It is an interesting thought waiting for me this morning in my email. From TUT: A Note from the Universe. “…no matter what has happened, you did the very best you could. And so did those who may have let you down.”
Other than those of personality disordered behaviours of the negative kind (and yes, there are some of those in this great big beautiful world), the vast majority of the +7.4 billion human beings on this planet are trying to do their best. Every day. Day in. Day out.
Like you and me, they experience moments of joy, sadness, sorrow. They have felt the loss of love, belonging, connection.
Like you and me, they have searched for meaning. They have wondered, why am I here? Is this all there is? What’s my purpose? Or even, What’s the point?
Like you and me, they have struggled to understand why some people do the things they do that hurt them. Why it feels some days like they are alone.
And, like you and me, they have done things they are not proud of. Done things that hurt others. Let others down. Upset apple carts and tipped over hopes and dreams.
Like you and me, they were not consciously working at letting anyone down, tripping someone up or fighting them off. They are, like you and me, just doing their best to get along, keep going, keep moving forward. They are all striving to give what they can, however they can, where ever they are on their journey so that they can feel like they got something in return for their investment in life.
Framed that way, it’s easier to accept that sometimes, we misstep. Sometimes, we don’t get it ‘right’. Sometimes, we just aren’t playing at our highest — but we are doing the best we can in that moment.
The other night I attended a community association meeting in an area where the homeless foundation I work for is looking to purchase property and build a small apartment building for individuals with lived experience of homelessness (less than 30 units). The board of this association is mixed 50/50 on their support of our project. Like many communities we talk to, those not in support feel that the community has enough low income developments, that they are at a tipping point with the point of no return towards decline too close for comfort given the socio/economic mix of the community.
At the meeting, two community members in close proximity to the property we are considering purchasing came to present their views of the development. “Nobody wants you, not even the businesses in the area,” they said. And one by one they listed off businesses and after each name said, “They don’t want you.” “They don’t want you.” “They don’t want you.”
Clinging to their position of ‘you don’t belong here’, it was challenging to provide these individuals with any facts.
Our evidence, and research from across North America, show that a development of this size does not negatively impact community with higher crime rates and lower property values. In fact, the evidence shows that a low-income project of this size has little to no impact on a community. Crime stays at historical levels, though it can drop given the increased attention to safety the not-for-profit brings to the community, and property values continue to follow prevailing market trends.
Beyond the facts of this kind of development however, is the fact that these individuals weren’t there to do their worst for their community. They were there to do what they believed was best.
It is easy in emotionally charged situations to sit in judgement of what another is doing, especially if what they are doing does not align with what you see as the preferred outcome.
I have been to many of these kinds of meetings. Always, on both sides of the conversation, people sit with their deep beliefs over what makes community work. And both sides work hard to get the other side to shift their perspective to see it through their point of view. Both sides want to defend their positions. Both sides want to protect their right to build better community — the best way they see to do it.
I believe in the vision and mission of creating better community through ending homelessness.
I also believe that within individual communities, people want to create better through ending those things which disturb their peace of mind and disrupt the vibrancy and health of the community they know. They are doing their best to protect what they know and have today so that they can have some reassurance the future of their community does not slip over the tipping point into such disorder they too will no longer feel like they belong there either.
Having spent the past 10 years working in the homeless-serving sector, I believe we cannot end homelessness by telling people ‘you don’t belong in our community’, or conversely, “we belong in your community”. We can end it by recognizing that we are all doing our best — and sometimes, our best means finding common ground through shifting our position from fearing what we don’t know to seeing the human cost of keeping homelessness on our streets.
We all belong in community. We all have the right to find our way home, even when the way we get there might be different than yours or mine.