ago I took a risk. I turned down a promotion and left the best job I’ve ever had to relocate for my husband’s job. It wasn’t long before I became bored. I needed something to do. There was no shortage of unpaid work to occupy my time. Volunteer opportunities soon turned into a passion for community service. So, I decided to take another risk. I went back to school to prepare myself for a leadership role in public affairs. I studied emergency administration and disaster planning. I studied non-profit management and public administration and conflict resolution. I had the opportunity to study abroad and learn prevention and intervention strategies to combat human trafficking. I learned about survivor aftercare. I returned from that experience physically and emotional drained but excited about the prospect of putting my knowledge and skills to work for an organization that needs a champion of customer relationships who can deliver dynamic results.

Now, here’s the biggest risk of all. After months of searching, I have only had one interview. My resume has been reviewed, revised, and has received the digital equivalent of “don’t call us, we’ll call you” so many times that I am beginning to question if all of my risk taking was for nothing. I’m not giving up. On the contrary, I’m reaching out, dear readers of this blog, and asking for your help. Please share this post.